SheSoca catch up with a talented and influential mas designer from the carnival scene, to find out about her debut at London Fashion Week as Kelly & Co, and the amazing new heights she has recently reached. Kelly has been working in Mas for many years and currently is the lady behind Bacchanalia Masband.
A friend of mine who is already very well acquainted with the fashion world tagged me in an offer to come backstage and see how it all works, to be part of the production process and meet some of the designers. This offer was particularly interesting to me as there were 2 designers that were showing collections in that show that I am a huge fan of and have been following/stalking for years, so I jumped at the chance, crossing my fingers but expecting nothing. Not too long after, the contact sent me a note saying I can’t be behind stage, I needed to be on it as he had seen some pieces of the carnival pictures I did for our ‘Fallen’ presentation back in 2013, and I was genuinely surprised. He explained that a friend of his runs the show and he was insistent that she saw my work. Not too long after, she called and offered me a spot and I was totally blown away. This was the end of July, the very end, so I was already caught up in the craziness of carnival production and sleepless nights etc. and without hesitating I said yes! Then I put the phone down and spent a moment trying to figure out, how the hell am I going to do this? So I started coming up with a plan of action to make it happen and getting my team in place and here we are – 1 collection after…
What was the concept behind your collection?
My mind operates in weird ways, sometimes I dream up themes and store them and wait for the right time to introduce them or play with ideas of a theme to see what might be possible for future projects. The theme for this collection was Midas: Touch of Gold. I chose this theme for several reasons. In my mind, when I dream up fashion, it was to this theme, over the years, the styles and ideas have changed but the theme always remained the same. It was always going to be my first collection, even if at the time, it was a just a collection in my mind. My favourite colour is gold and the story of Midas made such an imprint when we studied it at school and stayed with me since. I naturally gravitate towards gold and that could be anything, jewellery, paint, make-up, fabric, thread – I am the ultimate magpie! I will trawl through fabric shops for hours on end and buy things where I have no idea yet of what or how I am going to use it. By the time I was asked to do this collection, it felt as if I had all the pieces of the puzzle there and it all came together pretty quickly in the end.
Where do you find your creative inspiration?
Without trying to sound clichéd, it is everywhere. I am fortunate that I can travel a lot, both for work and play and I am always inspired by colour, people, ideas and textures. Sometimes a simple conversation can inspire me to think of something crazy. I get most excited when I am near other creatives or in a creative type of environment like galleries, lobbies, shows etc. I’ve been luckily to work in places that also allow me access to some incredible pieces of art, architecture and access to artists that most can only dream of. Being in or near spaces like this, it’s like flipping the ‘on’ switch in my head. It’s what I call my parallel life. My interest in carnival and all related activates comes from fashion. It is my first love. I collect magazines from all over the world and follow shows by country. I research particular designers in detail and learn about their designs and businesses. I store everything in a giant folder and I buy books and books and books of my favourite designers work. Some I was lucky enough to see via exhibitions, others I have been lucky to get closer looks via social media and now after this show, I am lucky enough to know 2 of my absolute favourite designers in the world.
How have people responded since the show to your debut?
Extremely well, my head is still spinning. I was unfortunately not present for the actual show but was lucky enough to be there for the fittings so got to meet everyone backstage before having to fly off for a work trip the next day. I got a lot of messages and requests for some of the pieces, the finale piece in particular. This was something which I was not yet quite ready for, as I was still swooning over some of the amazing photographs that were emerging from the show. My first sale request came in the day after and a few days after this, I was contacted by someone who is doing a music video with a Grammy award winner and wanted to wear 2 or 3 of the pieces. I have made quite a few sales from this already, It is all happening very quickly. I was very nervous how the show would have been received as this is the first time people who are not too close to me would see some of the other things I dabble in, and have been for years but this was the first time, it turned into something real.
So it’s fair to say that these designs are more theatrical, for stage than an exaggerated form of high street fashion?
Exactly, the designs are more performance wear.
How do you manage a full time job, mas design, production and fashion shows?
I have a great group of people around me that keep me sane and help keep things running like clockwork. There is very little free time in my day/week for much else and whilst I am used to working in pressured environments (I have been working in Finance for around 18 years), being creative allowed me to find a measure of balance, for a while anyway. I also love my culture and I’m grateful for the opportunities that came my way that first allowed me to have my own carnival band and now my own fashion line. I also tell people I am a 200 year old vampire that does not need sleep.
We hear you have just climbed a mountain… Err tell us about that madness!
So now I can say, I’ve done it! It was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. I wasn’t quite prepared as I thought I was, as I tried to research and read as much as possible before going but soon realised once we were there, the experience is somewhat different for everyone, no matter how prepared you are. I went with 2 other friends and we all had very different experiences. Tanzania has always been an obsession of mine and it took quite a few years of yearning to go before I could make it a reality. Visiting Africa on the whole was an amazing experience. It’s always an eye opener watching how people in other parts of the world live and it does put quite a lot of things into perspective, which is important when it comes to staying grounded. Now I can cross that off the list. It’s a personal achievement that I wanted to conquer and I’m truly proud of myself for having done it.
So, should we expect to see more of you in the future, outside mas design?
Yes, I hope so. Since the successful first showing into the fashion arena, I was asked soon after to be the opening show in February for House of Ikons at London Fashion Week. I am still pinching myself as we speak!
Here is the full length video of the Kelly & Co catwalk show
*spoiler alert* – you don’t want to miss the final models performance!
If you want to read more about Kelly’s climb of Kilimanjaro, check out her blog
Photo Credits: Steve Taylor and Serguei Cherkassov