Beatrice Korlekie Newman aka KORLEKIE, is a British Ghanaian designer whose collections stand for elegance and heritage. Her clothes have been seen worn on celebrities such as Sabrina Washington for her debut single and video OMG lead singer, Shingai Shoniwa, of British band The Noisettes, Alesha Dixon, Noelle Reno and recently Rita Ora.
Her designs have also appeared in numerous editorial and digital publications such as Vogue.com, Elle, Fault, Dazed Digital, Dolce Vita, Kaleidoscope, Mirren and Playing fashion magazine to name a few and a selection of her clothes are being sold on the highly acclaimed new fashion online store ‘Pickurberry.com’.
Beatrice’s signature look consists of heavy embellishment, beading and intricate handwork that is inspired by her Afro-European background/culture and takes inspiration from the beautiful beading and embroidery of African clothes and lace fabrics. Korlekie is also inspired by the regal heritage of monarchs such as the Tsars and illustrious work of Edmund Dulac in 1001 Arabian Nights, which by colour and intricacies is always referenced in her work.
Shadders caught up with Beatrice Korlekie Newman to discuss her recent MA graduation and AW collections, how her creative journey began and where the brand is heading to. We are proud to discover the talent of another inspiring British Ghanaian designer within the international fashion scene, adding to the list of talented Ghanaian designers such as the renowned Ozwald Boateng, Adrien Sauvage, Anita Quansah and Mimi Plange.If you have never heard of Beatrice Korlekie Newman then you better get acquainted by reading below!
Describe yourself in 5 words:
Perplexing, Pensive, Passionate, Poised, Persistent
Tell us a bit about how you got into fashion designing, how long you’ve been in it for?
I think I’ve generally always had interest in fashion. When I was I child I use to love and still love reading fairy tales by which I would be inspired by the beautiful illustrations by artists and illustrators such as Edmund Dulac and Kay Nielson to name a few. I was also quite influenced by my mum who is very multi skilled and talented and apart from decorating cakes and crocheting, use to also sew dresses for her friends and me.
As I matured my fascination with the craft of designing and making things lead me to pursue further education at college where I undertook a BTEC Art and design course with a fashion pathway. Whilst studying my passion for fashion heightened and I decided to pursue a career in fashion. I have now been designing for 3 years.
Tell us about your background. (education, family, where you are located and interest)
I was born and raised in the UK where much of my design influences are centred on London and the westernised culture. My family originates from West Africa, Ghana where I have also garnered an interest in the beautiful decorous fashions of African textiles and fabrics. These two components of my mixed culture is what make ups the foundations of the Korlekie brand.
My love for fashion didn’t really take off until I started college but I have always been interested and passionate about art and design, elements that are recurring within my collections be it hand craft, embroidery of hand printing/painting.
As a graduate with a BA in Fashion, what inspired you to pursue further education?
Doing a BA is great and for some people it’s all they need to break into industry. However for others like me I found that it was necessary to take the step of furthering myself via an MA to evolve and mature as a designer. Doing an MA gives you more freedom to express yourself and build important relationships with people in industry who could also possibly help you in the future when building your brand. Studying an MA also helped me to understand my identity as a designer which is vital when it comes to marketing yourself and the brand in the future to possible clients and the fashion industry.
Why did you choose to study an MA in Digital Fashion to express your creativity?
I was actually offered the chance to do an MA on that course. It wasn’t a decision that I made myself. I was quite hesitant at first but then I realised digital is the future and I had the chance to really challenge myself and my design aesthetic to come out with a collection that was strong, bold and unique using digital technologies.
I didn’t just want to be another graduate designer, doing fashion design and creating another collection, I wanted to stand out and be different.
Studying digital fashion taught me a lot and in the end I not only came out with a conceptualized digital collection but also had a better and in-depth knowledge on branding, marketing and on the more technical side, knowledge on creating short films and using digital 3D media. The breadth of skills digital has is quite vast and numerous but it has taught me so much and I’m really glad I did it.
What was your final year project, idea of it and inspiration behind it?
The process of UV Mapping inspired the KORLEKIE A/W12 COLLECTION, which is the 3D modelling process of making a 2D image representation of a 3D model in mesh like formations. Using the intricate mesh shapes I then manipulated the formations into more complex and intricate patterns. I used 3D software programs to transform a 3D scan of my face into the intricate mesh like structures that have been interpreted using digital knit technology to create knitted patterns, designs and textures onto fabric. Theillustrations of Harry Clarke in Edgar Allan Poe’s book of ‘Tales of mystery and imagination’ and the deleted scene from Disney’s Fantasia- ‘Clair De Lune have all also been heavy influences in my silhouette and overall aura ofthe KORLEKIE brand and collection.
