Lela Scherrer is a fashion designer who came of creative age in Antwerp where she worked for various designers including Walter van Beirendonck and Dries van Noten. Following this year’s Design Indaba, Sherrer connected with creators and crafters in various fields for a future collaborative project.

Lela Scherrer stands with her designs
Lela Scherrer stands with her designs
Image: Supplied

Tell us about yourself: Where you are based and what is your background as a designer? After a decade in Belgium, I decided to move to Basel in Switzerland, a city dedicated to the world’s leading art and architecture, to set up my own design studio. I have my own tailor-made collection. I also create collections and collection lay-outs, work on interiors and do consulting for other brands and retailers. On top of that I attend national and international design juries.

What did you do before launching your studio independently? I worked many years for a number of Belgian designers. Before that I was a costume designer before exploring my own independent work.

You founded your initial studio in Antwerp, how did that environment foster your creativity? Antwerp was very fresh, independent, and innovative and the designers whom I worked for were very demanding in relation to the content and level of design work. That is where I honed my design skills.

How has your style and aesthetics evolved over the years and how has that been reflected in your designs? My style and aesthetics evolve with my age and life stages. The aesthetics change to adapt to the actuality of my life and that is reflected in the garments and products I design. The DNA of my brand is always recognisable (at least it should be) but there are millions of variations that can be interpreted here.

Can you tell us bit about your latest capsule collection, KK? What are some of the thoughts and inspirations behind it? My last collection started with a design research project I was involved in with the University of the Arts Zurich and the wind tunnel project of the research department of trans-disciplinarily. We basically tested fabrics and garments in the wind tunnel and were looking for new volumes and visual effects that were generated through this experiment.

A few looks from Lela Scherrer's latest collection, KK

Can you tell us about your production process? Where do you source materials and how do you manufacture your designs? As my own collection is a small series and tailor-made collection I work with tailors in Switzerland. 

Materials for this collection come from Switzerland - or special fabrics and materials are brought from travels abroad. The fantastic thing about this collection is that it includes unique pieces. This allows me to be creative on a high level.

The designs for this collection are developed with pattern makers and crafts people I work with.

For production of clients I work with international mills all over the world. A very important thing is to know the production level of the company well and to have a good relationship with the producers. The volumes and details are either developed with pattern makers or direct with the company.

Who do you design for, and what are your thoughts on how people engage with your designs? I work for various clients, from fashion brands to interior houses, from retail houses to art museums, from banks to business hubs.

You also do not show your designs conventionally. Can you tell us a bit about the spaces where people get to engage with your designs? Important to me is the context in which I show my work. When I moved to Switzerland I decided to place the collection in an art gallery. The way the clothes interact with the art in the exhibition is extraordinary.

Can you tell us a bit about the Mode Suisse collective that you are part of? Mode Suisse is an industry platform promoting collaboration between fashion designers, fashion schools, the textile industry, the retail market, media and other related industry players. My position at Mode Suisse is more in the background - a consulting one. As Switzerland is still new in the fashion industry it offers a void and space. That is probably one of the reasons why Vêtements decided to move their office and studio to Zurich.

You visited South Africa recently. What was your experience of the fashion and design scene in both Johannesburg and Cape Town? I was overwhelmed by the out of the box way creatives work in South Africa. People just do things without hesitation; especially young creatives always find ways of expressing themselves through art, design, music.

Johannesburg was interesting in terms of fashion designers. Designers develop their own language and do not try to look like well-known brands. Cape Town was impressive when it came to craftspeople and institutions. It is a fantastic atmosphere to work creatively.

Which creatives or creative platforms are currently on your radar? I had the chance to visit Design Indaba this year and found it fantastic as I returned inspired and filled with innovative, critical and socially relevant new thoughts about design and my own work. We need platforms like these to get content back to our designs - at least in the western world.

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