Few designers treat bodies with the same respect as Kajal Shah (Kaj). The Durban native is intent on dedicating the majority of her crafting time to creating ‘a new normal’, inspired by the subversive fashion basics sprawled all over Pinterest and Tumblr feeds. In her own words, ‘this shouldn’t live on just a laptop screen, it should live on the body of a real woman’. Through her craft, Kaj emanates lifecasts of her muses – who also happen to be her friends – ilyathelabel bridges the gap between internet fashion and real people, tracing the body IRL. It’s an intimate process, which says a lot about Kaj’s desire to create a space in fashion for every body to exist. A long-term battle with anxiety has similarly informed her work, which aims to not only include bodies of all shapes and sizes, but honour them by carefully tracing every fold of flesh through fabric.
Founded in April 2022, Cape-town-based womenswear brand I Love You Anyway The Label (ilyathelabel) is a perfect sync of appreciation and innovativeness. Kaj has big plans to expand into a collection filled with velvet, knit and denim – and even as soon as this Spring, the brand is expected to drop a surprise collaboration with another brand. With a clear creative vision in mind, Kaj’s fashion label does indeed offer something for every woman who is looking to celebrate and channel her inner femininity. We caught up with the rising talent to hear how she got her start in the industry.
In our line of questions, we asked Kaj to share with us more about the team behind ilyathelabel.
This is her answer:
ilyathelabel was started by me, Kaj (Kajal Shah). Originally, the brand started out as a solo passion project. Now, it has expanded to include the likes of other people that I ‘live, love, laugh’. My partner, Rudolph De Villiers is a wicked talented graphic designer and illustrator. He has stepped in to assist with social media content and brand management. I am blessed to be surrounded by some very talented friends, ranging from photographers to models and make up artists. I genuinely adore everyone who has assisted in the creation of ilyathelabel content. In some minor way they have all been a part of my team
Working with off-cut fabrics, such as stretch cotton, mesh and Lycra, silhouettes are form-fitting with symmetric-and-asymmetric cut-outs and produced in a range of seductive colours from white through pink and black to navy, with soft blue and green tints. Another source of fabric is the left over or quality, discarded textile from large manufacturers, which account for the “wastage” in export terms. Much like pieces of a puzzle, these bits and pieces come together, each with its own story. During the garment construction process, the brand works with second hand traders, factories and a local CMT manufacturer, before weaving is completed by Kaj herself.
Looking to the future, Kaj hopes to expand her label to different categories, whilst enjoying new opportunities of collaboration with other brands. As of this moment, ilyathelabel is still only available online.
We asked Kaj, if there are any exciting plans coming up for ilyathelabel.
Here’s what she had to say:
Yes, I do! Besides my love for fashion, I am also deeply in love with photography and art direction – hence I am very die hard on creating shoots that I’m proud of. Recently, I have realized the power of collaboration. I have had many amazing people and brands reach out to me to do joint shoots and collections. This has helped my persisting imposter syndrome and allows me to expand my vision in ways I never thought I would ever be able to. I have a very exciting collaboration that will be dropping later this month!