On first glimpse of your collections I noticed that you do not use African prints in your work. What are your favourite fabrics to use and why?
A lot of my reference to the African culture comes via the way I make the weaved/knitted fabric. I feel that there’s a lot more to the African culture than just print. It’s also all about the weaving, the lace, the fringing etc these are the elements of Africa in my work.
When I’m not knitting I enjoy using chiffon and most recently the bazin riche which I collaborated on with the Gagny Lah company in Mali. I hope to be using the GLah fabrics again as unlike the colourful African prints I feel it is more appealing to a wider audience, looks like brocade, feels luxurious and at times, due to it’s high sheen mistaken to look like leather! When knitting I love using iridescent yarns, lurex and leather.
Who or what inspires you the most?
Everything around me inspires me. What I am influenced by depends on the season and how I feel at the time etc. Main occurrences of inspiration for the Korlekie brand include Edmund Dulac, Harry Clarke, Edgar Alan Poe, Tsars, my Christianity and digital processes such as UV Mapping. These influences put together make up the modern gothic, deep pensive and glamorous aesthetic of Korlekie.
Who is your target market and how do you make your collections accessible to a global audience?
My target market is for the mature sensual and glam woman who are social and have places to go to parade the beautiful creations that I make. My most popular clients are celebrities and wealthy fashionistas who aren’t afraid to look different and stand out from the crowd.
Women who wear my clothes age from 26-40 years.
Making my collections accessible to a global audience is my next mission but right now interested clients can contact me and make an order via my email:
Korlekie1@gmail.com and very soon via the NOT JUST A LABEL ONLINE SHOP from my profile: www.notjustalabel.com/korlekie
What has been your most challenging experience since you decided to pursue fashion?
My most challenging experience…. creating a ‘digital’ conceptualized collection on a very tight budget and breaking out into the fashion industry with the Korlekie fashion brand.
When you aren’t being creative, you are…?
Looking after family, reading, watching films and most importantly doing my own PR and marketing for the brand.
What is your favourite piece in your closet or of your collection and why?
The leather corded dress that Rita Ora wore to the Elle style awards and the long green black iridescent hairpin lace knit dress of the same collection. I like these pieces because they are unique and they took me hours of construction to make. I think they are quite possibly the most successful pieces in my collection as they turned out ‘perfect’, the way I envisioned them.
What are your views on the African fashion Industry?
I think it’s great what they are doing and there are some great prospects coming out of it for the now and future generations of Africa. It’s also great to see the diversity of designs in each collection and how the designers interpret African prints and textiles. It is very inspirational. There should definitely be a lot more support from outside industries and investors and I hope buyers not just in Africa and especially in Europe will begin to expand their horizons on the designers they choose to stock.
As a British Ghanaian, have you been to Ghana before and what are your views on the fashion industry there?
I’ve only been to Ghana once and unfortunately that was some 6 years ago. Fashion then seemed to be more of a novelty and hobby rather than a business and people didn’t really dress in the western style for special occasions. It was still quite traditional and uniform (skirt and bodice/top + scarf).
I think now with access to more fashionable magazines and publications such as Arise, African fashion is helping to set an example for the younger generation who are embracing change in fashion and are getting more quirky, fun and experimental with how they dress up and what they wear. I have also observed that the pattern cutting of garments has evolved greatly with designers understanding fit and structure a lot better now. I personally think that big companies such as Vlisco has really brought about change and influence to how African fashion is perceived and also not forgetting the inspirational designers of Africa and African’s abroad such as Yinka Shonibare, Ozwald Boateng, Xuly Bet amongst others and also the new generation of flourishing designers who have set the mark for other designers and the nation to follow.
Are you aware of the upcoming Ghana Fashion & Design week?
Yes I am. I have been in talks with some of the organisers and will be getting in involved. I’m here to rep Ghana too!!!
Any tips for new designers/start-ups in the fashion industry?
A vision/ goal you are setting out to accomplish is never easy so you will need perseverance and patience.
The another tip is making sure you have the passion for what you do because it is the driving force that keeps you going and lastly….Joshua 1:6 –BE DETERMINED, BE CONFIDENT.
What is Beatrice K Newman looking to bring forth in the future and what should everyone look out for?
I am looking to bring forth the uniqueness of old forgotten and traditional craft revived through the use of modern digital technologies and techniques and glamorous clothing.
I hope to bring back the enchanted aura of fashion, where clothes weren’t just beautiful and wearable but heirlooms of fairy tale like splendour for future generations to dote on, to desire and be inspired by.
Where can we find your designs?
Finally How can our readers contact you Twitter| Facebook | Website
FACEBOOK FAN PAGE: facebook.com/Korlekie