Desire and mystery, extreme lightness and volatile heaviness, dark aesthetic with a contemporary twist. An insight into the London based designer Kayla Satzger’s romantic realm, with words by Anca Macavei and photography by Paul Franco.
“Full of Nature” is centered around the organic qualities that my collection and nature unexpectedly share. The shoot was much more about capturing the shape and form of the clothing, as well as a general intensity of emotion, rather than the details. We shot with model Gaby Devitry who played a huge role in deciding the feel of the shoot. Gaby has a very classic, soft look as a whole, but her features are angular and striking; she provided a sense of intrigue that paired perfectly with the collection.
The juxtaposition of my voluminous pieces and desolate nature led to an effect that looked both natural but also a bit out of place, intentionally uncanny. The photographs portray exactly that interpretation on form and emotion that Paul Franco [the photographer] and I were aiming for.
You were born in San Francisco, California yet you live in London, can you give us an overview on your cultural background and what brought you to where you are today.
I grew up in my father’s design studio at Apple. I practically lived there so I was surrounded by creativity from a very young age and it really just became a natural part of who I am. Going into design, and specifically fashion design, was an organic choice for me. As long as I can remember, I’ve always had a real fascination and interest in making clothes. Some of my earliest memories are of creating little paper outfits from those paper doll dress-up books. Moving to London was also a very intuitive decision for me. My plan had been to complete my BA in the States and then move to London, but within two months of my degree, I knew it wasn’t where I should be. I made the snap decision to move to London, and it’s been the most transformative choice of my life so far.
Your first collection is called “An ode to romance” and it is revolving around the concept of being “in love.” How come you chose this as a theme, is it something transposed from your personal sphere?
The notion of love has always intrigued me, especially that sort of “eternal-Victorian-Edgar Allen Poe” type of love; when it becomes almost interchangeable with madness. My collection touches on that intensity, the darkness that encroaches on a life centered around an impassioned devotion to another person.
Can you share more about your creative process and work methodology. Do you start from sketching? How do transpose a collection from concept to a three-dimensional creation?
My creative process is a very intuitive one that begins with research and is followed by a lot of draping and experimentation. Once I’ve completed a quick drawing, I move onto rough patterns and samples, then I’ll drape and re-drape and then drape again. I’ve found that designing like this allows me to produce something that’s way beyond my 2D designs, and the result is often a piece I couldn’t have imagined in my head. Once I’m happy with the shape, I’ll start experimenting with different weights of fabric to see what suits best. The choice is always informed by the story I’m trying to tell, but lately I’ve been drawn to the contrast between heavier wools with lighter silks and tulle.
Designers need to reinvent themselves each time, be in constant evolution, avoid repetition and develop an individual signature and vision of their own. Do you already have a clear idea of what makes your approach distinctive?
For me it’s the whole story, from my research to the final outcome, that dictates my aesthetic. Everything about my work revolves around continuously telling the emotional narrative: for example, an “An Ode to Romance” starts with fanciful romance between two lovers that distorts into an eerie, intense devotion of the body and mind. That story translates sartorially into one of contrasts: desire and restraint; flighty lightness and volatile heaviness.
A lot of my work is a conceptual play on Victorian dress, a modern reinterpretation of the dramatic forms and traditionally conservative silhouettes using fabric distortion and manipulation techniques. Through that I’m able to create something new and exciting whilst simultaneously classical and elegant. The collection invokes sensuality and romantic artisanship to evoke a strong emotional response, like being in love.
Of course, my collections will develop as I grow, but at its core, those notions of intense emotion, physical interaction and romance will always be there.
What should we expect next from you? Are you planning on following a traditional way of creating, showcasing two collections per year?
The best piece of advice I’ve received was from another designer who told me to avoid the clichés of the fashion industry. I’m in no rush – I want to build my brand intentionally and at my own pace. So, for now I’m making individual pieces with plans for seasonal collections in the future.
Are you already working on the new collection? Can you give us a sneak peek?
At the moment I love collaborating with stylists, photographers and artists – it’s so inspiring. I am also continuing to build onto my previous collection, which is currently in the toiling stages. I enjoy working with black and its ability to communicate depth and volume, so there’ll be a lot more of that. I’ve recently invested in a smocking pleater and taken a course in industrial machine knitting, so I’m excited to incorporate both of those elements.
What do you think femininity means today? How do you relate to this concept, does it have any importance in your creations?
Female bodies are so beautiful. A lot of designers find beauty in their sexuality, but I find it in their power, their shape and form. The origins of femininity hugely interest me, so I’m constantly submerged in historical feminine references. My designs reimagine those historical approaches as powerful, accentuating her body with sheer fabrics and tight or exposed waists – but never in a sexual way. I want to rewrite traditional femininity as powerful, unapologetically celebrating the female form. Simply put, I don’t feel the need to wear a power suit to feel powerful.
Ground breaking characters and references that shaped you?
Firstly, my parents. Together their creativity and eye for refinement has always influenced me; they’re both heavily involved in my final decision making. Secondly, Ellsworth Kelly, his attention to minimalism and form is something I try to emulate in my own designs. And we’ve already established that Victorian fashion has undoubtedly captivated me. It accounts for a lot of my research – particularly the era’s mourning clothes. The reference that I always return to though is the image of people embracing, kissing; the shapes clothes make during those moments, how they crumple, gather and restrict in ways they never do otherwise, have hugely contributed to my experimentation with volume and silhouette.
What’s your biggest goal?
For now, I just want to continue doing what I’m doing. I’m a big believer that if I keep doing what I love, hopefully other people will love it too and my brand will naturally grow from there. I’m in no rush, so long as I stay focused and true to my brand it will be a success.
Full of nature
Photography: Paul Franco / @_paulfranco_
Clothes: Kayla Satzger / @kaylasatzger
Model: Gaby Devitry at Premium Models / @gabi_devitry @premium_models