You may describe Israella Kobla’s clothes the best way you’d an architectural monument: useful, lovely and constructed to final. Conceived by engineer turned designer Emefa Kuadey, the Toronto-based label’s structural clothes are made to climate passing tendencies and closet upheavals. An antidote to quick style, Israella Kobla’s minimalist wares are made on demand, decreasing waste from over-production. Its hottest kinds — just like the Dalmar, an outsized asymmetrical shift costume launched in 2021 — are produced in small batches, and the remainder are assembled after an order is positioned.

The British-born Ghanaian designer says she owes her sustainable mindset to her mother, who favoured a very good discount over style fads. “I was never on trend,” Kuadey jokes. When her friends have been altering out their antiquated articles for no matter was in vogue, a younger Kuadey was extending the lifetime of her wardrobe with DIY initiatives. “It taught me to create my own niche of dressing,” she says.

Images by Sammie Chan

However she by no means dreamed of in the future setting up her personal garments. As a young person in England, Kuadey desired to review structure stateside. Nonetheless, after she had utilized unsuccessfully to quite a lot of colleges, her American aspirations fell by way of and she or he made the transfer to Canada to pursue a level in civil engineering.

The designer’s reintroduction to style got here in 2012, when Kuadey and her mother and father travelled to Ghana after her brother’s sudden passing. There, she spent most of her days together with her “auntie,” who taught her the fundamentals of sample drafting and stitching. What was as soon as a peripheral curiosity within the craft quickly turned a ardour mission. “It ignited this spark in me,” she says.

Years later, that spark would encourage the designer to stop her civil engineering job in Calgary to review style at George Brown School in Toronto. After graduating, Kuadey launched Israella Kobla — “Israella” being her center identify and “Kobla” being her late brother’s — in July 2019. The model’s first assortment, Freed From Captivity, debuted that fall at Vancouver Vogue Week. And in March 2021, Kuadey started a fruitful on-line partnership with Hudson’s Bay that has since expanded to incorporate in-store boutiques.

“I never wanted to have that ‘What if,’” she says. “And now I’m in so deep, there’s no turning back. I’m solidly in the fashion industry now.”

Right here, the designer shares what conjures up her work and the legacy she hopes to depart behind.


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“Architecture and engineering both influence me — not on a day-to-day basis but in my approach to the brand’s aesthetic. I love a lot of angles, straight triangles and things like that.”


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“There are so many fashionable people in the U.K., but everyone finds a way to personalize their style and make a look their own. That has been a guiding light for me, as I always try to make sure our pieces don’t just look the same as what everyone else is making.”


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Images by Sammie Chan

“My approach to designing and the personalization we bring to our customer service is influenced by the artisanal culture that is prevalent in Ghana. It’s so common for people to go to their local tailor or seamstress when they have a special occasion to get a custom outfit made to measure.”


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Images by Sammie Chan

“I want Israella Kobla pieces to be your go-to statement items, whether it’s two years from now or five years. I never want something to lose its relevance.”


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Images courtesy of Emefa Kuadey

“Honouring my brother is something that I always keep in the forefront of my mind — it’s an overarching inspiration for everything I do. Having that is like my North Star.”

This text first appeared in FASHION’s November 2023 concern. Discover out extra right here.