Up-cycling, identity and poetry with Shakila Thebe

Shakila Thebe, photographed by Bupkis

Shakila Thebe is a London based designer. Having graduated from The London College of Fashion in 2017, she continues to create innovative and figurative fashion, taking references from art, poetry, nature and her two homes, London and Nepal. Her designs incorporate a thorough, elaborate and conceptual process, focusing on the idea of the juxtaposition between the poetic evocation of clothes and the ephemeral nature of diasporic identities. Shakila’s process combines the skills of experiential research, an appreciation of craftsmanship skills and an intensive pattern cutting routine, which requires a great eye for detail.

Her work has been featured in, Not just a label, Fucking young, Evening standard, Re-edition, COEVAL, Rain, Sicky, Atlas magazine, Spectral, Sukeban, Knots, Kaltbult magazine, OFFICE, REFORM The funk & many more. As well as this Shakila was selected as a finalist in the LCFBA17 prestigious graduate show to showcase her BA final collection.

For our second issue of Bupkis zine (002 Green N Mean) we photographed and styled some of Shakila’s most recent collection - the 'non seasonal'- which was a de-constructed version of her final BA collection. Featuring jewelled tiny bag earrings, weightless neon combat co-ords and beautiful cut outs, it was a pleasure to be able to collaborate with her for this feature in our second issue. We sat down with Shakila to find out a bit more abut her new collection.


Tell us a bit about the 'Non-seasonal, collection', what inspired you yo make this collection and why is it non-seasonal?

The 'Non-seasonal collection' is very personal and it is a revisited line from my final major project, 'I am made from an old you' that refers to the literal meaning of using old materials by up-cycling/ recycling. The core value of the collection is the ephemeral identities. It's where one comes from and then re-locates in a place where a level of discomfort exists. Every peice is special and unique to me as it's made with the notion of re-wearability, despite the season or trend.

How did you find the process of de-constructing your final BA collection, and coming up with The ‘Non-seasonal collection’? The process was definitely something I enjoyed, but the initial stage was a tough one, as I didn't know where to begin or how to start. Initially I started dissecting and re-editing my work that I really like. I’m not sure if I have deconstructed the work, I would say that I have reconstructed the existing ideas and finalised what I want to make. Revaluing it without losing the fundamental essence.

It must have been an interesting experience working with your final degree show collection that you made in London while studying, and then revisiting it at home in Nepal after graduating? It wasn’t intentional at all. As final year students we work so hard and give our very best effort to exhibit in our final degree show. Hoping to get acknowledged and accepted in the fashion industry. I always liked the idea of going back to the places where I grew up. It did help me reignite that childhood energy again. I got to know so many interesting, creative like-minded people in Kathmandu. Also from a commercial point of view, it’s a place where the fashion industry hasn’t really fully established yet so it was really fascinating for me to use a production community in Nepal ethically and fairly with this collection.

How did you find studying in London?

Studying in London was probably the best decisions that I made. I’m so grateful to have been a part of LCF, where I met so many amazing friends, colleagues and tutors. It was really a good time and definitely a time I will never forget, but it was also a challenging time, especially during my first year. Getting used to and understanding university culture and opening up to new people. It can be intimidating presenting your work in front of a tutor and your fellow classmates when you are aware that everyone there is equally talented and creative. A lot of time I had so many clashes with my tutors, I still remember one of my course tutor said to me that “fashion is not art” I took that very personally at that time but now I know what she meant by that. I reckon it was one of the reasons now that makes me work even harder.

Have you found that your creative process has changed a lot since graduating? I’m not sure if the creative process has changed since graduating. I feel my creative process is quite ritualistic in a way. I don't trust any other approach or another way of doing it. I don't believe in effortless work or even the process. I have to let my mind wander, research a lot, and gather information. I believe one can only evolve within the work that they are involved in. I do love experimenting and trying new things as much as I can.

Your designs are so natural looking in their shape; there is a lot of fluidity to them. The ‘Non-seasonal collection’ has a heavy use of bright neon colours, yet there is still something so natural about the way your materials look and feel! Can you tell us a bit more about that? I think it has been a conscious and unconscious decision going over little things that are relevant and weeding out what is not. I’ve always been very fond of using neutral as well as vivid tones in my work. Fluid and abstract silhouettes come very naturally when the process takes the illusive approach and avoids confinement. In this recent ‘Non seasonal collection’ my main focus was to express my view. Fabric choice was very intentional.

Do you think both London and Nepal have an impact on your work? Do you find yourself drawing inspiration from these places when making? Yes definitely. Both places have been equally close to me and my work.

You have made a lot of jewellery and accessories with this collection, which is a relatively new incorporation into your work. What made you want to start making jewellery and accessories? I still don't know why am I doing this but I do immensely enjoy making them. I make them at my home studio. I finally have a small jewellery kit so I am always making something and sometimes it hasn’t worked, it’s all about experimenting. I love making things with my hands.

We know that you are very passionate about ethical fashion and sustainability, what steps do you take when making to ensure that you are doing the best you can for the planet? My work has always been intrigued by the idea of everyday clothes and how it can evoke a poetic state, but at the same time it is important for me to realise that we in the fashion industry are responsible for how we are producing our work/garment/ collection, without harming or affecting anyone’s life, including the planets. I strongly believe that we no longer design for landfill because we have that creativity, the innovation, the spirit, and the opportunity to go against the rulebook and start again. For me, it’s not only about designing the products and choosing right materials, right textiles, colours anymore. It's also about who will wear my product, how long they will own it for, and what happens to the garment/ product at the end of their life. As a designer, I am in-charge of all those decisions that can be implicated while creating. Designers must be able to trace where their materials come from. From my perspective I am optimistic about the vital role the consumer can play too. Designers and brands must set an example and share their experiences showcasing that it is possible to produce work and be transparent in their process. In my degree show “I’m made from an old you”, I mostly used donated/unwanted fabrics so most of the pieces were made from old fabrics or even old cut trims/garments. I genuinely love the idea of up-cycling, the process will surprise you for the better.

What do you want to change in your industry? My recent collection focuses on non-seasonal wear with a view to challenge the concept of ‘seasonal construct.’ I want to emphasises the idea of ‘re- wearability’; eschewing the wastefulness of the current state of the global fashion industry. If I can bring these changes then it will be an awesome pathway to lead.

Your dream collaboration? There are so many that I can think of, I would die if I get a chance to collaborate with Lyn hill, Lasportiva, Meredith Monk or Eckhaus latta. I also would love to work with Nick Sethi the photographer. And of course, the bupkis team :)

Whats next for you? Well, anything that excites me, that leads me to a new dimensional form of work.

At last, I want to thank you guys for letting me be a part of your bupkis journey! I wish you all the best with your zine. It’s a fantastic job you guys are doing. Big love x

Images throughout taken from our 2nd issue, find out more here.

Bupkis is a London based zine exploring the sloppy and clumsy through colour.

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