Azura Lovisa is a London-based seasonless slow fashion luxury label. Marrying Southeast Asian artisanal traditions with a Scandi design aesthetic, their identity is wholly rooted in authenticity, craftmanship, multiculturalism, storytelling and sustainability. That storytelling manifests itself in designs which explore our hidden histories while creating a contemporary mythology that we who wear them, can all inhabit.
We were invited to the Covent Garden atelier that Azura shares with her fellow Central Saint Martin’s alumni Olubiyi Thomas during London Fashion Week where she showcased her latest stunning collection. Amidst the clamour of the day, Azura very kindly sat down with Boyfriend to talk to us about the collection, the mythology that motivates her and the influences which inspire her.
We loved the collection and the key pieces that you’ve brought from your archive and transposed into a whole new colour palette. What was the inspiration for bringing things from the archive and rendering them in these new colourways?
“As a slow fashion brand, I think it is really important to build a really strong visual vocabulary and I don’t feel this pressure to constantly be making new things for the sake of it. I really wanted to celebrate the key pieces that I have done and the new colours that I have used are also drawn from nature as well. For example, I really wanted to highlight handwoven Indian silk and the natural colour of it. It has this beautiful greyish, sand, cobalt warm tone. I really wanted to let the natural texture of the material shine through. With the green as well its funny as that was a bit of a happy mistake because it was meant to be more of an olive tone but when I was working with the dyers due to Covid it was all through the internet. We were sending pictures back and forth so it was very difficult to get the precise tone but when they sent it and it was this amazing leaf green, I thought this is actually perfect. The blue is a signature colour that I have used in past connections, it’s really pure and strong. I felt it was quite elemental and wanted to celebrate the material in its own right and the inspiration that it’s come from.”
How did the jewelry collaboration that you’ve done with Tanaporn and Birgit come about?
“We are good friends and we have been collaborating for a while. Birgit actually worked with me on my graduate collection for St Martins so we have been working together for a long time. And they in their own work, work with a lot of natural inspirations and Tanaporn has been doing a lot of things with found objects since she was a student. It was a very natural way to come together because we are friends and because we have come together in so many different ways. When I started looking at the inspiration for this which is a Malaysian magical practice it tied in really well with the visual vocabulary that we were exploring in our own work as well. Weve been building it for a while and we started developing it for what was the Chapter 1V collection which was last September. Since then, we have been developing it more for commercial purposes as before it was a bit more experimental. Now we’ve reduced it to the key elements and we are really happy with it, they are doing really well and people have responded really well”
Sustainability is key to everything that you do and this extends to the jewelry. Could you tell us about the roots used to make it and the process involved?
“Tanaporn developed the roots and that comes back to a lot of the inspirations. We make the jewelry on such a small scale and we make really small batches. It’s all made in London so it feels that we still have a lot of control of the practice of making as well as the materials we use. In fact, in some of the charms and the peppercorns for example we have tried two different techniques, both casting and electroforming. With electroforming the organic material is actually treated on the inside in a way that the peppercorn would be coated so that it draws the metal particles onto it. For the star anise pieces that we made you could actually still smell the anise inside so that really brings it full circle when we are dealing with these materials.”
You’ve mentioned the pandemic and Covid so in terms of supply chains and things such as sourcing fabrics was there any problems that you encountered making the collection during it?
“Obviously delays but I think because I’m such a small brand I’m able to be really agile and responsive in a way that a lot of brands can’t. Because I’m still building it up from the ground it’s a lot easier for me to decide how I want to grow and how I want to do things. I didn’t have much trouble with it apart from the fact that everything took much longer. I actually thought that the pandemic was a really good opportunity for me to really think about how I wanted to grow the brand and not feel pressure to rush into things. I think it came at a good time as just before in September 2019 was the first time, I had shown with the British Fashion Council at their showroom and I didn’t quite know what I was doing. I think when the pandemic came it really gave me a chance to slow down and think how do I actually want to do this and in a way that stays true to who I am”
We are talking in this physical space and we absolutely loved “Moment Momentum” the digital fashion film collaboration you did with the Touching Bass collective which took us back to 90s clubbing days. Do you have a preference between the cinematic scope that digital fashion film brings or the physical connection that you can build with people in a space like this?
“I was talking to someone earlier about this and I really think making the films have been my favourite part so far. I really enjoyed that storytelling side of things and the fact that you can create something that can live on beyond the moment. I love meeting people in a physical space but sometimes the temporality of it feels like you put so much into this short moment and that’s why I decided to do it in this format with a lengthy duration, rather than do a show. To do something where people could come in and talk and relax and I think that has worked out quite well. Even although you can make a really impactful moment when you do a runway it’s so sad because it’s just so quick and you don’t have time to engage with it and soak it in. I think I might continue with this format, making the films and doing something where you can meet people, where it’s not necessarily the highlight. It’s kind of like a conversation between the world I want to put out and see how people want to engage with it.”
Storytelling is integral to the brands ethos and DNA. How much does your multicultural heritage inform that storytelling process?
“I think it’s quite a big part of it. I think a lot of it comes through without me even thinking about it, I think it’s quite implicit in the way I work. I’ve always been really drawn to mythology and folk stories especially with my mom’s side. I never lived in Malaysia so as a kid growing up a lot of my initial ideas of Malaysia were based on a children’s book of traditional folk stories. It’s always been very much there in the way that I imagine this world and in the same way Sweden has Norse mythology. I’m from the north of Sweden which is very like where the whole mythology comes out of the land so it definitely formed the way I think a lot. Because I’m always interpreting these two influences, I think that what I love about the opportunity of telling these stories is that it really gives me a way to figure out my own back story. I’m mixed race and an only child and because both my parents left home quite young, I didn’t necessarily have that surrounding community that told me how I should experience those parts of my culture. It was very much up to me how I wanted to absorb these things and translate them into my own reality. So, I do think it comes through a lot in my work.”
You are sharing this Covent Garden space with Olubiyi Thomas. How did that come about and what plans do you have for it as a place where you can promote the causes and concerns that you are passionate about?
“The way I met Olubiyi was that he was at St Martins but a couple of years above me so we sort of knew each other but not well. Three years ago, he invited me to take part in a group show when he had a studio in the Biscuit Factory. So, I did a show with him and two other designers and that was the first time we had worked together. We kept in touch and when this opportunity came up for him, he really liked the idea of bringing in a couple of other people so that it would be a multi-media, multi-designer space, we have a music guy here as well. He knew that I was looking for a space and so it’s worked out really well. It’s funny because storytelling is important to us in similar ways but our work looks quite different. We both work with a lot of natural fibers; we look at a lot of folk stories and he’s looking back at his Nigerian background in relation to his Scottish background and I’m doing similar things so it made sense in a lot of ways. I really hope that we are able to stay in this space for the full year. People who have lived in the area for a long time have reacted really well because I think there’s not much new stuff that comes up that isn’t really commercial and so people have been really excited to see something different happen here. Were really excited about after this fashion week, as we’ve already done a couple of events to see how things go, but now that we’ve done more things like the runway show that has taken so much planning, we will become a little more ambitious about what we do. We want to do some workshops and invite people in and do lectures and talks.”
Massive thanks to Azura for taking time out on what was a super busy day to sit with us for so long and give us such a fascinating and insightful deep-dive into her inspirations and aspirations.
View the imagery below, photos by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee