I discovered the work of Clea Lala with her collection of hand-embroidered “animosities” caps. The universe of this collection, the accuracy of the embroidered motifs, and the rarity of these parts (being hand embroidered, there was very little quantities available), immediately attracted and fascinated me. Each piece is therefore almost unique: impossible to see on another person in the street. Each embroidery was the result of long hours of work, giving a soul to the product, a story to tell a lot cooler than snapbacks industrially manufactured in Asia or the U.S. And I’ve assisted to the evolution of this work with the launch of embroidered t-shirts and new form of caps (5 panels!)…
It was really important for me to make you discover and appreciate this work. So I proposed to Clea to answer some questions. You will see that Clea Lala not only does caps and t-shirts but also works on a variety of media and projects as cool as complementary…
And, no, the rapper / singer / lover Canadian Drake is not the first to come up with the trendy owl…
Couvre x Chefs: Hi Clea, can you introduce yourself to the readers of CxC?
Clea Lala: Clea, 27 years, still got all my teeth. Like children who want to be a teacher because they love the chalkboard, when I was a teenager I wanted to be a stylist because I loved customizing my clothes. But I didn’t specialize straight away into it and decided to explore the world a little. I made a Bac L (French Diploma), ranged between crafted arts and cinema, then I integrated a preparation in applied arts. Meanwhile I still followed an internship with the FRENCH INSTITUTE OF FASHION in the International Cycle of Fashion Design, which I really liked. But suddenly, I preferred to keep my passion for textiles and customization as a hobby rather than make my livelihood, and I headed to visual communication, graphic design.
So I first went to the SCHOOL ESTIENNE for a BTS (another French Diploma) then ENSAAMA OLIVIER GREENHOUSE in Paris for a creator to designer DSAA. There I was selected to represent the graphic arts during FELDSTÄRKE INTERNATIONAL 2009 at the initiative of CENTQUATRE. And it’s then I thought bingo! Working with other students attached to other lands (fashion, music, dance etc) on joint and multidisciplinary projects is really my “cam”. So when I got a scholarship to work abroad, I have chosen a multidisciplinary place (graphics, music, theater, fashion) in Athens, central in a variety of contemporary art practices. I really wanted, and especially need to re-open my creativity to other areas than hardcore graphics that I developed for 4 years, and honestly, spurted from my nose holes.
The crisis has spared neither the Greeks nor my apple, and the desire to develop my personal projects growing up, I finally returned to Paris where I live and work today. And after a year of hard-graphics (I worked independently on a playful discovery kit deafness (winner of Paris Youth Solidarity and heart stroke jury unanimously – Mairie de Paris), I returned, finally, with my first passion: sewing and customization.
Some define me as a designer, others as a graphic designer, and others define me as a brand. To summarize, I am all that at once, a kind of multi-disciplinary workshop except that there is only me and my ten fingers.
CxC:Today, more and more young designers launch a series of t-shirts and sweatshirts. It is easier and can rapidly produce large quantities. Thou you take this a bit against the current. Why did you choose the embroidery craft (and production in small quantities) as a carrier? Tool of expression?
Clea:Because I did not think of my project as a commercial project, but I thought of it as a creative project! When I wanted to make my first hat, the one of my dreams, I inquired about the different productions possible. I had my pattern that I designed (the owl) and I went to see different companies to determine their rates. When I realized what I wanted to do will never be as well than what I wanted (“traits should be less there”, “it’s too late here”, “size should be like this” such was the crap manufacturers), so I planned to do the work myself, by hand.
And so what if it took a long time, since I wanted something of quality. My first hat I made in several days, but the more I worked the more I looked forward to seeing the work completed. So of course I put aside questions of profitability, because it is not seen as hyper profitable for the working time it requires and price I want to practice (less than 100 euros) but I’m glad that there are people who recognize this quality …
But yes, work amount can spray the market (make gifts to the artists, send parts to magazines, let productions showroom etc.) and increase the profitability of the project along its profile. And unfortunately, many of those who want to wear this or that thing just because they saw it on this artist on TV or in this magazine. You can make a whole thing farted, sell super expensive, everything will be fine if you have visibility. It is strategic. It is economical. Or even pathetic. Money money money!
CxC: You are passionate about typography and illustration, can you tell us more? What attracts you specifically in these two areas?
Clea: What attracts me is the strength of the message, the atmosphere, the feeling that you can carry with a series of words or a well built well “calibrated” in the blink of an eye with an image, or two. Or just the humor that you can give to see.
“CRY ME A RIVER” and “LETS NOT DRAG YOUR SON”, for example, it was an image I had in mind for a moment, saying so much more than what I could write in words that I wanted a good way to build it. It was these tears that flow again and again, and I also had some reservations when cut! I could just write “Tears” or “CRY” but it was too indecisive to match the feeling I wanted to share. Besides, I had several people who told me they were very uncomfortable at the sight of this picture. For me, in this case, it’s mission accomplished.
“CRY ME A RIVER”.
“LAISSE PAS TRAÎNER TON FILS”.
