Afro-British designer Beatrice Korlekie Newman (or KORLEKIE) is a phenomenal force in the fashion world whose potential appears absolutely limitless; she is blessed with a true mastery of detail, an eye for blending patterns and textures, as well as an ability to accentuate the beauty of the female form. Collection after collection, the innovation and intricacies of her designs break boundaries, stirring the imagination of the fashion world and beyond.
So ravishing and stunning are Korlekie’s designs that names such as Rita Ora, Alesha Dixon and Ellie Goulding have taken notice in showcasing them. The overwhelming uniqueness and lavishness of Korlekie’s work is expressed beautifully through embellishments; these reveal inspirations and influences from traditional African embroidery. Such is additionally infused with echoes of the decadent luxury characteristic of the great Tsars.
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration is life. The situations and decisions we find ourselves in everyday helps to define who and what we are. I love fairytales and I tend to sometimes look at my own life as a sort of fairytale or story that will lead up to my happy ending of success and contentment.
With worldly inspirations from poets such as Edgar Alan Poe and the beautiful illustrations of Harry Clarke, I am able to conjure up my own story that I can tell through my clothes. Hopefully such shall inspire others who come across my work.
What’s your support network like? Who keeps you grounded?
My support network is my family. I have friends but in tough times its family and mainly my parents that have really pulled me through. I’d also say that my belief and faith in Christianity has acted as a sort of support that gives me hope and inner peace; this definitely keeps me grounded, especially in uncertain and stressful times.
I’m glad to be thought of as an innovator! So thanks for the kind comment… UV Mapping was an idea that came to me on a whim where being at a Digital fashion seminar at London College of Fashion where the topic of UV Mapping was talked about briefly was just great, divine ‘luck’.
Being a digital fashion student myself, I was looking for ways of how I could apply the digital elements into fashion using the skills that I have, in order to create something inspirational and unique. When I heard and saw bits of UV Mapping, I knew I had found a great source and foundation to start working with that I believed could be re-envisioned through knitwear. I found the experience quite exhilarating, as it introduced me to new techniques and media that brought my skill of my craft onto a new level.
What piece that you have created means the most to you? Why?
The piece that I have created that means the most to me is a leather cord crochet dress from my current A/W collection that took me roughly more than 72hrs to make.
Apart from the labour of love, it means a lot to me as it was the first time that I had experimented with a material other than average kitting yarns that turned out to be more successful than I could have imagined. Regardless of what anyone thought, it looked absolutely beautiful to me.
What’s your creative process? Is it always changing?
I don’t really have a creative process as my ideas sometimes change. I normally start off by taking inspiration from something, could be a picture or something I’ve read, which I then go on to research in more depth so that I can gain more knowledge and ideas for my new collection. The rest is history.
Some collections follow through from the beginning but others change midway due to new-found inspirations, ideas that I didn’t consider before. Or sometimes, just by looking at the collection, I realise that something is missing or it just doesn’t look good enough and make my edits… I’m a bit of a perfectionist!
Your work is so unique and powerful in how it emphasises the beauty of women, highlighting figures in their best light. You lamented recently about the lack of curves in today’s beauty standards. Tell us more about this.
I just think curves are beautiful. Though I was not born to see the 40’s, I can’t help but admire the beautiful curves that represented what was once a fashion silhouette to be celebrated and proud of… where big bosoms and bums where a sign of beauty: well-endowed, maturity and womanhood… not vulgarity and “sex”. I really want my clothes to cater for all sorts of woman, where like Alaia, my clothes will transform you into a superstar.
One of my fashion ‘idols’ is Azzedine Alaia. Coming across his work has helped me to understand silhouette a little better and that design as well as fabric choice is important. This is as many of his clothes – except outerwear – is purely knitted and stretchy. Being a knitwear designer myself, I find designing for both curvy and slender silhouettes to be a little more uncomplicated due to stretchy / knitted fabrics being more forgiving in terms of stretch and wearability; most of the time, it looks good on both slender and curvy forms.
Though I hope to delve into incorporating more woven fabrics in my collections in the near future, knitwear will always be a great source of inspiration for me where I can be fearfully innovative and sellable at the same time; keeping both slender and curvy clients happy.
If you could design for anyone in the world, living or dead, who would it be?
I have my moments where I’ll see a certain celebrity and I’ll be like “ I want to dress her/ him” however I’d like it if my collections were viewed as open to everybody who wants to wear Korlekie. I won’t choose a specific person because I have many in mind but I will state two of my favourites at the moment that I’d love to work with, Solange Knowles and Fan Bingbing amongst others. What I love about them is that they are individuals and have found their own identity.
We’re very passionate about representation as British East Asians and role models that make our community proud. You’ve been called by many Ghanaians as a pioneer and innovator for Africa. What do you think about this?
It’s always great when people recognise your hard work. Such statements encourage me and make me feel good. I hope to continue being a pioneer and innovator for future generations to be inspired by and look up to.
To find out more about KORLEKIE, please visit www.korlekie.com.