• Hiba hassan

Designer Debut Series: Labadi Studios by Yvonne Gyamfi

Like many great things these days, Labadi Studios was created during a time where the entire world was first adjusting to a new norm. Amazingly, Instagram is the main platform that has been used to showcase Labadi’s beautiful and stand-out designs. The London-based designer, photographer, and wordsmith, Yvonne Gyamfi is the creative behind the up-and-coming fashion label. The abstract, fun, yet sexy designs, are intentionally made to fit women’s bodies like a glove. Named after a beach in Accra, Ghana, the brand oozes every bit of who Yvonne is, while appealing to all types of women.

She is a multi-talented entrepreneur, who takes pride in having all the creative influence across her designs and creative direction. But acknowledges, that Labadi was created out of boredom in doing work that did not align with what she wanted to do.

We caught up with the young innovative designer, using social media to showcase her exclusive brand to the world.

How have you been finding creating during this time?

I’d say for me, this has been my most creative period but the period where I have been creating the most for myself. Because there is kind of, no next to go to right now, so you have to make the next opportunity for yourself. It has given me a lot of time to narrow down what I want to do and how I can do it, and for that I am grateful.

But it has also been really difficult in the aspect that you are working with a very limited amount of resources but overall it has been good for my creativity to be forced. I have no other option. I am in my room all day; Netflix can only do so much.

What was it like for you before all of this? Who were you creating for if not for yourself?

I graduated from university 2 years ago and before the pandemic, it was, ‘how do I get my foot into the spaces that I want to get into. I did stuff like photography and film, and also to get paid doing it. and that was the focus, I didn’t have the luxury to do what I wanted for myself. I had to start building and moving forward. Lockdown stripped those things away, no one is looking for anyone, it has given me an excuse to take a step and focus on the other things I’ve wanted to do for a while.

You are creative in all senses of the word, what is your earliest memory of doing something using your creative flare and realising this is your calling?

This may be wrong, but it is a memory in fashion. You know those little toys and the girl is wearing a different shirt or trousers when you flip it. It was like a little designer thing for kids. That was when I can first remember pairing things I liked together. Or even exercising that creative muscle in a way, and I was probably around 4/5 years old. But obviously, at the time I wasn’t thinking of collections and stuff!

What do you think that little girl playing that fashion game would say to you now, a fashion designer?

I think she would say, sis what are doing? Or sis, how did we get here? As the journey hasn’t been straight towards fashion. And it is funny that my first memory of being creative, she would be so proud of how far I have come. But she would also tell me not to stay here for too long because I want to do other things.

So, what are the other things you would like to get into?

Visuals and words are big things for me. I am very passionate about film, photography was something I was into before I started Labadi, and I was doing that a lot. I would say poetry, but I think it's lyricism in general, I just love language and curating stuff around it. but for me, it is weird to individualise things because everything is so connected. I take all the photos, apart from BTS, I do the creative direction and the visual side to everything is very important to me. I couldn’t imagine making the clothes and then being like, ‘Oh someone else to do the creative direction’. To me, it’s not mine then. Everything I do is all under one umbrella, but the world loves to separate it.

As you said the world essentially loves to categorise, how do you stay true to the work you want to create in this sense?

I feel like that is something I wish I knew the answer to when I was younger. It is very easy to do things that people want of you. I fell into photography very quickly as my entry point just because everyone needs a photographer. So, I was always there, I never really thought about what it is that I really want to do because I was so focused on building. For me now, it is lowering the stakes and simplifying what you want to do. It is not impossible, if that person over there can do it then so can I?

Sometimes people did not really know where to fit me because I wanted to do so much but narrowing down what you want to do helps people place you. but at the same time, knowing what people want from you, helps you know what you want from yourself and other people. You always need to question why you are here, if you don’t want to be there then you really don’t need to be. Just because it is an opportunity doesn’t mean you have to do it.

I think there is an influx of opportunities nowadays but that doesn’t mean all are good, what advice would you give someone who says yes to everything?

From my experiences it depends, I’ve done a lot but try to take as much as I can from a situation. If you are a runner on set, don’t focus on getting the best tea. Speak to people. Learn. Try and get as much opportunity from it. if you are in a space where you are saying yes to everything, take a step back and really realise what your values are and what you are trying to do. And it doesn’t have to be massive, just finding out what you are interested in. You need to try everything and being active in going toward your interest. No one is going to tell you exactly where you need to go, you need to do that. You need to figure out where you fit in or feel you most effective. Really and truly, it is breaking things apart and narrowing down what the vision is, right now.

I am saying this now, as someone who was tired, and it drained my soul, but I felt like I had to do it. But then I came to the realisation that you can kind of do what you want. Kind of.

Speaking of your frustrations, how did Labadi Studios come to be?

I sorted the name out probably a year before anything came of it. I wanted to do a fashion brand for a very long time, just because I would always DIY and alter things. Fashion has always been something that has been with me so when lockdown hit, everyone was filled with mixed emotions. The fabric I had picked up over the years had just been there and I just started to make things. Because the way I make is by cutting up the fabric, fitting it to my body, and then acting accordingly. I don’t really draw. After doing that I think I was started to see what I could do, and then built the brand piece by piece.

I didn’t think about how many orders I needed or anything like that, I just saw what worked as I went along. Now, I am building a brand and I have no expectations, I am just creating what I think works and that I like. I am also using this as a learning experience, so whatever happens with Labadi, I am learning from it.

