Karine, a talented young designer from the Seychelles, recently graduated from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. She has recently launched her own brand, ‘Kankan’, and wants to make a big contribution to the fashion world of the Seychelles. Karine answered questions about her history and future ambitions.
Could you tell us a little about your background, please?
“I started my education at the Seychelles French School before moving to the International School at the age of 14. It was here that I met Martin Kennedy, my headmaster and art teacher, who played a key role in my realizing that this was something I wanted to pursue seriously as a profession. He not only gave me license to experiment and develop my style, but he was also instrumental in encouraging me to study in the UK and specifically at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design”.
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a fashion designer?
“Well, my grandmother will tell you that I have always been something of a fashion aficionado. From a very early age I used to rifle through her wardrobe and dress myself up in all her weird and wonderful clothing. I also distinctly remember watching old movies like Gone With the Wind and Mary Poppins and being fascinated with the flamboyant and exotic outfits they would wear”.
What did your studies involve?
“I studied at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, majoring in women’s wear. I was there for five years which included a placement year that I spent working in both Italy and Paris.”
Which fashion designers inspire you?
“Wow, where do I start? Yohji Yamamoto, Karl Lagerfeld, Kenzo, Matthew Williamson, Alexander McQueen. There are just so many. If I had to choose, I would have to say, my fellow Saint Martin’s graduate, John Galliano. His work really pushes the boundaries of fashion and dares to be different. People like Galliano are really important to this industry. They remind us to keep challenging ourselves and that anything can be achieved.”
What are your future plans?
“Well, I’m lucky enough to have had the opportunity to get straight into it and I am in the process of launching my own brand, have just set up Kankan, in the coming months. Saint Martins is a design-focused college so we weren’t exposed to a great deal of the commercial aspects of the profession. So I really felt that it was important to get to learn the business side of things immediately. I think too often people go off to placements and end up completely detached from the nuts and bolts of running a business and marketing a brand. I didn’t want this happening to me.”
“As for my future plans, I would just like to see this brand develop and thrive. We are starting with a limited range but I’d love to see it grow to the point that we can really push the limits a little and bring a broad range of stuff, including haute couture, to the Seychelles.”
What kinds of clothes do you especially like designing?
“I specialised in women’s wear so I have a real soft spot for women’s clothing. It’s always fun to design clothing which you can actually wear yourself. Having said that, I’ve been doing a lot of printing recently, more specifically t-shirts for Kankan. We are looking to come up with something really fresh and new in the Seychelles and try to get the fashion scene here moving and shaking a bit. To an extent the environment has a large influence over the type of clothes we can design here, but we are really trying to come up with a new take on things.”
Will you design for a particular market?
“I think in the Seychelles you need to be quite clever about how you market yourself and at whom you pitch your products. What we have here are so many different groups and sub-groups that exist within a relatively small population. These include men, women, old, young, foreigners and locals. So it’s important when designing to look for themes and styles that are universal and appeal to as many people as possible. I want to make my brand accessible to everyone whilst staying true to my core values of representing Seychelles, bringing something new to the table, and above all providing a high quality product”.
Do you especially admire the fashion scene of any particular country?
“It’s really hard to go past France and Italy. It’s as though everyone living there are trained designers. They have just been designing at a high level for so long that the people now treat fashion as a form of personal expression. It’s rare to see a Parisian or a Milanese who doesn’t make an effort with their clothing. Whether it’s the classic simplicity of the French or the flamboyance of the Italians, they’re all conscious of what they wear so they look great”.
“I think Japan also deserves a special mention. The East has always fascinated me. They have such a rich history which is now being exposed to and influenced by the West. I would love nothing more than to help introduce this sort of cross-cultural borrowing in the Seychelles. I’m certainly going to do my best to make it happen. So we’ll see”.
Karine hopes to follow in the footsteps of the Lebanese designer, Elie Saab, whose style is similar to hers. She admires “the way he experiments with colour, his attention to detail and ultimately his simplicity.” These are qualities which are also embodied in her work. His work inspires Karine, who thinks that fashion designers “were always taught to look within for inspiration and look to others for how to execute that inspiration. Ultimately it’s our environment that will define us and differentiate us from the other designers out there”.
Check out Karine’s past and future collections at www.kankan.sc, which will show her past and future collections. This will also feature online sales, which are new to the Seychelles fashion industry. Karine certainly plans to improve the fashion scene of the Seychelles with her new brand and her plans for its future.