But sometimes, there is the word that haunts me, the meaning it carries, and the different forms that I can give him. I am deeply interested in these issues during my degree in visual communication, I questioned both on deafness, access to French language and communication. I think my poster series on Deafness WELL I DO NOT SEE WHAT YOU MEAN can best illustrate these questions. It was a phase of my graduation project which I then developed for Inpes (Ministry of Health) where I wanted to account for the general public of impaired auditory perception of a person deaf (sounds distorted, confused, etc …).
Series of posters “I do not see what you mean” (click on photo to enlarge):
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The word is, it is already a universe, according to its intrinsic meaning, and possible combinations of other words. But in addition, depending on how it is made in space (say a page), it may still say something different. If in addition you modify the same spelling of the word, you multiply the possible interpretations, adding or canceling a sense, differ or confirm the basic (abuse etc). This is what fascinates me about the typo, that’s why I love playing with … From a form that has a background, one direction, then turn this form, precisely divert or press the bottom one … game that can last for hours!
So then the illustration or typography, it depends on exactly what I want to convey. I love creating images. I therefore love my job, and I like to explore: different media, different tools, and different projects. In social, cultural, or purely aesthetic.
If I could make music, that’s what I’ll also immerse people in an environment that I have set, but I do not know how to align three notes without scaring everyone!
CxC: Being passionate headgear of all kinds, I discovered your work with your collection of snapback hats “animosities” … Why did you chose the cap-like support for your embroidery?
Clea: This collection was born from a personal desire to basic force squatter caps buddies; I wanted to make myself one. So there was a side that wants to have a snapback for myself, the other owl that I had drawn in Athens and that meant a lot to me. The one in the other (or should I say “one” on “the other”), it gave the first baby that later, I developed a limited edition.
And the paradoxes, the combination of contradictory things I love. So bring a little refinement in the street accessory par excellence, or work hours on embroidery insulting word that I spear in two seconds, for me it’s the same … Besides when Jéremy (www.jeremy-esteve.fr) suggested I photographed the collection, he captured the world live in the collection I wanted to develop: between aggressive and fragile, street and sophisticated.
At this time again, we saw not too many girls with hats, and generally the shops and brands didn’t develop these product. So I arrived at the right place at the right time I think, and I was well received, it has encouraged me!
Packshots from Animosities’ collection and pictures from the lookbook. Click on photo to enlarge.
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CxC : You’ve developed a little more your collections and now you propose 5 panels, T-shirts and paintings. Can you tell us how this progression is done (all Clea Lala collection is available on the eshop)?
Clea:The scariest thing for me is that I stick a label. So when I started to hear sentences like “Clea, the girl who made hats” that tickled me: firstly because I do not do it, secondly because I n ‘did not feel like we do that retain it. So I started to also show the other things I was doing, and to develop them.
Positive returns are great on my first collection, have greatly encouraged me to continue to just do what I love. And propose things that look like me and seem to be missing in my environment. Each project is first born of personal desire, and then become a collection. But the starting point, each time it is “hey, I would love to do this for myself.”
(Click on photo to enlarge)
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CxC: What are the next media on which you’ll embroider?
Clea:Motus and embroidered mouth!
CxC: Specifically, how do you proceed?
First there must be a desire: it is mine or a client in the case of a customization. Want to tell a trick to score a date, a name, a word or a drawing. This is the design phase wholesale.
Clea: Then, if it is customization: I propose one or several tracks, essays, drafts from what you asked me, or I’m starting line. If I have a slightly different idea of the basic application, most trust me and the understanding we come to a land that satisfies both parties (this is super important for me to be happy with what I do, even if in the end it is not for me).
If it is a personal production, or I have a very specific idea in mind that I seek to realize exactly what I had imagined, or I fumble and throws me in different experiments. Sometimes I go through a sketch or draft lettering, sometimes not. Sometimes I put several days to rig a visual, sometimes I go directly to my idea to realization.
For this last step (of the embodiment), it still depends on whether it is a customizing or a personal project. In the first case, everything is rigged enough for the final rendering corresponds to what was expected. In general, the constraint part time good stuff. In the case of a personal production, it is different because I allow digressions that sometimes lead me squarely on something else. At this point, a piece is finished when I’m happy, and I find it balanced.
In any case, I really like that you understand that I’m not a performer, I just like the creative process. It is I who made the drawings, typos (or components if I use an existing typo) and the realization. And this is what people are beginning to understand: I have more and more applications that propose me carte blanche. But anyway I refuse such projects “I want it here, like this, there is no choice.” It does not interest me. Unless there is a very very big ticket to the key!
CxC: At Couvre x Chefs, it is very Burbigo Deen fans and Espiiem. I saw that you had worked with them on models of caps. How did you hook up with them?
Deen, I discovered on Rap Contenders. I had a real crush for him, both in substance and in form … So I showed him my work, he gets off, and we thought a model of exclusive hat for him. We went on a 3-sided (back to front side), he told me what he wanted and I had carte blanche on the achievement. A few weeks later we did a photo shoot with Jérémy Esteve (big up to both of you if you read me).