In terms of what I am trying to do with the brand, I feel like the fashion industry complex is just not fitting to everything. Like I would walk into a store and just know it is not catered to a body type with curves. And I didn’t understand it because the average UK size is a size 12. So, I didn’t understand why it wasn’t catered for, that is why I spent so many years altering my clothes. I didn’t even realise that this was not a normal thing to do, people were buying clothes and wearing them as they came, so why are the clothes not better? And that is what I try to infuse in my designs. I try and make stuff that flatters the female form and makes you feel good.

At the end of the day, fashion is great but to me, fashion is a part of how we interact with the world and ourselves. We see ourselves in clothes more than we see ourselves naked, so I believe in making clothes that are for us.

You have a reoccurring theme of the colour scheme throughout your designs, what do these particular shades mean to you and why do you think it compliments clothing so well?

My process for my fabric choices is gravitating toward anything that I love. Like it has to draw me in and what gives me a feeling of quality. I don’t like the feeling of cheap clothes; I don’t like flimsy fabric. It makes such a massive difference; you can make the same thing using cheap material and a good quality one and you would see a huge difference. I feel like if I am in a space and I am seeing all these fabrics then I would imagine someone wearing that fabric and being in that space.

It’s funny, I looked at the colour schemes of all the fabrics I have, and I didn’t understand how it all made sense, but it comes together beautifully. None of the colour schemes are on purpose.

We are constantly looking for new brands and creatives that reflect who we are and improve our quality of life, how does the quality of life and sustainability reflect in your pieces, and how they are created?

I only offer a limited quantity of pieces in each design. I want people to have truly unique items and that’s not gonna happen if you keep putting out the same things. I think it’s important to see all the clothes in your wardrobe as ‘pieces’. We forget there was a time where people would save up through the year to have new dresses made specifically for them. There needs to be discernment in what you consume, and I try to engage with my audience to think more critically about fashion.

How is your brand unique to women looking for the same thing as you were?

If I feel like something’s missing I'm definitely not the only one. I grew increasingly frustrated with the lack of attention paid to the fit and the material of the clothing in fast fashion. ‘The Love of My Life’ top was designed to be able to be worn braless because I hate wearing bras, plus I also wanted to highlight elements of the female form. I hope people see the care and attention I pay to the material I choose, in quality and pattern, and feel that they can’t find the same thing somewhere else. I also don’t believe whatever size you are should limit what you can wear.

Growing up in the creative hub of East London, how did your childhood shape the steps you take in life?

The first memories that I can remember of seeing anything that was really about fashion were How to Look Good Naked and all of those types of shows. They were like makeover shows but kind-of-body shaming as well, but that’s okay, even though it's not. But I have always been somebody who has always wanted to do creative things. My childhood was a lot of me doing things that felt right for me but not necessarily being understood. Being in a space where creativity wasn’t really valued, I didn’t go to a school that really valued arts and being creative. So being in a space where you had to look outside of your surroundings and find a community that was open and creative. But it is so wild because there was already so much creativity in my surroundings, it just was not fostered. I just remember times people would break out into rap battles and I know some amazingly talented artists and people who had these amazing talents. But it was never, oh you could do something like this, it was always, ‘they’re just really good' and that’s it. Do you know what I mean? And that kind of sucks. I think, in terms of the steps now take, I aim to do what feels right and makes sense. To hope that I am at a point to trust the decisions I make to lead me to growth.

How has it been creating a brand unique to you and also has commercial appeal?

Ohhhhh! This has been something that I am still trying to come to terms with. I don’t even have an idea how to do this. First and foremost, I am going to make stuff that I think looks good, and then it will just snowball from there. I wouldn’t make stuff that I didn’t think looked good, but I knew would sell. There is nothing I would put out on a page just for popularity. The process of creating a brand has been the most rewarding, frustrating, exciting, and freeing process I think I have been in. and I love it so much. I love how far I have come from where I have started. It has been a lot of self-doubts, and in those times, I will Facetime all of my friends and ask for their opinions. The whole commercial appeal thing is something I am really aware of. But then you get that positive reception, and when you do you realise, you’re making things that people like.

Is it hard to sometimes be innovative?

OH MY GOD! Yes. It is really difficult sometimes. But I think, I don’t want anyone to feel like they can get something that I have designed somewhere else, because it doesn’t mean anything. I think being innovative also comes from understanding who you are and what you want to see. What do you want to see? Or what do you want to see that hasn’t been done yet? I know it is not as simple as that, but I think it comes with shutting out the noise sometimes. But also, being a student of what you are doing. We are informed by our environment, and my perspective is that I am not here to do something that other people are doing right now. And when you are a student and have that passion to learn, then innovation will come through.

What is the most important item in your closet?

That is such a good question! I actually hate my answer and I want it to be something different, but it is probably my Doc Marten boots. They have been used and abused, and I don’t see myself not wearing them

What trajectory do you hope your career takes?

Career or Careers? Ha-ha, I hope that I get to a point where I can do the things that I want to do. And as I go along there I fewer restrictions on what I want to do.

What can we expect from future collections?

I have big plans for what Labadi is going to be. The beginning and the fatuous stage of the brand is where I am right now and I want it to turn into something that explores more than what I am now. And that sounds very vague, but you will see what I mean.

Instagram: Labadi Studio

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