Out of Africa: Fashion designer Lisa Shawgi
In fashion, there are many designers who reinvent what is already known, but there are few originators. That is why Alexander McQueen was such a loss, and it's the reason Prada and Yohji are so revered.
Lisa Shawgi is an originator. She does beautiful, contemporary things with yarn -- things that no one else is doing. Her designs are richly colourful, evocative, sensual and flattering. She is all about the woman and the body.
Half Sudanese, Lisa constantly refers to her father's country and her heritage in her work, which explains the richness and the soft, sensual treatment of femininity.
With her new winter collection, Lisa wants to flatter women's curves. "Like most women, I used to feel uncomfortable with my body, but as I get older, I love it more and more," she says. "I appreciate what I have."
Lisa has a gorgeous figure, but one only has to look to the situation that Mad Men star Christina Hendricks was put in a few weeks ago to see that curves are a controversial issue. The stunning, Venus de Milo-like woman could not find a red-carpet designer dress to fit -- let alone flatter -- her gorgeous shape, because most designers create for emaciated, no-breasts, no-bottoms, boy-like bodies. This lack of respect for the authentic feminine form is increasing women's anxieties about their bodies being ugly and unacceptable. Regular viewers of Gok Wan will be familiar with this territory, and our lack of self-love. It is the legacy of a fashion industry, media and social dynamics (friends and family) promoting skeletal models and celebrities as normal.
Not so this fashion editor, or Lisa. What is especially lovely about Lisa's dresses is that while they do flatter curvy women, she is also a great designer for reed-like women, too.
"I often use frills to bring femininity to my pieces," she says. "Curvier women think it will make them look bigger, but it doesn't -- it flatters more -- while slimmer women find it gives them a figure they don't see themselves as having.
"Also, curvy women are very self-conscious of their flesh, but my designs give a sense of coverage. I don't like explicit dressing."
Using medieval motifs of vine, rose and trellis patterns in burgundy, gold, teal and red, Lisa has created a collection of wonderful knitted gowns, wraps, and kaftan tunics and dresses; several of them reversible.
Lisa's aim is to give her customers more for their money so she uses mainly synthetic yarns, which keep the shape and wear well. Were Lisa to use cashmere, the garments would cost five times the price, at least.
Lisa Shawgi is a find.
Photography by Johnny McMillan Styling by Karolina Schlagner fashion edited by Constance Harris.