I don’t often use the word ‘fierce’, but I think I might have to to describe these headpieces. They are incredible. How could a feather mohawk not be, for goodness’ sake? To say ‘statement’ is an understatement: this millinery smashes boundaries.
In developing your own Vagabond Couture piece, you meet Karen Graves, director and stylist, to conceptualise and plan the design. With this consultative step in the production, you can be sure that your headwear is completely bespoke and as awesome as you choose it to be. Plus you even get a glass of champagne – nice!
The label is growing fast: there’s the being commissioned by Elle magazine for the Elle Style Awards; being featured in Wylde magazine; on Boutique Alter Ego; and being featured regularly on Secret Emporium.
I asked Karen a few questions about how it all came about, and what inspires her…
I spent my first years playing shoe shops with my aunt, my formative years daydreaming about fashion, and my teenage years obsessing about it. I organised my first catwalk show for Cancer Research, aged 15. You could say it’s ingrained; a compulsion, even. I’ve always felt that style is an extension of self and great outlet for creative expression.
My approach has always challenged the status quo, even back when it made me feel uncomfortable. Growing up, I was concerned with inequality, feminism and individual articulation, with a mix of idols such as Boy George, Anita Roddick and Vivienne Westwood. I’ve always enjoyed brave personalities that challenged opinion.
With a wild and wandering spirit, I travel the world seeking inspiration and understanding. I’m happiest on the road, exploring the unfolding landscape, saddling my bike, the wind tousling my hair. I most enjoy the idiosyncrasies of a culture, and I revel in the freedom that can be sought in countries far less controlled than my own. With many years spent between England and Goa, I became intrigued by the people around me, living nomadic lifestyles funded by their creativity and ingenuity. I began my journey creating and selling on the international designer markets, and found my work began to merge very different influences.
My direction takes on ever eclectic themes, inspired by my travels around the world, from life and conversations on the road, to flamboyant characters on the music festival scene, and occasionally from popular culture. One day, I might examine the rags-to-riches story of the artist MIA, and then next research the unfathomable Cargo Cult phenomenon – an anthropological legacy that combines 1940s military with native tribal costume, fostering the birth of a new modern religion.
Despite the varying influences, the thread remains the same. My designs in essence aim to disrupt and liberate by harnessing the imagination of the wearer. Now working out of my Brighton studio, ‘the dream factory,’ I conceptualise and manufacture bespoke millinery and accessories.
The Vagabond Couture ethos: to invent, reinvent and to play.
Photography – Jean-Luc Brouard