By Franzisca Furst
Bobby Kolade, 26-year-old graduate from Kunsthochschule Weißensee Berlin, made a sensation at Berlin’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, winning an award with his fashion-forward designs and the use of an innovative vegan textile: Bark Cloth, a 100% sustainable source made of trees from his native country, Uganda. The ‘Start your own business’ award was presented by German Vogue for the fourth year in a row. Kolade also won 25,000 Euro along with his trophy.
The textile is tough, attractive, biodegradable and flexible, but its original use is a bit macabre – it’s commonly used instead of coffins in Africa. ‘Growing up in Kampala, Uganda, the bark was just an ordinary textile I encountered at tourist markets in the artefacts and crafted souvenirs. Today, Bark Cloth is mostly used to wrap corpses before burying them,’ commented the designer about using this atypical fabric. So what on earth inspired him to use it in a fashion collection?
“Ironically, I realised the beauty and importance of Bark Cloth in Berlin at a friend’s, who was using it in the form of canvas for an oil painting. I immediately knew I had to use it for my debut collection. The entire production process is fascinating, and one could even say romantic,” he says. But given the fact that Kolade’s customers are mainly in the sustainable luxury demographic, could this all natural fabric be considered ‘high end’? Kolade believes so: “There is an element of luxury to the textile in that no two pieces of bark are ever identical,” he states.
To ensure a continued supply of the fabric, Bobby is working with BARK TEX, a German company which works in conjunction with eco certified bark farmers in Uganda.
Kolade admits Bark Cloth is a somewhat difficult textile, though it does have its advantages: “It is a challenging fabric to work with. For this collection, it has been fused onto wool to create the massive sculptural coats that are in fact much lighter than they appear – that’s the beauty of bark cloth,” says the designer. “It’s light, but it can be rigid or soft, partly transparent or opaque.”
But what about veganism? Is this a key focus for the designer? Apparently so: “For the Bobby Kolade label, I envision bark cloth replacing leather completely,” he states.
But Bark Cloth isn’t the only fabric Kolade wants to use for his next collections: ‘I’m keen on Ugandan and Ethopian cotton and the development of Bark Cloth. I will add more eco friendly fabrics to the collection each season–a sustainable growth, one could say.’
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