Lalesso: The Stylish African Movement
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Lalesso is a clothing line that is made from the profound “lesso” mostly known as a ‘khanga’, that was co-created by Olivia from South Africa and Alice from Kenya. The duo started Lalesso during their second year at university. Inspired by the vibrant colours and intriguing prints, the exclusively summer fashion brand encapsulates the pure spirit of holiday, sunshine, sea and sand. The “lesso” or “khanga” cloth was originally a spotted cotton handkerchief brought to East Africa from India. By using the “khanga cloth, Lalesso aims to share with the world a hint of East Africa in a sexy and a stylish way.
In aims to give back to Africa and its people, the Lalesso line supports the African textile industry and helps to improve the quality of life for the textile workers in Kenya and Tanzania. Along with their many successes, the Lalesso collection has been featured in vast well known magazines like Elle, Marie Claire, Glamour, and Tribute magazine.
We caught up with creators behind the Lalesso movement to find out what the inspiration is behind the line:
Jamati: What inspired you to use the “lesso/khanga” cloth as the main attraction for your line?
Lalesso: The khanga is an integral part of the east african coastal scenery. The women are adorned in it’s colourful patterns from birth. We were captured by it’s sheer beauty and the way all the women are draped in it, this inspired us to explore the idea further and ultimately decided it would be a unique trademark to a clothing brand.
Jamati: In brief please share with us the history that lies within your collection because we know that Lalesso is more than just a clothing a line?
Lalesso: We were travelling on the Kenyan coastal island called Lamu where the khanga is commonly worn. We picked up a few khangas for ourselves. Olivia’s mother had skirt that she had made in the 60′s from the khanga which was cut in the handkerchief design that we use in our trademark Lalesso skirt, a combination of this and Alice’s jersey waistband concept inspired us to make this original Lalesso skirt design. So from there on our collection developed and the brand continues to do so…
Jamati: The swim wear collection , now what inspired you to bring African sexy to the beach?
Lalesso: The khanga being 100% cotton induces a unique edge to swimwear. We also found the colours and prints were really exciting for the beach. The brand somehow led us towards the swimwear range, it was sort of inevitable. It just goes to show how inspiring the fabric itself actually is.
Jamati: What is the most popular or most requested item from the Lalesso collection?
Lalesso: the ‘trademark’ Lalesso skirt has always been hugely popular and we have run it through all our collections to date. With the S/S 08 collection it is hard to pin point the most popular design. It would have to be between the Kaskazi, Salama and Tiwi dresses.
Jamati: When designing your clothes what type of women are you designing it for?
Lalesso: Our target market is certainly quite youthful but it has been known to appeal to people over 50 so you can never say never. But generally the Lalesso customer enjoys comfort, style, and likes to be noticed, because in Lalesso you tend to turn heads (not to blow our own trumpet but it’s true,try it!).
Jamati: Is there any other African clothing line that inspires you ?
Lalesso: In our very early days, whilst we were still studying Fashion at CPUT, we were fortunate enough to meet with (I can’t remember her name, I think Nknsani?), the designer for Stoned Cherry, this was hugely inspiring and her words of advice certainly helped. Her brand as well as what she has achieved is extremely motivating. Doru Olowu’s (who is taking the U.S.A and Europe by storm) designs are hugely inspiring and his brave use of African prints in his collections that appeal to the western market is certainly fascinating.
Jamati: Can we expect the Lalesso collection to expand from summer wear to even winter wear ?
Lalesso: In our first year we made the descission to do a winter collection. Whilst the collection was a success we decided that Lalesso was more about simple designs that allow the beautiful fabric to speak for itself and winter designs complicated this. We are expanding in other ways however as we are currently launching a home ware range and a childrens’ collection as well as introducing shoes to the brand.
Jamati: What do you think about the African fashion industry currently?
Lalesso: We think it is booming and breaking boundaries it has never dared to reach before, it is taking on an identity of it’s own but at the same time appealing to a global market. It is something we are definitely proud to be associated with at the moment.
Jamati: Thank you so much for sharing with us the insights and reels behind your beautiful creation and all the best for the future.
Lalesso: It’s an absolute pleasure, thank you for sharing our story with your readers – Alice and Olivia
For more on the Lalesso collection, log on to their website