Identity – Kala
We caught up with Jessie who is promoting equality, diversity and eco friendly fashion which has been designed, and screen printed at Islington Mill, Manchester.
The brand collection ‘Identity’ is available now on www.kalamcr.com
The start of the ‘Kala’ journey (2 years ago) was a fascination and love for textiles from India and various countries within Africa.
I love the symbology and historical depth these textiles hold as well as the people they bring together.
However, being white and of British heritage, the more I learnt about the history and social impacts, the less I felt like it was my place to celebrate the textiles from these cultures.
Understanding identity is an integral part of this journey and that is why I decided to make a collection in this vein.
I feel extremely passionate about celebrating diversity and working in ways which respect and honour each other’s differences.
Britain operates in a system with inequality at its core, so we need everyone to be a part of the fight for equality in whatever ways we can.
We live in such a multicultural society and I truly believe we are stronger together; we just need to communicate to be able to appreciate.
My way of communicating is through creative collaborations, art and fashion and feel this can be a very powerful tool when done in the right way.
Multiculturalism is at the heart of this collection and how I will go on to work, both with fashion and other forms of activism.
What is your link with music ?
I have always been fascinated by the way fashion and music intertwine to create a powerful force and can mould cultural and social trends.
For one of the prints I collaborate with Manchester MC/Poet J.Chambers where he tells his story of Identity and belonging.
His poem is translated into Teeline shorthand by BBC journalist Adam Samuel and screen printed on to the fabric.
We combine both artforms to communicate these important messages.
A significant figure in the Manchester Hip-Hop scene, J is known for his unique blend of Hip-Hop and Reggae.
As an MC and Producer, J has worked with artists including Lowkey, Doc Brow.
J has performed across the UK, and has headlined venues such as Band on the Wall and The Deaf Institute.
J has received coverage in various Hip-Hop and Reggae outlets such as Riddim Magazine, Global Faction and GRM Daily. J is an avid poet and was part of BBC 1xtra’s Words First project in 2019, performing a piece entitled ‘My Atenna’ at Manchester’s Home theatre.
How long have you been involved in fashion and when did you start making collections?
I started working with textiles in college, so about 9 years ago now (which doesn’t make me feel old!) but it was at university (Graduating in 2015) which was my first formal introduction to the making of fashion collections, following the proper dressmaking rules… which I was resistant to at first, but you definitely need to learn the rules in order to break them with dressmaking!
What do you normally do in Islington Mill? Is that where you make the clothing?
I am part of a collective of independent freelance artists called Salford Makers (Instagram: @salford_makers).
We have shared a co-working studio space on the ground floor of Islington Mill for just over 2 years and we share the studio with One69a screen printers, regularly collaborating on exciting projects.
Pre-covid, we ran public and community creative workshops, both in the mill and at various locations across Greater Manchester.
Day to day I normally work on seamstress commissions which can include a wide range of things from home furnishing, bespoke garment making, custom products for small brands/ independent artists and obviously alterations.
I love how diverse it is as it constantly challenges me and enables me to develop my craft.
Yes, except from 2 items, the whole collection was screen printed and made from scratch at our Salford Makers/ One69a studio on the ground floor of Islington mill.
What do you do to prepare when you’re first making a collection?
It always starts with a slide show! My main focus is telling stories through textiles so I write down what I want to say with it and how that can best be communicated.
I am always inspired by current and historical social and political climates, so I aim to work in inclusive ways to touch on subjects I feel passionately about.
It’s all about the message, process and impact rather than the design, so usually keep silhouettes pretty casual.
I make sure all collections are earth positive and ethically produced. This is something that is very important to me and that I am constantly learning more about as I grow as a designer.
How did you get into fashion?
I have always been fascinated with fashion as an art form and expression, loving anti-establishment designers like Vivienne Westwood.
When I was younger I always loved people who used fashion as a political or social message to the world.
I love how fashion gives an insight into lifestyle and culture throughout the years and enables you to express yourself.
I love fashion but hate the impact of fast fashion on the workers and planet.
Therefore, I want to work in ways to promote a more sustainable and ethical fashion industry. By creating an alternative to fast fashion, I hope to lead the way for a greener and more transparent industry.
How easy was it to get established?
It’s all a journey really. I absorb my surroundings and constantly have ideas and inspirations for new art projects.
As part of my university course I did a placement for an independent clothing shop in Manchester called ‘Junk Shop’, where I learnt the ins and outs of running an independent, ethical fashion business.
From then on, I did the odd sewing commissions and projects alongside 2-3 part time jobs. That was a graft, sometimes I wouldn’t have a day off for 3 months!
After becoming a part of Salford Makers in 2018 I could eventually drop all my part time jobs and become fully freelance.
I can never thank Sally Gilford (Salford makers founder) enough for this opportunity, she’s my creative cupid. I’m lucky to have such a strong creative network around me who support and enable all of my ideas.
What an inspiration Jessie and J. Chambers are, check out the collection now!