Ler Ligisa, meaning "the beauty of a traditional headdress", a metaphor for trendy dresses created by Franco-Kenyan designer Eva Rogo-Levenez. I met Eva last year in the fall during New York Fashion Week. At that time she unveiled her "Pathway" Spring/Summer 2014 Collection. I love her pieces, made from Khanga, Kikoy, Maasai Shuka, and Tie Dye, traditional Kenyan fabrics. She describes her line as "elegant, exciting, and modern; the line is absolutely 'Out of Africa'." Check out my interview with Eva below.
Styling On A Budget: When was your line created?
Eva Rogo-Levenez: At the beginning of 2012, I presented a few dresses I had created to the public, in the heart of Paris. One year later, the line became Ler Ligisa on the French registers. But it seems to me that the history of Ler Ligisa began long ago. As a teenager I used to make my own dresses because I believed that was the only way to be unique and elegant.
SOAB: When did you know that you wanted to become a designer?
ERL: My maternal grandfather was a well-known tailor in the region of Lake Victoria, West of Kenya. All came so naturally, I have certainly inherited the perfectionism from him and obviously acquired from my mother the secrets for well-trimmed cuts and natural flowing designs. My mother used to say that "no woman can predicate that she is well-groomed in a dress whose finishes had not been hand sewn." It is that perfection I am always after in my designs. I studied Fine Arts, I used to paint a lot. I no longer use the brush to splash paint over the canvas; I use a pencil to draw flowing lines for my outfits.
ERL: I find inspiration is everywhere, from the Kenyan beautiful landscapes, its national reserves, the streets of Paris. How can one not be inspired by an elegant giraffe in Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya? A writer and translator of children's books I am used to imagining stories. That imaginative mind has never left me when creating my outfits.
SOAB: Who are your favorite designers?
ERL: There are so many excellent fashion designers in France, the country of Haute Couture, bien sûr. You can imagine how the choice can be difficult. There is always something I like from nearly each one of the top French designers. But I find Azzedine Alaia, the Franco-Tunisian one of the top designers in France I really admire. I believe in perfectionism and Azzedine Alaia is perfectionism itself.
SOAB: What's your favorite piece from your collection and why?
ERL: Each piece is completely different from the other. I have used Khanga, Kikoy, and Shuka Maasai. These are the three traditional fabrics from Kenya and this makes each piece quite special in my eyes. I give names to my pieces according to what the colors remind me of in Kenya or what I was imagining when designing it. For example: Kisumu Hippo-Point, as a child, I used to play on the shores of Lake Victoria in Kisumu, my hometown. The hippopotamus loved sun bathing here. The long black skirt resembles the body of a hippo with the sun above it. It is pure and elegant, not the hippo.
SOAB: What would you say is the most challenging aspect of being a designer?
ERL: Coming up with new collection each time means inventing new trend every season, this is a challenge to any designer to be able to bring out the best on the market. A real challenge to distinguish yourself, to be able to create dresses in which every woman would feel that it was designed for her. Keeping the creating mind alive. To create a name on this field especially in Paris remains one of the biggest fights I'll have to face bravely every single day as a black woman from an Anglophone country. But it is those roots I am so proud of, those roots that make me so special, so nicely different. Having two cultures is an advantage!
SOAB: What type of women are your clothes made for?
ERL: For modern young women who love to be elegant, chic, and feel self-assured wherever they are.
SOAB: Where can we shop your collection?
ERL: Marketing of clothing should start in late spring 2014. France, mainly in boutiques. These dresses will be proposed in limited series in France but the brand intends to be exported.
SOAB: Which celebrity would you love to see wearing your line?
ERL: I have no preference for the celebrities wearing my dresses as long as they have a nice body to carry elegantly in my pieces. Ler Ligisa is for all women regardless of color of their skin. I think I have demonstrated this by the choice of the French models in Ler Ligisa.
Click here to check out more from Ler Ligisa. The collection will soon be available!