When beauty and substance meet, magic happens. This is definitely true for Lalela, a non-profit art education programme for at-risk youth in SubSaharan Africa. The Lalela Scarf – a standalone luxury label and a member of the prestigious Positive Luxury Brand, which includes other top-tier brands such as Louis Vuitton – supports the NPO exclusively through its sales, proving that purpose lends luxury products greater significance.
By using Lalela learners’ works to create beautiful wearable designs, the company blurs the lines between fashion and fine art, elevating everyday clothing to a loftier level. “It is a privilege to be able to showcase the work of amazingly talented youth in this way, and to take their art off the walls into everyday life,” says Lalela Scarf’s New York-based Creative Director, Sandy Tabatznik. Not only are the scarves statement pieces for the wearer’s wardrobe, but the sales thereof go back into the much-needed work Lalela does within communities across South Africa and on the continent.
Lalela Scarf’s new Winter 2020 collection, as with previous ranges, takes these standout artworks and turns them into striking scarf designs – a process overseen by Tabatznik, who curates the collections. Lalela Scarf produces two new collections annually, for winter and summer. Summer’s line is naturally distinguished by light cottons and sheers while winter looks to more substantial, heavy fabrics like wool blends and cashmere.
Winter 2020 is no exception in terms of the fabric selection, but this collection has a decidedly African and eco-friendly bent. By simultaneously celebrating the individual talents of the students, as well as what it means to be African on a broader scale, Lalela has created a rich and diverse range for the coming season. Additionally, the brand has honed its environmental practices in order to ensure that production is sustainable as well as serves the greater community.
“One of our major initiatives this year is to work to integrate sustainable practices into all aspects of Lalela Scarf, thus, we have eliminated all single-use plastics as well as created a line of bandanas from leftover material from our scarves,” says Tabatznik. This direction in turn prompted a line inspired by flora and fauna, with a winter twist. “These floral designs remind us of the beauty of our natural world and the importance of conserving it in every way we can.”
The second theme of the new winter line draws more broadly from African culture and elements and images embedded in the identity of African people. “The artwork on the Trumpet scarf is a woodcut, a style of printing that has deep roots in South Africa as a printmaking technique,” explains Tabatznik. This flexible format and the collaborative nature of the medium was a way in which ideas were exchanged and political resistance shown during Apartheid.
Similarly, the Pots design features a woman carrying a pot on her head with words of positivity (opportunity, goals and courage) behind her. “This piece spoke to us as it took a traditional African image and gave it the modern progressive twist of empowerment and gender equality,” she adds. The final piece of this theme, Rainbow Nation, is inspired by ‘Ubuntu’, a word that can be translated to mean, ‘unity through diversity’.
“Together, our students explored their own heritage while learning more about the different cultures of their classmates and friends. After sharing their traditions, rituals, beliefs and cultural practices with each other, they drew a person in clothing and accessories that represents their culture. The artists then cut their drawings into sections and exchanged them with one another to construct a new person, sending the message that even though we belong to different cultures, we are all part of the same human race,” she says.
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