How Kali juggles a frenetic 9-5 job with her passion for sewing her own clothing
Welcome to The Creative Files, where we speak to some of the biggest crafters, makers and designers, gaining insights into their creative processes, inspiration and their advice for newcomers. We were super keen to chat with stylish sewer Kali, who used the Covid lockdowns to discover her love of clothing creation!
1. Who is Kali and what is it that you create?
I'm Kali, a Kiwi currently living and working abroad in Săo Paulo, Brazil. I was gifted a sewing machine for my birthday at the beginning of Covid lockdowns in January 2020 and since then, sewing my own wardrobe has become my new obsession.
I love working with bright colours and large-scale vibrant prints and patterns. I'm not a professional seamstress and therefore love the journey of testing new patterns and learning new sewing skills with each garment that I create. Recently I've been loving making shirts, slowly perfecting my skills on the trickier details like collars and cuffs which I find incredibly satisfying, as I get slightly better every time.
2. Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
At the moment, sewing is a passion rather than a full-time career for me. In real life, I work in Human Resources at a very high-pressure, fast-paced financial technology company in Brazil. For me, creating is the perfect outlet to take my mind away from the stress and pressure of the corporate world and the challenges of my 9-5.
I do however feel that I've always had a creative streak that has manifested itself in many different ways since I was young. I've enjoyed dabbling in painting, ceramics, millinery, interior design, jewellery and costume making over the years, really working with whatever materials or supplies I could get my hands on.
3. How did you cultivate your distinct style?
I would say that my style is a culmination of my experiences and environments where I have spent time over the years. The Kiwi side of me loves clothing that is practical, unfussy, comfortable and easy to wear. When I first moved to Brazil I was blown away by the boldness and confidence of Brazilian women, and their ability to wear vibrant colours and striking prints with ease. I would like to say that my current style is a culmination of both perspectives - bold and bright with lots of colours and prints, but at the same time comfortable and easy to wear!
4. Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
I find inspiration all around me - it might be an outfit I see on someone in a restaurant, a photograph in a magazine or a fellow maker's work on Instagram. I always try to take a quick photo or screenshot to save my ideas for later.
Recently, I've been using fabric as a starting point - it's probably not the most logical way to work but I purchase most of my fabrics online, and when they arrive and I understand the weight, drape, colour and scale of print I sometimes know instantly the style of garment I want to make - then I search for the right pattern to bring it to life.
5. What does a typical working day look like for you?
As I work quite a hectic corporate job, most of my sewing happens in the evenings or on the weekends. Working mostly from home over the past two years has been great in helping me carve out a little more time for my sewing projects - sometimes I can sew a quick collar on my lunch break, or assemble PDF printed patterns during a zoom conference call!
6. What has been your favourite project to work on so far?
I have so many favourites, but some standouts would be my printed Blanca Flight Suit (IG: #closetcoreblanca by @closetcorepatterns) made from deadstock fabric from Farm Rio (one of my favourite brands), and my colourful viscose Helena Wrap Dress (IG: #helenawrapdress by @just_patterns). They're both very bold and bright pieces that feel joyful to wear!
7. Who are your biggest artistic inspirations and why?
There are many different things that inspire my work, and not all are directly related to fashion or clothing. The work of Brazilian artists Abdias Nascimento and Rubem Valentim inspires me with their use of colour and symbolism to create striking visual designs, and iconic Brazilian fashion labels such as Betina de Luca (IG: @bdln_studio) and Farm Rio (IG: @farmrio) always generate great ideas for mixing and layering bold printed fabrics.
Another key inspiration for me is Carnaval that happens once a year (pre-Covid) here in Brazil - it's an exuberant combination of music, theatre, costume and dance that inspires on so many levels. From the costumes worn at street parties or "blocos", the detailed glittering bodysuits of the samba queens and the colourful floats, it all comes together for maximum movement, volume, colour and visual effect when moving down the avenida.
8. Do you have a single piece of advice you'd give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Just give it a go! Making your own clothing seems intimidating at first, but like anything, with dedication and practice you will improve your skills. Also, don't be too tough on yourself about achieving perfection in your creations when you're just getting started on your sewing journey. When I started sewing and understanding garment construction, one of my most interesting discoveries was looking more closely at the finishings on some of my store-purchased "fast-fashion" garments and realising what poor quality some of them really were. When you spend hours stitching a garment with your own hands it makes you truly value how much work goes into clothing production, often changing your perspective about wardrobe choices and sustainable fashion.
Find Kali here: