A label I first discovered several years ago while researching emerging brands of African origin, Lalesso is a firm favourite, getting additional brownie points for being ethically sound – something that is getting increasingly important to me as I get older. Having recently won the coveted Ethical Fashion Forum award for Innovation, Lalesso’s SS11 collection beautifully reflects the brand’s signature love of East African print. Offering a plethora of stylish summer dresses in a variety of figure-enhancing cuts, bright colours and light fabrics, Lalesso’s designs are both eye-catching and practical in equal measures.
In 2009 Lalesso’s lovely founders - Olivia Kennaway and Alice Heusser - transferred their in-house workshop to the HQ of another of their Kenyan inspired ideas, SOKO. After realising the potential that an ethical factory could offer - namely an increased number of jobs in the local town of Ukunda, and increased export of quality garments - the entrepreneurial pair leapt at the chance to create their own independent, charity-based, eco and ethical clothing production unit.
With Lalesso - among many other international designers and brands, including another favourite of mine, Lu Flux - using SOKO exclusively for garment production, the future for Kenyan workers in Ukunda is looking bright. Located in the grounds of Ukunda Polytechnic, this pioneering initiative seeks to place the community at the heart of production. By encouraging local hotels and businesses to donate materials, SOKO ensures students are given the means to improve their practical skills while providing the possibility of further training and employment for graduates.
Certified as a Carbon Zero company, Lalesso hone and utilise the creative talent of SOKO-based Kenyan artisans in many aspects of the design process to create: bead detailing, bracelets on the swing tags, delightful hand-carved coconut buttons and Masai beading. Rather excitingly SS11 sees a new collaboration, incorporating the beautiful brass works of the Bombolulu Workshop into garments – a project organised by the Association of the physically disabled of Kenya.
As you can tell from the 400 odd words above, there is a lot to love about Lalesso, so when it came to choosing a singular garment for GOTW I was quite surprised that only one really stood out in my mind; the Matatu halter-neck dress, which just screams out to be taken on holiday. In a beautiful sea blue with a striking yellow and red repeat print, my guess is that this dress will be beautiful for highlighting a tan and sun-kissed tresses, making it the jewel in Lalesso’s SS11 head wrap.
The Matatu dress and the entire SS11 collection is available worldwide from 1st April 2011.