Carl Kapp explores movement through the way fabric floats and dances in his ethereal SS20 collection.
Photography: Juli Balla
You grew up in South Africa?
I grew up in Johannesburg, moved to Stellenbosch as a teenager, studied fashion in Durban and started my working life in Cape Town. The whole Cape region has incredible natural beauty and is very inspiring. I moved to Sydney when I was 24.
Do you have a particular memory from your childhood, related to fashion?
I was always looking over the fence in the early 70’s to stare at the neighbour’s hair. She wore those very exaggerated beehive wigs on a daily basis in all shapes and sizes. It was fascinating to see someone who I thought was very glamorous go about her daily tasks. I can’t remember if we ever spoke much but I’m sure she was aware of the attention.
Tell us a little about your journey as a fashion designer to where you are today…
Whether it was 15 years ago or today, the journey remains the same.
I like being focussed on one particular style and solve the puzzle until the fit is right. There is always a solution. It’s exciting working with flat cardboard and imagining a three dimensional shape coming to life.
What’s your design process like?
It always starts with fabric selection. Once working with a certain fabric I start working on a pattern, very often without a sketch. I look at the lines and see where it takes me. If it’s a new shape, we make numerous calicos to see how it looks on a person. Further deign happens at this stage, then we cut it in the actual fabric.
What was the inspiration behind the SS20 collection?
The Seychelles. It took 5 months of planning - I did a lot of research about locations in the Seychelles, a group of islands I’ve been fascinated by since childhood. It always seemed to be the quintessential unspoilt tropical paradise. And indeed it was. I cast the model, Agi Akur, right at the beginning of the process. so I was ultimately designing her ultimate tropical wardrobe. It’s all about barefoot luxury.
Speaking of inspiration, where do you find it most?
Anything around me. Someone walking in front of me, nature, sky, birds. I’m quite fascinated by what I see as ugly clothes and style. Maybe it is to balance my serious work side or perhaps a twisted sense of humour.
Fabric sourced from across the world is your true obsession - why are you so passionate about this?
It’s interesting to observe the transformation from a roll to a finished garment. Fabrics come with endless challenges. You can cut a jacket out of one cloth and love the results. Try it again in another fabric that in theory should work and you never know how it turns out. Sometimes an oversized silhouette looks great in one fabric, then needs to be slimmed down in another. It’s an ever evolving process.
How has living in Sydney shaped your designs?
Sydney is a very far from the epicentre of fashion. I don’t mind that, in the studio it’s like a small universe removed from the world. Being based in Australia adds a relaxed element to the collections, it suits the lifestyle. The weather in Sydney also has an influence. It’s never really cold in winter (sadly as I really love creating coats and could do a whole collection) and gets quite hot in summer. This influences the fabric choices.
Have you had moments when it’s been difficult to keep progressing creatively? How did you overcome this?
Coming up with new ideas is easy. Convincing the customer to move forward and try something new is harder. It’s a balancing act. I get bored very easily and want to see constant newness. But you need to balance that with a distinctive brand aesthetic without being repetitive or alienating your core customer.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love the whole process, from selecting fabrics to imagining styles, creating patterns and seeing the samples come to life. All this happens with a clear picture of what the campaign shoot will look like - location, atmosphere, model and direction. All these elements are juggled for many months until we release each new campaign. Then watching the clothes sell is yet another thrill.
What does the remainder of the year look like for you?
We’ve just completed a brand refresh and launched a new website and online store. The remainder of the year will be spent creating content and product for the online store as well as designing AW20 and planning the next campaign.