Lalesso was formed by co-designers Olivia Kennaway and Alice Heusser after a holiday to Lamu Island off the north coast of Kenya. Both Olivia and Alice are children of Africa and have been wrapped in its beautiful fabrics since birth. After studying fashion design together in Cape Town the pair were impelled to harness the magical beauty of the East African ‘khanga’, also known as ‘lesso’ to create vibrant and care free summer fashion.
Kenya is a country overflowing with raw talent, incredible design aesthetics and beautiful people yet over 50% of the population live below the poverty line. This was another compelling factor that urged the pair to form the brand and use the business to help create employment with a fair wage that will not only aid survival but allow them to considerably improve their standard of living.
In 2009 Lalesso handed over its in-house work shop to another of their Kenyan inspired ideas, SOKO. After realising the potential that an ethical factory could provide, the pair instigated the start up of SOKO. SOKO is now an independent, charity based, eco and ethical clothing production unit that supports local talent and provides employment to Kenyans. Lalesso, as well as many other international designers, now uses SOKO for all their garment production, www.soko-kenya.com.
Lalesso also uses the creative talent of Kenyan artisans in many aspects of the designs, incorporating various design initiatives and supporting them in doing so. These include beaded bracelets on the swing tags, hand carved coconut buttons, masai beading, brass work among others.