Creating a safe space for people through the design

Sustainable and organic fashion is nowadays the world’s one of most significant challenges. Fortunately, with the times changing, we as a society have singlehandedly decided that our beloved fashion industry has been bringing colossal damage to the environment and earth and made us have essential changes in our lifestyles.

The aforementioned time changes have not only brought us to the conclusion of committing to mother nature but also opened our eyes to the changes within our community and the perception of gender neutrality and celebrating individuality.

Lilabare is one of the companies that have faced the issue and did everything in its power to produce and launch an organic, ethical, and gender-neutral product. The brand was founded by Kenyan-born Ria Ana in 2017 and represents African continental fashion.

Ria Ana and Waridi Wardah at Lilabare compound

In our recent interview, Ria remembers how she got into fashion: “In Kenya when I was growing up, we didn’t really have shops or brands that you could go to, so whenever we got to travel, I would buy clothes for a year, and when I would get bored with those clothes in a few months, I would take my clothes to the tailor, and I would say to him, okay this is a skirt, but if you cut this like this and put them together you can make a shirt from it. So he would ask me why I would bring him clothes when I could just bring him the fabric, and I would say this is the fabric. So I got into fashion from that, like it was a very organic process for me. And I thought that that was kind of bizarre because it felt like there was an unexplored Avenue there.  And this is why I decided to start the brand.”

Lilabare uses natural products and materials from all over Africa for creating its design pieces, which embeds history, culture, heritage, and meaning in each inch of the compositions.

The designer states that “It’s my social and political stance on how we should dress our bodies. It’s a very personal and intimate thing.” This is why Ria finds it crucial for her designs to be authentic, gender-neutral and adjusted on body positivity to break stigmas that have tied society up. She adds: “So everyone who interacts with Lilabare anything, whether it’s a fabric, the buttons, the yarn, or the clothes themselves, they’re supposed to feel more empowered with that interaction. This is why we have the gender-fluid and size-inclusive range. I want everybody to feel like the brand; Lilabare is a safe space where everyone is celebrated. There’s no such thing as discrimination. But it’s just a place where you can come and feel like you can express yourself freely, without any judgment. You know, Oh, I can’t wear that, because that’s only meant for skinny people. No, no, that doesn’t exist here. Or, I can’t wear that because I’m biologically a man, and how could I wear that dress? No, if you want to wear a dress, wear it because you look great in it!  Creating a safe space for people through the design and making sure that people feel uplifted and empowered.”

If you would like to listen and enjoy the whole interview, click here.

By Waridi Wardah