(Clic on a photo to enlarge)
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With Espiiem it was different, because at the beginning I did not know his job very well. It is through the collective FROM PARIS he contacted me (thank you to the crew that turns my work <3 I’ve also collaborated on a cap). He already knew what he wanted, and this prod there was more discussion and adaptation of the project creating a 100% made in me, even if I redesigned its lettering and have advised on what and how to do, and made the hand embroidery. On this one so I accepted the project because I liked the character and his work, but this is not always the case, I also refused to do this type of project with other MC I found less interesting.
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CxC: You bustling stalls customization BHV (for Mother’s Day) and the Hotel Particulier Montmartre for Anne Fontaine (customizing shirts brand). What do you remember from those experiences? It is important for you to be in direct contact with “customers”?
Clea:Also, and especially for Levi’s for over a month! This type of workshop is a bit special because it must adapt directly to the customer and respect above all a time constraint. While on a personal production I can spend several hours working drawing, illustration, typography, the composition, embroidery, such events requires to meet everyone in a very short time (between 10 and 20 minutes embroidery, drawing or lettering included). These experiments therefore need to adapt in a limited time is a little challenge.
But it’s really great to see the astonishment of customers who watches live the creative process. It is also a lot of advice (general design, location, color etc.), and it feels good to talk directly, it brings a bit of human exchange at a time when everything goes on the Internet.
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CxC: You’ve already addressed the issue but I would return to a point. On your website, there is also a “personalization” section where you propose people to realize their wishes. You can tell us more?
Clea: Very fast when I started embroidered caps, I received personalized requests. I did initially and then I stopped because it required too much work compared to the prices I wanted to practice, and I would have to find a faster way to answer these commands while one of parameters of a beautiful embroidery done well it is exactly the time spent there.
Since I took over, but especially for the typo, and in some cases for drawing, because it is interesting to hear other people’s projects. This section is very vague because I wanted to finally unleash the cravings of people, both in terms of media pattern.
CxC: What is the craziest we’ve asked you to customize? Or collaboration on which you most enjoyed working?
Clea:All projects are so different from each other that it is not easy to compare them and put one more upscale than others. But if we decide, my collaboration with Levi’s is perhaps the one that has me the most because I was super excited to have been selected to work with this brand that I love, and that the team was great. I also worked on a greeting card paper for the brand … So I really enjoyed that solicits my work as a graphic designer in its entirety.
CxC: What is it you enjoy the most about your work?
I got somehow to create my own business. So I do what I like, when I want. And I like to try everything, and do not do all the time the same thing, then I’m served! Of any email, whether for a simple request for information, the establishment of a collab or partnership; sourcing, pictures taken, maintenance of the site, on-line, writing, and of course the design, creation and production of all my parts that sometimes become collections (limited edition & series), the preparing and sending commands … I MANAGE ALL! I choose with whom I work or not and I meet lots of interesting people hyper. I can choose my coworkers choose when I work and when I’m not working, make a lie until noon and work until 6am if I feel like it, turn up the music, dress like I want to work, or even work naked (oops), over the phone or watching a movie, take breaks when I want, in short … I have a sense of freedom that I have rarely felt the time I was employee!
And it’s still a luxury to be called by brands to give your opinion, advice and create for them, participate in their development…
I think that’s what I enjoy most, and what I need right now, do not be stored in a box, and do not tell me what I have to do, how I must do or not do.
CxC:Conversely, what are the challenges you have to face every day as part of your work?
Clea: Independence … too! Take it with its advantages and disadvantages…!
It is not always easy to manage everything all the time alone, exactly. It should be optimum 24h/24, impose constraints to move the machine and take all his choices, without being able to make concessions. I am my own boss, if I do a few things in half is to myself that I will want, and that is myself that I can run, not my boss.
The boundary between the personal and the professional is not very clear because I often work from very personal things. I learned on the job to spare me (keep a personal practice that I do not show for example), and also to be / dispossess me of my work. Sounds stupid, but some marketing of its products is really not obvious.
Manage both compared to gold coins, and the creation and a very difficult part of the independent creation I think, because you have to ignore the trade in creation, even though paradoxically it is the objective of make a living! We must therefore have many hats (no pun intended) to know which wear when, when, namely combine and isolate them. This is becoming crazy sometimes! But when you manage something, the advantage is that you do have to you. And that is priceless.
And paradoxically, I find it distracting and confusing the omnipresent importance of pageantry, where it is all about the first image, appearance. But so fun at the same time it sometimes becomes a game: I wear a snapback or a straw hat, I go for a street or a small bourgeois bitch and my relationships become completely different. But when I do not want to play, I put on a t-shirt and a black cotton leggings and I thought it would be so much easier if we lived naked
CxC:What are your plans for 2014?
Clea:Motus and embroidered mouth!
CxC: The final word?
Clea: It seems that everyone dies one day, So much night life! For real, thank you for your questions!