24 Hours With… Kwaidan Editions
Vintage-inspired prints, bright splashes of colour, fetishistic flourishes, always with a kitten heel. It can only be Kwaidan Editions, the brainchild of partners in life and love, Léa Dickely and Hung La. So what does running a successful boutique brand look like behind the scenes? Léa offers us a look into a creative life well-lived.
“Morning walk to the studio.”
“A typical day in our West London studio.”
What time do you wake up and where?
I wake up around 7:30am next to Hung, my partner in life and business. I handle the creative aspects, and he handles the business side.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Take a hot shower and have a freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Where are you usually based?
We live and work in West London.
What does your average day look like?
We’ve had the same routine (more or less) since we started the brand five years ago. We eat breakfast together and try not to start work before we have finished our first cup of tea. We usually check-in with each other about various work things as we walk to the studio. Once we get into the studio, we get taken away by the work and team and usually do not stop till evening. Hung and I live and work together, so we breathe Kwaidan.
Do you have any rituals?
Candlelit dinners, spending 20 minutes on our Shakti mat (bed of nails), long silent meditations, a daily drawing practice…
Where is your studio located and how do you get there?
Our studio is located close to Golborne Road in West London and we only live a few minutes away. We’re lucky to enjoy a walk to work every day.
“The Kwaidan color palette over the seasons,
on our signature kitten heel mule.”
How would you describe what you do?
I treat every collection like a new chapter in a book that we are in the process of writing.
How has your background influenced who you are today?
I come from a humble background where I was taught hard work, perseverance, and integrity. These values continue to inform my approach today. Before going into fashion, I studied Fine Art, and those precious years taught me to look inwards and opened a multitude of creative outlets for me.
What are the most important factors for the brand?
Prints are really important, always hand-drawn by me. Emotional and physical interiority. A distinct, often icky, colour palette. A hint of darkness and fetishism.
“Kwaidan” translates to “strange stories” in Japanese and alludes to the film by Masaki Kobayashi (1965), and Kwaidan Editions evokes the uncanny and supernatural aspects of this film. The film itself is named after Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things, a collection of short stories published in 1904 by Lafcadio Hearn.
“The SS21 fitting process.”
“Catching the sunset from home.”
Can you tell us a bit about this season’s collection?
SS21 was designed during lockdown, in our flat with a very small team. We focused on the Kwaidan DNA, the signatures, and brought back inspirations that have always been close to us: my grandparents' house in France, female interiority, and the book Dressing for Pleasure - The Best of Atomage 1972-1980.
During lockdown we also decided to streamline the process and focus on my hand. For SS21, I designed the collection, hand-drew the prints, and shot the collection. Kwaidan is becoming much more than just a fashion brand selling products; it is a Woman’s work and a manifestation of her own interiority. What also came through this collection is a dialogue between the Woman and the space around her; a space that manifests her own internal space.
When designing a new collection, where do you usually begin?
The colour palette and prints are the first things that I start with. They literally dictate the tone of the collection, as colour has its own emotional language. This lays the ground for the story of the collection.
How do you get into a creative headspace?
I need isolation, good music and a sketchbook.
Whilst working, where do you go and what do you do to take a break?
I easily morph into a machine, and can spend a whole day at my desk without really taking a break… It has especially been the case during this past year, since there was nowhere to go and all our meetings happened via Zoom. Before Covid-19, we used to have a lot more meetings and trips abroad – sometimes a flight every week. I can’t say that I miss those.
Who would you most like to see wearing it?
“Dinner is served.”
“Nighttime reading- Dressing For Pleasure,
an infinite source of inspiration to us.”
What’s on your bookshelf right now?
At the moment I’m reading Baudrillard’s Amérique and Cathy Park Hong’s Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.
What do you usually do for dinner?
Hung loves to cook and we usually eat homemade Asian food: often a Vietnamese Bone Broth soup, sometimes homemade dumplings and baos. We rarely go out during the week and keep friendly dinners for the weekend.
What time do you go to bed?
Between 10:30 and 11pm.
Last thing you do before you sleep?
Lay on my shakti mat, which helps me in falling asleep.
What do you dream about?
You don’t want to know… I’ve been known to be a bit of a sleepwalker and I have very vivid dreams and graphic nightmares, which can be both stimulating and terrifying!
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