AnOTHER - DISCO MEETS GOSPEL: LAKWENA DELVES INTO HER FIORUCCI COLLABORATION
In a conversation taken from a new limited edition zine celebrating Lakwena’s Fiorucci collaboration, the London-based artist discusses the collection and its inspirations
Photography by Ruth Ossai
Fiorucci has a long history of working with artists. In the 80s, founder Elio Fiorucci invited Keith Haring to collaborate – the artist, with the help of his 16-year-old protégé Angel Ortiz AKA LA II, spray-painted the walls of the first Fiorucci store in Milan’s Galleria Passarella.
It was in this same spirit that the incumbent creative director of the label, Daniel Fletcher, invited Lakwena Maciver to team up on a capsule collection. Based in London, Lakwena is known for her large-scale paintings employing bright colour and bold text, which often appear in public spaces in the form of murals. These murals, which Lakwena says can be understood as “escape routes, afrofuturistic portals to utopia” are, in some ways, reminiscent of Fiorucci’s stores, which have historically been filled with brightly-coloured objects.
The starting point for this collection began with a visit to Fiorucci’s archive, where Lakwena learned about the brand’s connection to disco; to people dancing, celebrating and having a good time. And while that moment cannot be recreated, it’s this energy that she wanted to channel into the collection. Through further research, she identified more crossovers between Fiorucci and her work; between Fiorucci’s relationship with disco and her own relationship with gospel – a musical culture that is similarly centred around ideas of connectedness, spirituality and joy.
The resulting collection melds Fiorucci’s visual language with that of Lakwena, combining kaleidoscopic colours, reworked logos and original motifs. Taking cues from another musical culture, UK garage, the collection features all-over print denim jacket and jeans, shirts and velvet flares, along with Lycra tops emblazoned with Fiorucci’s iconic Angels motif. A satin colour-block bomber is accompanied by hoodies, sweatshirts, T-shirts, trousers and shorts, featuring a Fiorucci logo and an original hand motif by Lakwena, in a gesture of prayer or praise. This hand motif also appears on handheld fans, which have become synonymous with both disco and gospel, acting as essential items in these often packed and poorly air-conditioned environments, filled with dancing, moving bodies.
Lakwena’s collaboration with Fiorucci is presented via images and a film created by Ruth Ossai, starring a gospel choir who, diverse in age and size, encapsulate this idea of coming together and deliver an uplifting message of connectedness and joy – perhaps in a time when we need it the most. Here, in a conversation taken from a limited edition zine celebrated the collection published by D’Stassi Art, the artist delves into this collection and its inspirations.
Ted Stansfield: Can you introduce yourself and your artistic practice?
Lakwena Maciver: I’m an artist based in Dalston, London. My work tends to be very large-scale. I do murals and installations. It’s very colourful and I use a lot of text – that’s really key.
TS: And can you tell me about your name and how it relates to your practice?
LM: My name means ‘messenger’ in Acholi, which is my father’s language. And my work is very much about messages. It’s about speech and speaking truth and hope into spaces.
TS: What kind of messages are you wanting to communicate?
LM: A lot of the messages are positive, but it’s not really about positivity. I think it’s partly that I am naturally a bit pessimistic, and life is difficult. So in a way, I’m speaking these messages to myself. But I’m also speaking to others. I’m trying to speak truth into life.
TS: What does Fiorucci represent to you?
LM: I was really interested in Fiorucci’s history of collaboration and community; creative community. From what I’ve read, and what I’ve heard, there was this incredible moment in the 70s and 80s, when people were coming together and something really creative was emerging, in a very organic way. I found that really exciting.
TS: Because Fiorucci actually has its own history of collaborating with artists. You know, they worked with Keith Haring. How did it feel to be stepping into that legacy?
LM: It’s amazing that Fiorucci collaborated with people like Keith and Madonna. And it’s really nice, actually, because when I was in New York, I painted the Bowery Wall, which is a really iconic wall in New York, that was first painted by Keith. Doing this collaboration is like another way of connecting with that.
TS: It’s interesting that Keith did graffiti art and you do wall murals.
LM: Yeah. He studied fine art, but made loads of work in public spaces. He straddled the worlds of fine art and street art, and did so in a really powerful way. I think he’s amazing. And I love the idea.
TS: In terms of this collaboration, have you thought about the relationship between art in public spaces and then on people, through clothes?
LM: Yeah, I love that. Because my vision for my work is that it isn’t just in galleries. So for me, making work in public spaces, it’s accessible, it’s large-scale, it can be really immersive, and it connects with people who wouldn’t normally walk into a gallery. I want to make work that speaks to ordinary people and speaks to lots of different types of people, so that’s why I like making work in public spaces. And in terms of fashion, I think fashion is another really interesting way that our culture connects with images, that everyday people connect with visual culture. We all wear clothes, we all have to wear clothes, so what do we adorn ourselves with? What do we put on? So the idea that I’m now, by this collaboration, making images that people are going to be wearing, in public spaces. I think it is really interesting.
TS: So how did you approach the collaboration? What was your starting point?
LM: I started by looking through the book [Fiorucci: Tyes and Tribes], because I wanted to understand a bit about Fiorucci and its history. From what I learned, it was very much about community – the clothes were almost secondary, the primary thing seems to have been about people and this organic creativity; people who were involved in music, art, the whole thing together. I was thinking about how disco was central to Fiorucci and how the gospel is central to my work. Because there’s a really interesting crossover between gospel and disco.