Miami fashion isn’t all about sparkly white dresses and cheap club gear thanks to designers like Karelle Levy of KRELWear who took DayGlo style to a whole new artsy level. Watch for her smashing costuming work tonight during the Sanford Biggers and Moon Medicine’s “Mixtape” performance at the Art Basel’s Art Public Opening Night on Wednesday Nov 30, 9pm Beach Side at Collins Park.
LF: Tell me about your “toobular” knit design philosophy.
KL: Clothes are pieces of fabric that go around the body, basically a tube of fabric. My methods of making fabric were based on this idea, and so I would shape tubes with various yarns and colors to create texture. I found so many ways to reinvent the tube, shaping the fabric to make tank, cowls, sweaters, dresses, pants, shorts, and pretty much all styles of clothes. What’s amazing about my technique is once they are off the machine they are finished. The design is done with in the process of the production. Each row is controlled, yarn, width, and pattern.
LF: You started as a costume designer for dance and theater productions and throughout your career you have been known for setting a stage for crazy progressive performances at events. Tell me about your approach.
KL: My mission the last few years has been about making fashion shows fun! It is a show after all. I really want to make the events memorable. Most fashion shows tend to be straight walking posing and a total of 15-20 minutes long. Their purpose is mainly about sales and the photo for promotional use. When the economy crashed, and I found that most of my boutique clients stopped buying emerging, and focused their sales dollars on more established lines, I decided to go back to what I was known for, crazy performance and not focused on sales, but impact. So my fashion became my art again, and the work was shown in a theatrical fashion presentation.
I have a concept of the collection and the show is the performance with the inspirations coming to life. For example DiscGlo, is inspired by 24 hour people which is probably the most seen and requested show is a party on the runway, including black lights and fog machines with music by Otto Von Schirach and visuals by the TM Sisters. The colors pop and the models are encouraged to bump and grind on the dance floor.
Rebel Yell was inspired by my Iceland trip where I was invited to participate in Iceland Fashion Week along with many designers from all over the world. We all walked off the show, I almost got arrested, and we produced what became known as the “Rebel Show”. With 40 volunteer models and 13 designers shown seamlessly. It was scary, amazing, and revolutionary, and so this collections colors were drawn from the landscapes of Iceland and the music and walk militant. It was quite a coup d’etat! During one swim week, I decided to make a burlesque inspired collection and presented it through burlesque dancers striping off their wears. Then flora and fauna, we are the fauna adorned by flora our clothes made of colors of the jungle and country landscapes I’ve seen on my travels to Costa Rica and Sweden.
LF: You’re about to move out of the space in Wynwood you’ve been working in since 2003 – time for something fresh. You’re going to share your time between your hometown Miami and New York now. What do you love about the big city?
KL: I’m a knitter and artist. I need to make warm things, like sweaters. It totally helps that the fashion and art world are based in New York. I love the speed and the complexity of the city and the people. That I hear all different languages at all times. The world is based in New York. Miami is wonderful, but I feel like I’ve hit the ceiling. I want to be in a city where people are hustling and bustling Miami is a warm sunny and relaxing place, I keep feeling like there is so much more out there. Even though, Miami is not enough, I wouldn’t be the person I am but with out its influence. And I can’t wait to use it as my excuse to defrost and relax and appreciate Miami more.
LF: What’s the funkiest piece you’ve ever created (pic?)
KL: My logo of course! I graduated in this dress… Now I’m making things a bit more wearable.
LF: What do you love most about the clothes you create?
KL: I create fabric engineered to have a dress will fit anyone from a size 0 –14. My shapes are created to stretch with the shape of the body.
LF: What’s one piece of apparel you can’t live without?
KL: My hooded cape! Great for traveling, cool breeze, light rains.
LF: Favorite trend(s) right now?
KL: 1950’s very lady like. Thinking of “How to Marry a Millionaire” tailored tops, and high-waisted skirts are my favorite. Thank goodness for shows like Mad Men to get people a little more stylish these days, especially men wearing suits as fashion and not for just work.
LF: What do find attractive in the opposite sex / what do you find attractive in the same sex?
KL: I really love nice people!!! Love the simplicity in men, and the curves of the ladies.
LF: Does fashion inspire art, or is it the other way around?
KL: I think they go hand in hand, like the chicken and the egg theory. One doesn’t exist without the other. And I believe that fashion is the art of personal expression. Even people that think they don’t have “fashion sense” do just by wearing jeans and a t-shirt… It’s the most basic form of expression.
LF: Do you have a muse – what inspires you?
KL: Life is my biggest muse. I try to keep my eyes and heart open.
LF: What’s on your playlist right now?
KL: Florence and the Machine, Feist, Serge Gainsbourg, MIA, Radiohead, Charlie Parker, Edith Piaf, Glass Candy, Crystal Castel, Sun Ra, Afrobeta, The Cardigans, Goldfrapp, Nicki Minaj, Prince, Otto Von Schirach, and Spam Allstars, tho I use Pandora so much, I barely have a playlist.
LF: What’s your favorite Art Basel memory?
KL: Making a man thong at the Scope Art Fair in 2009. Priceless!!!
LF: How FAST do you live?
KL: As fast as I need to… Sometimes hyper speed and sometimes slow as a snail. I’ve been balancing then more lately and much happier this way.
(Photos by Andre Gabb)