“I sometimes feel we’ve forgotten that the human hand can imbue clothes with a sense of soul, or that craft is what’s missing from the fashion conversation these days,” says the Bahraini artist/designer Hala Kaiksow, while kneeling in front of a tiny loom with focused concentration. Behind her, light streams through large windows overlooking the Louvre’s Tuileries gardens, as she performs the delicate task of weaving threads of raw silk and linen into a discernable pattern. Part performance art, this demonstration by the young designer coincides with the preview of her Spring/Summer 2018 collection, which took place on June 25th within the atmospheric setting of Ocean House’s neo-classical salons at 216 Rue de Rivoli.
Hala Kaiksow S/S18 Presentation
Choosing to present her collection a good two months before the marathon of spring shows kicks off in September wasn’t an arbitrary decision on her part. “I love the quieter and contemplative moments in fashion when people take the time to look at the clothes, and although fashion week receives the most buzz, it’s during the quieter month of June that retailers and editors come to Paris to view and order the pre-collections,” says the eco-conscious designer, who teamed up this season with Noma Blue, an intriguing organization that creates curated events to link designers to NGOs focused on ocean and nature conservation. In the past, Noma Blue has collaborated with Dover Street Market, Creatures of the Wind and Barbara Casasola as part of their mission to create a dialogue and opportunities for collaboration between creatives and environmental preservationists.
“It’s no secret that the production of mass market clothing can be very polluting to the environment, from the chemical dyes that get dumped into rivers to toxic fumes emitted from certain processes,” says Hala, who created an exclusive design for the event, with 10% of its sales going to humanitarian and conservation initiatives led by Noma Blue’s partnered NGOs. Amongst the individuals who had come to view the designer’s latest collection was an eclectic group of fashion editors, scientists, conservationists and store buyers eager to experience a side of the industry that rarely appears in the mainstream media. For Hala, who uses ethically sourced natural fibers that are hand-woven by her small team of artisans in Bahrain, it served as the perfect venue for her label, one which has gained increasing traction amongst women looking for chic and environmentally friendly alternatives to dressing.
Hala Kaiksow S/S18 Presentation
“Our production model is entirely sustainable in that we don’t produce residual waste and focus primarily on natural fibers such as raw linen, cotton, silk and hemp,” says the designer, whose mood board for spring included a curious collection of medieval, Elizabethan and 18th century undergarments; taking inspiration from their construction for many of the cuts and details in her collection. “I also spent time at Bahrain’s National Museum researching ancient statues and reliefs dating back to the Dilmun civilization which inhabited the island. They used a lot of natural fibers in their fabrics which they draped on the body in inventive ways,” notes Hala, as she walks towards a rack featuring her collection, which includes a textured pleated skirt the color of oatmeal, an earth-toned eyelet jumpsuit and a thoughtfully tailored vest dyed with natural indigo. Each of the pieces comes ingeniously finished with tassels and copper fasteners that allow individuals to adjust a garment to their size. “A lot of thought goes into creating and making these clothes. At the end of the day the conversation I’m trying to spark isn’t about trends so much as reconsidering how we approach dressing, in the same way we approach eating organic produce to support sustainable farming practices in our communities,” concludes the young designer who continues to build a following for her brand of eco-chic.