Offering up vintage and contemporary juxtapositions for modern-day tastemakers, regional label, Mrs. Keepa, seamlessly blends functional pieces with a touch of nostalgia in each of her collections. Here, its founder, Mariam Yehia, tells us the importance of looking back in order to inform the future.
I remember my first notable fashion memory came from my mum. She was picking me up from school in a flashy blue tailored suit that she had designed herself. It was in that moment, my love for fashion began and I started to appreciate the details in fashion design. I then began my journey by pursuing a career in advertising and marketing, but I didn’t get the fulfilment I longed for. A trip to Florence helped to change that. While exploring the city I noticed a large fabric store with a beautiful vitrine display filled with different coloured fabrics. It was as if they were calling out to me, and after a few encouraging words from my husband, Mrs. Keepa was formed. As a designer, the past plays an integral role in my designs. Each season I’m inspired by details from different decades such as fashion, art, paintings, architecture and furniture, and I try to represent them in a modern way. The Fifties in particular is a decade I constantly take inspiration from. The Fifties marked the beginning of a new era where people rebelled for freedom of expression, which in turn had a knock-on effect on style. Fifties fashion saw the introduction of so many new styles; people were beginning to feel free and confident when it came to their fashion choices; they didn’t have to conform to a certain look or ideal anymore. This is something that really resonates with me.
My very first Mrs. Keepa collection drew from the exaggerated silhouettes of Seventies fashion. This era was known for building on the best elements of the Sixties and taking them to new extremes, which was my main reference point for the designs. I actually revisited the Seventies again in my autumn/winter16 collection, where oversized sleeves, wide flared trousers and clashing prints formed the core of my collection. The daring colours and prints also capture the fun energy of the era. This season I was inspired by Victoriana – women were so sophisticated back then. I took details such as high necklines and soft ruffles and applied them to modern cuts and fabrics. I always say a good designer is one who can use ideas from the past and reinterpret them in a way that the women of today can relate to. I am very conscious of this when I start designing a new collection. We live in such a fast-paced world and as women, especially working mothers, we have to take on so many different roles in our daily life. Therefore, our wardrobes need to be very versatile, convenient and easy, as well as comfortable and fashionable.
I find inspiration in absolutely anything- one of my biggest style icons is Rihanna. She is so daring, edgy and confident in her wardrobe choices. I admire her nonconformist attitude and her ability to don a wide variety of styles. She is the perfect example what it means to be the Mrs. Keepa woman. Gucci’s creative director, Alessandro Michele is another one of these inspiring individuals, known to break fashion boundaries, mixing prints and fabrics in ways others wouldn’t. I can also relate to his love of vintage fashion. Today, fashion has become so commercial, it’s unfortunately a sad outcome of the economic depression we’ve been experiencing for a while. Brands have lost their identities and new designers have a tendency to break away from the House’s DNA by designing for what sells more. But I’m very spontaneous and limitless with my design approach. I can be inspired by a wrinkled used tissue on its way to the garbage, and immediately buy dozens of tissue boxes and start playing with them on the mannequin to create a skirt or dress. I always say that we are all products of our past experiences, hence our mind and creativity are shaped in different ways that would only relate to one’s personal past.