- Ilirjana Alushaj
- Verena Stefanie
With Londoner Kara Messina's background in high-end fashion, it might surprise a few that her real interest is surrounding youth culture and the UK grime scene. Starting streetwear label Y'OH, Messina is, however, looking into recreating a vision of her own.
Why did you start a label?
I'm interested in fashion as a language. It's one of the most personal forms of communication. People want to belong to something and at the same time want to stand, to be part of a social group and the individual elevation from it. Fashion gives us the means to do so. Plus, subcultures are best documented and identified through fashion, so starting a label was really just a means of giving something back to the "street."
London and, specifically, its grime scene seems to have a big influence over your work so far...
London has allowed me to have friends from a vast range of backgrounds and ages; MCs, skaters, artists, and writers. No day is the same, and depending who I'm with, I am given access to so much knowledge. I am lucky to be consistently learning new stuff. And, yeah, I got a lot of love for grime. What I find most inspiring is the vibe. I rate that and wanted to support it. I wouldn't say there is a definite look as such. I'm liking the "younger" MCs style more so, maybe because it's most truthful to streetwear.
So what else inspires your cuts?
The '90s. North Face, Ralph Lauren, early hip-hop, the UK casual movement... oversize over skinny all day, every day.
What about your choice in materials?
The African fabrics are at the heart of Y'OH. That's where everything started. I wanted to pay tribute to the checked shirt without using checked fabric. I think the African fabric fits into the same category as the check, camouflage, and leopard print. However, anytime it has been used in fashion before, people seem to do their own watered down version of it, and it loses its essence. As for the wax cotton, I love the fact that it gives streetwear that quality finish. I've used different weights in the collection, so the heavier weights tend to behave differently.
Being such a young label, you've already had one collaboration with the website Kids of Grime...
Yeah! I am blown away by Verena Stefanie's (Kids of Grime) photographs. I came across them when I was doing my research, and I would spend hours on her site. I asked her to collaborate with me on the Y'OH launch because I felt her pictures should be showcased at an exhibition, for people to see past the MCs photographed and appreciate them as art.
Who else would you like to collaborate with?
I'm very blessed to work with visual artist Really Dope (who designed the logo and labels), but of course there are brands—such as North Face, Barbour, Levi's—I'd like to work with, but I'm more interested in working with individuals outside of fashion, like grime MC Tempa T, film director Mike Leigh, and graphic designer Ben Drury.
Does your line reflect your personal style?
Yeah, if I was a boy, I most definitely wear all my clothes.
Would you then say you design with yourself or anyone else in mind?
No, no one in particular. I'm not really contrived like that. I'd like to see your average guy walking down the road in Y'OH styled how he would wear it.