The screen depicts a jewel encrusted hand reaching for the embellished door handle and releasing it. Model Adwoa Aboah emerges through it and we are transfixed by her beauty, but even more than that by her dress.
A dress which is the fulfillment of Brighton fashion graduate, Sarah-Louise Koessler's, vision of an avant-garde couture aesthetic. A vision which emanates a magical and futuristic flamboyance. A vision which has seen the designers fledgling brand, SLK Designs, attract the attention of fashion industry icons and a public enamoured by her meticulous craftmanship and consummate creativity.
The Anglo-French designer burst onto the scene following her feature as part of the Graduate Fashion Foundation at London Fashion Week in February 2021.
Subsequently, her work was spotted online by creative designer B. Akerlund, who has worked with the likes of Madonna and Lady Gaga: Sarah-Louise was commissioned and within 72 hours designed, created and couriered the incredible, candy pink dress which would become the centrepiece of a film relaunching iconic brand Swarovski.
This follows her SS21 ‘This, Madame, is Versailles’ collection: a playful, vibrant, high impact, womenswear collection. Featuring the exploration of abstract, architectural silhouettes. What resulted was unapologetic escapism. An avant-garde take on classic Haute Couture.
Aside from the sumptuously, opulent evening wear and show pieces, a second, diffusion range has been created. With sustainability at the forefront of the fashion conversation, Sarah-Louise has created a diffusion line where she designs more wearable garments and accessories using leftover fabric from her main collection.
This may seem a long way from Sarah-Louise’s childhood in the Alsace region of France, to the shores of the Algarve where until recently she resided. Riding on the wave of opportunities created by the pandemic, we wanted to find out more from the designer behind such playful and rebellious designs. We were lucky enough to catch up with Sarah-Louise on her return to London from Portugal as she embarks on this next stage of her career.
We understand that you grew up in a small town in the Alsace region of France and wondered what inspirations and motivations led to you becoming a fashion designer?
Growing up in a small town where the only shop we had was a bakery made me curious to explore the world. I then went to a European school where people came from all over and had lots of different cultures and ideas which really opened my eyes. I have always had a vivid imagination and enjoy the Arts. So after moving to the UK to do a Foundation Degree in Art & Design, it became obvious to me that Fashion Design was the path I was meant to take!
Your breakthrough moment came when you reached out to renowned influencer Marta Sierra and asked her to wear your pieces. What was it particularly about Martas aesthetic that prompted you to contact her and how daunting was it to approach her?
Honestly, I contacted Marta Sierra right after graduating. I had no idea how the influencer world worked, but I took a leap of faith and a bit of cheek and asked Marta if she would like to wear my designs. I think Marta is bold, creative in her own content, has a unique style and is a trend setter. I am very proud that Marta has worn my designs. She is now one of the top influencers which is amazing for her!
That faith in your ability was further rewarded when after seeing this, renowned stylist B Akerlund commissioned you to create a dress for the Swarovski film “Wonderlab - Ignite your dreams” which was worn by supermodel Adwoa Aboah under the creative directorship of Giovanni Engelbert. How inspiring and creatively satisfying was it to be recognized by, and to work with, this trio of iconic fashion females?
I could not actually believe it was happening. It was an absolute honour to be a part of this project.
We've read that one of your ambitions is for SLK Sarah-Louise Designs to reach the entertainment industry. Which celebrities or public figures would you like to see wearing your creations?
My forever muse will have to be Lady Gaga. I must channel her well through my work as people always tell me “Oh, this is so Lady Gaga!”
How do you want the woman who wears a piece made by you to feel when they wear it?
I aspire to make the wearer of my designs feel empowered and special! We all deserve to feel like we can take on the world.
Establishing a brand, particularly as you did during the pandemic, can be a very demanding experience. Do you have any mantras or self-care techniques that sustained you through those challenging times and beyond?
I spent two years in Portugal building the brand before moving back to London. I used to escape to the beach and just sit and watch the waves when things got stressful or I needed some headspace. Through everything, nobody could take away the ocean; it was a constant in an ever-changing and challenging time and industry. Now that I live near London again I am lucky to have the forest and beautiful places to walk. I find that browsing in shops and museums always help me relax as well.
We understand that to reduce waste, the accessories in your diffusion range are made from leftover fabrics from your main collections. Do you have any plans or ambitions to extend such ethical practices into the production of your main collections?
The main Couture collections are all hand made using traditional techniques and craftsmanship. I am not planning on mass producing and every dress is made to measure to the highest possible standards. These are timeless pieces of art.
How challenging do you think it is, particularly for emerging designers, to maintain an environmentally sustainable footprint and a financially sustainable business?
I think it can be hard, especially sourcing environmentally friendly fabrics, as these can be very costly and unavailable in the mainstream market.
You fully embraced the digital space during lockdowns as the format to showcase your designs. As parts of the world and travel reopen do you have any ambitions to show them in a physical format and if so, which locations would you like to show them in?
I recently hosted my first fashion presentation in Portugal for the launch of my collection “Welcome to my Wonderland” with crystals sponsored by Swarovski. I hope that I can showcase my work in London, now that I am back, as well as return to France, my home country, and home to Couture, Paris.
Having already garnered the attention of some of the most iconic names in the fashion industry, what goals and aspirations do you have for Sarah Louise Designs for the rest of 2022?
I hope to collaborate with more stylists and photographers as well as continue to reach my goal of the entertainment industry.
Sarah-Louise Koessler is a designer whose avant-garde interpretation of haute couture and dedication to making beautifully cut and crafted pieces is very much part of the zeitgeist. Creating luxuriant, shimmering, sculptural evening wear for these post-pandemic days, Sarah-Louise creations are also imbued with a sustainable intentionality which sees her using environmentally friendly materials and reducing waste as far as possible.
Having shown a wholly merited confidence in her designs by asking mega influencer Marta Sierra to wear one of her pieces, that initiative was richly rewarded by being invited to work with seminal brand Swavorski and industry icons B. Akerlund and Adwoa Aboah. Proof positive that a belief in your own ability is integral to achieving success and recognition in the world of fashion.
With a resume that already features collaborations with such industry heavyweights and two stunning collections " ‘This, Madame, is Versailles’ and “Welcome to my Wonderland” we can only wonder what's next for SLK Designs? Whatever the future holds, we believe it's one where Sarah-Louise continues to transfix us with her gloriously opulent creations and the world of unapologetic escapism that they transport us to.
Many thanks to Sarah-Louise for taking the time to speak to us.
You can connect with SLK Designs on the following platforms:
Article By Dolly Devally and Brian James
Photographer - Ivan Stamato Baptista
MUA - Ava Makeup
Stylist - MRNG