Tara Mabiala

University / School:
HEAD – Geneva University of Art & Design
Graduation Year:
Production Location:
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Collection – Article 15

Artice 15, is a collection directly inspired by personal experiences, things I’ve seen and stories I’ve imagined about clothing in Congo. My father being from DRC and having often traveled there to visit family, I have spent a lot of time observing the way aunts and uncles, street children, sapeurs and even sorcerers would make a piece of clothing their own. This touched me deeply.

I wanted to transcribe these emotions through my point of view. I took different elements that came from the way these different people dress; accumulating fabric, layering lengths, changing codes or the way a piece of clothing is normally worn, obsessive or even mystical ostentatiousness. I did a lot of research using second hand clothing, my own favorite pieces or even some clothes from my family. I mixed these clothes, obsessionaly accumulating them in search of the strong emotions that had touched me. Through this research, I found rules, pattern cutting concepts and details that I could then decline so as to build my collection. My goal was that all this recycling and mix-matching should give strong silhouettes, each with their own story. A strong image. In this collection, you will find a man who falls in love with the lining of his jacket and who then composes his whole outfit so that it matches, an ostentatious king who multiplies collars, cuffs and buttons and goes up to cutting his clothes to show what is hidden underneath…and many more.

The shoes are a mix of sandals bought at the market in Lubumbashi and beautiful leather shoes bought in thrift shops in Switzerland. The idea being of a person, so proud of his shoes, that he will wear them in sandals…making sure they do not get dirty. The bags are market bags upcycled with leather handles. Taking every day pieces and giving them their own story of personalization summarizes my collection.

The pictures of my collection were taken by Elsa Guillet. We wanted to get my family to wear the clothes the way they wanted to. Making their own mixes and choosing freely what they wanted to pair up to mix silhouettes or even bring their own clothes to the shoot. This was a way of coming back to my first theme.I wanted to show the clothes on different people, not paying attention to gender or age, as I did when researching or looking for inspiration.
"Recent Haute Ecole d'Art et de Design (HEAD) alumnus Tara Mabiala has channelled her heritage, travels and desire to define a new African menswear aesthetic into her impressive graduate collection. Born in Switzerland to a Swiss mother and Congolese father, she grew up between there, the UK and Tanzania and visited her family in DRC often. “I have fond memories of my first trip to Lubumbashi and experiencing these incredible feelings of being where I belonged,” Mabiala recalls. “I spent a lot of time on these visits observing the way aunts and uncles, street children, sapeurs and even sorcerers would make a piece of clothing their own. This touched me deeply.” " -Helen Jennings, Nataal