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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Welcome to the world of Lalesso

East African heritage takes on the world fashion stage...

Written by Sisi King

The lesso: A long rectangular piece of cloth, prescription brightly coloured and patterned, sildenafil the traditional attire of Swahili women living along the coastal regions of East Africa. Since 2005 the lesso has taken on a different, symptoms rather more international role as the inspiration and centrepiece of clothing brand Lalesso, which is currently taking the fashion world by storm.

Roho DressImagery throughout courtesy of Lalesso.

Over the last five years founders Alice Heusser and Olivia Kennaway have put a little known cultural garment squarely on the map, with everyone from small ethical shopping boutiques to British high street giant Topshop clamouring to get a piece of their unique vision of contemporary African fashion. In a decade that has seen dresses grow in importance Lalesso, which releases just two collections a year and focuses exclusively on summer wear, is a celebration in the rise of easy to wear feminine clothing. Designs range from the short and fitted to the long and billowy, but whatever the shape the emphasis is undoubtedly on clean, simple lines that let the fabric do the talking.

Mbusu DressThe ethics Behind the Label
With its mixing of African heritage and international design, Lalesso really is a triumph for African fashion. However the reasons to really take note of this company aren’t simply down to strong designs and command of the catwalk. Lalesso’s mark of quality actually starts with production, where the community takes centre stage.With it now possible for garments to be turned around in two weeks (from conception to the shop floor), today’s consumers can buy into a trend literally days after it materialises. For suppliers however the rise of the micro-trend translates into ever decreasing lead times, and any pressure felt by them is felt ten fold by those actually stitching our clothes together. The past few decades have seen a worrying decline in worker’s rights and factory conditions. For Alice and Olivia however the wellbeing of employees is central to the ethos of their brand.

Bikira DressKeeping the number of collections down ensures workers are not put under any undue pressures. In addition seamstresses receive well above the average wage, and the company offers loans, maternity leave, crèche facilities and sick pay. Benefits few of the world’s textile workers could ever hope of receiving. Furthermore Lalesso tries to involve the local community in as many ways as possible. There are nuns making the crochet featured in designs, unemployed beachboys crafting buttons from coconuts, and Masaai fashioning up the beaded bracelets used on swing tags. In an industry that is far from transparent, Lalesso has everything to shout about: Great design and strong ethics that place social responsibility at the heart of production.

Kipepeo DressEthical fashion sceptics often use unflattering design and exorbitant prices as a reason not to engage with the movement. But with shapes reflecting seasonal trends and prices similar to the high street, Lalesso proves a brand can be hugely successful, stylish and affordable while maintaining fair trade principles at its core. In short, Lalesso is fashion at it’s absolute best.


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