The Dance of the Kankan High Fashion From the Seychelles
‘I always knew that my path in life was in fashion design. It is what I am, my whole being. As a teenager I struggled at school; no subjects would interest me and I found it difficult to focus on anything else. I didn’t listen, would doodle on my note pad all day, getting me into constant trouble. My art class was the only breath of fresh air, and I of course excelled in it. It was my art teacher Mr Kennedy, who told me about the first steps of how to pursue a career in fashion. That was when I struck a deal, I would make all my grades and I would go to the best fashion college in the world. It was my destiny’.
Kankan a creole word for ‘spreading the word’, is by far the leading fashion label in Seychelles, with its stylish yet relaxed elegance, that is reflective of the country’s beautiful but powerful female persona. The mind behind the designs, Karine Dupouy, a young ambitious lady that started the brand with a few t-shirts back in 2011.
‘I want to take my designs and Seychelles fashion to an international level and that is why I strictly add Seychelles to my branding guidelines. I couldn’t think of anywhere else to live, my heart belongs here’.
At the wee age of 6, Karine told her parents that she wanted to become a fashion designer. They watched her go through her auntie’s and grandmother’s wardrobes styling and re-working numbers on herself. ‘While other kids were laughing at the Disney’s storylines, I was fascinated with the costumes and replayed them over and over to capture the styles and cuts’. She then started to train herself in fashion drawings using Barbie computer software, and even went on to sew new outfits for each doll, chopping and styling their hair to match the outfit.
After graduating from the prestigious Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, after some other designers such as John Galliano, Stella McCartney, Zac Possen, Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen, Karine took placements in Franck Sorbier’s, Paris Haute Couture fashion house, the Italian textile manufacturer, Ratti supplying for Haute Couture fashion houses around the world, as well as London based Brazilian designer Lena Santana.
‘Each work experience has made me what I am today – the most favourite being my work in Como, at Ratti. I had the chance to learn how everything is printed on fabric in the factory. I saw the most amazing designs created right in front of my eyes alongside the biggest designers in the industry. I spent two months in the design department where I created my own designs. They were so pleased by them they even kept three. At Frank Sorbier’s couture atelier in Paris, Karine learned the art of lace making and the time, care and detail it takes for each creation. At Santana she perfected her sewing skills with expert mentoring guidance.
Karine’s creative eye is present in everything she does and is clearly her foundation, blessed with multiple talents from painting, photography and free drawing to mention a few, and so she cannot help but see inspiration from everywhere and everything. ‘I start off with a theme board, that stems from my ideas, thoughts and visualisations, this then develops into garments. I love beautiful things so I try to inspire myself with a mindset of Hollywood stars going onto the red carpet’. Karine travels to fashion shows and trade fairs around the world collecting the latest ideas for future collections. ‘I pick out colours I liked during my travels and further develop them when I get back home’.
Her stardom design vision is apparent in the collections, which seemingly have two main categories; ready to wear and Haute Couture. The ready to wear collection contains summer dresses and tops in subtly printed cotton, perfect for the warm summer season and the elegant, classic evening wear jumps out at you as you marvel at the attention to detail and romance in every stitch.
So how does Karine stay motivated, living so far away from the fashion world? ‘I follow a lot of designer blogs to keep up with the trends, but my on-going inspirations would have to be Ellie Saab, Marchesa and Matthew Williamson. I love the gowns they create and I am a big fan of sequins and sparkles. I have always loved creating and so Matthew Williamson has to be my biggest inspiration when it comes to print design. It is even more exciting to know that we went to the same university’. Karine’s passion shines through as she makes a point of wearing the first samples to really engage and connect to her creations, highlighting that she must know how it feels moves and falls on a figure, before it gets released in store.
Carefully selecting all her beautiful silk fabrics from India and Turkey, to ensure the best quality, you can see her heart and soul lies in every piece from fabric purchase to hanger. ‘As soon as I see a fabric I can visualise the garment in my head. I used to favour black fabrics but am moving away from this shade recently’.
Karine’s recent collection is called ‘Tropical Romance’, a resort collection made of light weight fabrics perfect for those sunny days. It stemmed from a trio sketch board of the related themes, the Tropical Romance, Cast Away and Sun & Sea, and contains unique raffia hats, jewellery and bags all perfectly matching accessories for that ultimate James Bond island ensemble. With only fifteen items per collection, they really are unique pieces of art.
Kankan only partners with semi-precious manufacturers from Italy for all the jewellery pieces. ‘Just like the clothing we wear on our backs, the accessories we pair with them too define our personal style, it’s an extension of Self ‘ because what you wear, in their own special way, give you a glimpse of who you are. Style is saying who you are without having to speak a word”, they say’.
Karine has been busy working on her very own printed fabric collection; spending months locked up sketching and painting to perfect the designs. ‘I am not completely satisfied with them yet but will get there’. She slipped out that these personal prints will include a beachwear collection of Kaftans with semi precious stones. ‘I try to create something different for each collection to challenge myself and going to trade fairs helps a lot in knowing what is new in the market’.
The Kankan team is very family orientated, with Karine’s Mum in partnership to work on the more marketing/administrative aspects of the business to allow Karine more time to channel her extraordinary into hopefully next season’s masterpieces.
Like many artists, Karine likes her own space and quiet time. ‘I am a shy person and try and avoid socialising with large groups or too many interviews, but it is now a part of my job. People need to know the person behind the brand’. On her days off Karine spends a lot of time cooking, creating a new dish every week, mostly with local produce. She also never ceases to try and learn new things in photography, web designing or anything to do with market branding to keep Kankan on the marks.
So how does a fashion designer charge her creative batteries? Karine and her beau take one month each year to go on an adventure. Planned out months in advance to maximise the time, experiences and distances she looks forward to this break to fully rejuvenate. The next escape is to Burma, Nepal and Tibet.
Karine wants to one day spread her Kankan wings from the Indian Ocean and has her sights set on retail outlets in Dubai and South Africa to start with. ‘I want to have my fashion house here in Seychelles, and would love to have the resources to produce all of the clothes locally instead of outsourcing manufacturers overseas. With no plans for a family yet, well not before she ticks off all the ‘before 30 bucket list’ she would also like to have a Kankan Kids line too.
Her parting line: ‘It is so important not to dress for other people, or someone you are trying to impress. You must dress to impress yourself, to feel pretty, happy and confident and this will put a smile on your face everyday’.
For more information, please visit www.kankan.sc