The SACTWU Condom Design Competition 2009 left the challenge to the young and bright designers of South Africa - and gave them two weeks! Lara Klawikowski, who is not your average needle-and-thread designer, but an engineer of texture, was the eventual and highly deserving winner. Her condom dress, made out of 20 000 condoms, was a cosmic success in its innovation, its creativity, and above all, its undeniable high-fashion quality.
|Lindiwe Suttle onstage in Lara Klawikowski's Condom Dress|
Lindiwe Suttle, my proclaimed vanguard of African fashion, was the perfect muse for making Lara's dress come to life and shattering whatever misconceptions and misgivings anyone had about the project.
As paying homage to this important day, Lara chats with us about The Condom Dress - its significance, the reactions it prompted. We also get to know about her love for playing with different textures, such as plastic ice-cream cones and tyres, to create beautiful designs.
A CONVERSATION WITH
Thank you! The process was extremely challenging, time-consuming and labor intensive. It took three entire days to unwrap the thousands of condoms. Then, 20 students helped me embroider the condoms through mesh mesh in various intricate, pearl-like designs. The fact that condoms are elastic and slippery only made it more difficult. Once this new fabric was created, I sewed all the pieces of the bulbous dress and advanced tailored jacket together to complete the design. It was a stressful project as we had only been allocated 2 weeks to make the outfit.
How was public reception to the dress? What's the most outrageous remark you received?
People were awe-struck! Some asked me if I had used thousands of already used condoms!
SACTWU, Condom Dress by Lara Klawikowski 2009
Anyone looking at your work is left awestruck by the uniqueness and creativity behind your designs. What inspires you?
I'm inspired by re-fabrication, fabric manipulation, draping techniques, unusual space-defying silhouettes, historical clothing, costume design, cinema nouveau, the results achieved when unusual materials are used to create clothes and when clothing is worn the way it wasn't designed to be worn, e.g. upside down jackets as pants.
As someone who works with unusual textures for your designs, creating each garment requires a lot more than a needle and thread. What is the most innovative technique you've come up with when working with a new material?
There are so many...the techniques I employ are relatively simple but when they're applied to clothing the result is quite spectacular and innovative. I've melted plastic ice-cream cones and stretched and fused them together to make a lacey molten jacket.
Dress made of recycled underflooring
Of the different materials you've worked with, which was the hardest to manipulate? And which was the most interesting?
I once perforated the inner tubing of truck tyres by hand for capes and wrap clothes. The weight of the tubing made it difficult to work with. The natural frill effect that occurs when the tubing is sliced open was one of the more interesting discoveries. It transformed the rubber form a heavy, solid material to something quite feminine and even pretty. But the most interesting was definitely the condoms.
You graduated two years ago. How has your experience as a professional designer in South Africa been so far?
I graduated with a three year Diploma in Fashion Design 2008 and then went on to complete an additional forth year. I started up a studio in May this year and have since been involved in inspiring and challenging projects and worked with interesting and enthusiastic clients. I love being a designer in South Africa but sometimes I find the business of design daunting.
Sentient Cool as featured in Design Indaba
Let's bring it back to you, and your personal style. What do you think of when putting together an outfit in the morning?
I tend to get bored of clothing quickly. If I could, I'd change my outfit every hour, so getting dressed in the morning is a process. I pick my favorite pieces for the day and put the on, then replace some of them, then turn some of the upside down or wrap a few others.
Finally, how do you think design and other creative processes are important to our society in terms of making it a better place?
Design is a source of inspiration and excitement and an escape from the boredom and ordinariness of everyday life. It expands the mind-space of society and encourages new ideas and extraordinary possibilities.
Lindiwe Suttle in jacket made of recycled tyre
Thank you Lara for taking a moment to chat with Fashion Et Al. I wish you a bright future in 'engineering' because that's what you truly are, a fashion engineer! Love your work, and please continue doing wonderful things with design.
Lara is also the recipient of Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Award 2008, has been featured in Glamour and Cosmopolitan South Africa, and has dressed some celebrities, notably Lindiwe Suttle who I think is the perfect muse for Lara!
Pictures From Lara Klawikowski Group on Facebook.