“My Collection is an addition to the person who is going to wear it”
KABELIS is a Stockholm based brand with ready to wear, costume design and styling founded by designer – Elise Kabwe. She has taken some time to chat with us about her work and African prints.
Frolicious: Thanks for taking the time to chat with Frolicious. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Elise Kabwe: My name is Elise Kabwe, I am a Stockholm based 33 year old fashion and costume designer. I am Swedish and Congelese with Greek Italian origines. I studied fashion design at ESMOD Fashion university in Paris from 2003 – 2006. I’ve gained numerous experiences working for ready to wear and Haute Couture company’s in both Paris and Stockholm, designed costume for TV shows, designing characters in advertising campaigns, artists and designing my own collections under my own name KABELIS.
Frolicious: How did you become a designer? Was there anyone in your family who made you feel like designing?
Elise Kabwe: From a young age I spontaneously created stories with drawings of people in their environment, detailed drawings of their clothes…that slowly developed into fashion drawings. I spent evenings looking true fashion magazines and cutting out pictures of clothes I like. I also had a strong opinion of what I wanted to wear, apparently I wanted to wear party dresses most of the time at kinder garden. After I graduated high school I went back to France for some work experience, 6 month later I applied with work samples to ESMOD Fashion University in Paris, my work samples wear validated and I entered the school in 2003. I studied design and pattern making.
Frolicious: Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection?
Elise Kabwe: It often starts with a feeling, a strong feeling of what I would like to have at that moment. I can also be influenced by a movie, music, an exhibition or people in the streets. And it basically takes shape in my head, then I translate it on to the mannequin or a quick sketch.
Frolicious: Please tell us about your limited edition line in Wax/African print for the STHLM2DAY exhibition.
Elise Kabwe: JustAfricas store manager Lotta Spykman wanted to create a platform for designers of the african diaspora in Stockholm but also a platform for anyone having Africa as their inspiration in their design. Together we looked for a couple of names that could fit the event and that was the start of STHLM2DAY. I created the KABELIS limited wax edition as an addition to the event. Working with wax fabrics has alway’s been something I wanted to do and it felt like the right time to do it. The collection is a limited edition available online until the 5th of May at STHLM2DAY.
Frolicious: Do you think that there is a movement regarding African Fashion at the moment?
Elise Kabwe: I think there is an urge to know where you are coming from, to show your identity, go back to the origin, go natural…the African continent is developing, people are getting more and more conscious of were they are coming from, they don’t want to be influenced, they want to be the influence. Fashion becomes a statement, not just tradition, “african fashion” becomes “fashion” period.
Frolicious: What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work?
Elise Kabwe: I am fascinated by strong women, mostly in the music industry, I get a lot of inspiration from artists. It feeds into my design in a sense that I am alway’s aiming to create something timeless with a lot of character in the choice of fabric or the cut so it becomes an addition to the person who is going to wear it.
Frolicious: What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your label?
Elise Kabwe:I’ve learned the truth about this African proverb: ” If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”.
Frolicious: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Elise Kabwe: I am designing and styling for television productions, artists and I will continue to create collections with special collaborations.
Frolicious: What advice would you give to young designers?
Elise Kabwe: Get inspired, get a role model, be a fan, work hard and never give up – patience is a virtue, hard work pays off!