You might not have heard about this label, but believe us, as far as ethical fashion goes, they’re rock stars. Originally named ‘La Kanga,’ and created by designers Alice Heusser and Olivia Kennaway as a lifestyle brand, 11 years later Lalesso has become a thriving high fashion label that has gotten the critical approval of international media, featuring in Vogue, Glamour and Elle as well as personal endorsements from global celebrities like Kate Moss, Shakira and Rihanna.
But even more fascinating than their successes, is the history behind their brand, Alice and Olivia met in the early 2000’s while studying fashion design in Capetown in their home country, South Africa and quickly bonded. During a trip to the Kenyan island of Lamu, they first came across Khanga, a special woven cloth, worn primarily by coastal Swahili women and prized for the quality of its weaving and print intricacy. They decided to replicate this, and created their label ‘La Khanga’ in celebration of this niche culture.
Another interesting fact about Lalesso, is that it is one of the first high fashion labels to abandon the traditional fashion calendar, the brand releases only one summer collection per year. Once the label had decided on what it wanted it’s aesthetic to be,- its retail strategy,- it focused on the source of its inspiration.
It decided to seed its first factory in Kenya, using Kenyan artisans, weavers, pattern cutters and tailors to ensure that they simply didn’t take from the country without giving back. Currently Lalesso sources and trains all factory staff in both its South African and Kenyan factories in country, providing value skill training and employment.
The brand also works with the international agency CO2 Balance, whose primary focus is providing and enabling companies make the shift from carbon emitting energy sources to carbon free energy sources. With CO2’s help Lalesso has moved its factories to operate increasingly on wind and solar energy and is helping other businesses and factories do the same.
Lalesso also works with SOKO, the sustainable factory that produces for ASOS Africa and Wildlife Works to ensure sustainability in conceptualization and manufacturing.
The brand has a flagship store in Cape Town and is also available in retail outlets in Japan, Kenya, Italy and more.