Lara Klawikowski invokes the past, present and future all in real-time. She makes “wearable art” of distinct structures and pronounced textures. With avant-garde, whimsical, edgy and ethereal characteristics, the artistry of her dresses feels like an ode to nature.
Soul and senses
Often taking on sculptural images of flowers, hanging leaves, resting butterflies or otherworldly beings, her designs boldly communicate their soul to the senses.
A Lara Klawikowski creation is an echoed mood, a transportive feeling and a clear statement. There is a softness to her approach that is a running thread. With art often an extension of its creator, this sparks a curiosity about how her personality comes through in her creations.
“When I design, I’m drawn to something that is sculptural. It has sharp corners and a structure. But at the same time, it has to have a softness, in that it is comfortable, it flows and it is wearable,” she says, adding, “Sometimes I’ll take something that is very architectural in shape and as soon as I put it on a mannequin and start draping it, there’s a femininity that comes through. Personally, I’m drawn to both my feminine and masculine sides and the merging of the two comes through in my work. There’s also an attention to detail and my love for and experimentation with fabrics.”
Klawiskowski is a graduate of the Cape Town College of Fashion and Design. Her big break came in 2009 when she won the Condom Fashion Design competition sponsored by the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (SACTWU). The competition was an AIDS awareness initiative by SACTWU to help promote HIV prevention. The designer’s winning dress made out of 20 000 condoms was shown for years after the competition to SACTWU factory workers for educational purposes.
The Klawikowski condom dress was also thrust into the spotlight by style maven, singer-songwriter turned screenwriter, Lindiwe Suttle who wore it at her appearances. The two became regular collaborators with Suttle seen again at the 2010 Marie Claire Fashion Awards in another Klawikowski dress made out of mattress stuffing, bicycle tyres and plastic ice cream cups.
Klawikowski used the SACTWU prize money to launch her Woodstock based studio in 2010. She showcased her first ready-to-wear collection at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town in 2013. She was also a semi-finalist in the South African Fashion Week (SAFW) Renault New Talent competition. She recently won the Innovative Design and Materials Award as well as the coveted Changemaker Award at the TWYG x Country Road Sustainable Fashion Awards in 2020. (See our coverage of the Twyg Awards here.)
Poetic and functional
Klawikowski’s winning quality is her innovation which is at once poetic and functional. She creates from a premise of originality. Her experimental use of material – often recycled, upcycled or re-fabricated – lures you in. Over the years she’s taken care to use fabrics that are environmentally friendly and materials that limit waste to create sustainable and conscious fashion. For her, it is the material that begins the creative process.
“Sometimes I’ll see a beautiful fabric and not have a particular design in mind. It all starts to take shape when I begin working with the material – playing with it and seeing it move. I take my cue from what the material wants to be. In working with different textures I strive to create something new that I haven’t worked with before,” she says.
Diversity of design
As an illustrator, something she does on the side, she’s been able to honour the range of the woman she designs for. Klawikowski is often invited to fashion events or weddings where she’s tasked to illustrate and capture the energies of people as they are.
“This has helped me rethink what I’m designing and how my designs will fit different body types locally. You can’t standardise South African women. They’re such a broad scope of shapes, sizes and proportions… we have such a diverse range of bodies in our country,” Klawikowski shares.
Her new collection shown at SAFW is an extension of the previous bridal collection, Strange Flowers. Now called Inflorescence, it’s inspired by new floral and botanical elements and colours. Klawikowski collaborated with a local family-run shoemaking company called Matsidiso highlighting her love for and the value in collaborating with locally produced goods.
Book tickets for Lara’s SAFW show on 29th April at 9PM here.
Don’t miss ASA’s coverage the day after the show!
Words | Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane @kgomotsomoncho
ASSISTANT Amber Smith