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Front row with Gabriella Carter of ACA

Front row with Gabriella Carter of ACA

Fashion students, graduates & nascent Gen Z fashion designers and entrepreneurs are integral to the progression, and succession, of the fashion industry. These are upcoming fashion creatives ready to change the face of South African fashion industry.

My next interviewee forms a part of this cohort and goes by the name of Gabriella Carter – a recently graduated fashion designer and freelance stylist based in Cape Town. She has also cultivated her own artistic venture, 'A Creative's Archives' (ACA), where she houses and curates all of her current creative endeavours.

I managed to virtually engage her in order to understand more about what it means to be an ethical designer, who her favourite fashion designers are right now, ACA, inspirations for her design process, and so much more.

Photography by 8ballproductions

Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?

Gabriella: My name is Gabriella Carter – I am a recently graduated fashion designer and freelance stylist based in Cape Town. I'm an avid thrifter, coffee lover slash typical creative. My design approach focuses on ethical and sustainable design, therefore, most if not all of the garments I produce are either repurposed or made from deadstock/ end of roll fabric. This is as a means of contributing towards lessening the environmental impact of the fashion industry, with a focus on encouraging consumers to make important decisions before buying an item of clothing.

Photography by 8ballproductions

According to you – what does it mean to be an 'ethical designer'?

Gabriella: Ethical design is about adopting my personal values and morals into my methodology as a designer. Because I am immensely passionate about sustainability (and still learning so much about it) – I try my best to ensure that the garments I produce are of a standard that aligns with my personal values and morals. And although I do not own a brand, I feel that it is incredibly important when designing that I take into consideration how someone else might feel whilst wearing a garment which I’ve made.

At the same time, aiming to create pieces that are meant to last a long time. User-centred design is of utmost importance to me, as it encourages focus on creating meaningful pieces that do not conform to the linear fashion economy.

Photography by Joshua Zyster

As a recent design graduate – please tell me a bit more about your personal experience at fashion school. Did you enjoy the overall experience?

Gabriella: I would say fashion design is time-consuming. If you don’t really love it, don’t do it! Overall I must say I had an incredible experience; not to disregard the difficult times because there were many challenges I had to overcome face, but being privileged enough to study alongside my best friends and so many amazing and talented classmates who now have a special place in my heart.

At times it was immensely challenging to produce work because as an up and coming creative I often tend to question my purpose as a designer, as well as the validity of the work which I produce and how it will be well perceived by the right audience. But if you really love what you do, absolutely nothing can take that away from you and that is what motivated me for the entirety of the three year course.

It’s also really crazy to see how I have developed as a designer when I look back at my earlier work from first year, and compare it to now. I've loved every minute of witnessing how my personal growth and development as an individual has influenced my design identity.

Photography by 8ballproductions

What is 'A Creative's Archives'? Where did the inspiration to form this come about?

Gabriella: Initially ‘A.C.A’ was a blog I had created for the purposes of documenting my personal experiences within fashion school – and then it became a platform to communicate some of my views on the current state of the fashion economy during lockdown. I created it as a means of sharing some of my personal thoughts and experiences – for anyone curious about fashion design – as I had noticed there was incredibly limited information on the local industry on the internet.

Once I returned to physical learning, the platform became a space where I rather shared recent design endeavours as well as collaborations. The essence of ‘ACA’ now is a curated space where I allow myself to document whatever I’m currently working on as a fashion creative – and to be able to share and reflect on these moments and opportunities, hence the name ‘A Creative's Archives’.

Styled by Gabriella Carter

What are you most inspired by when it comes to your design process?

Gabriella: Unique silhouettes, prints, colour, and most definitely people. I enjoy observing what people are wearing and thinking about, what might be influencing their outfit/ purchasing decisions and exploring that within my design process.

Your three favourite fashion designers right now? This could be anyone local or international.

Gabriella: Mmuso Maxwell – providing the ultimate silhouette inspiration.

Simone Rizzo (Sunnei) – with the most tasteful design aesthetic.

Ditte Reffstrup (Ganni)whose design approach focuses on mindfulness of socio-environmental issues within the fashion industry.

Mmuso Maxwell 'Imbokodo 21' collection

What has been your biggest achievement within your short career thus far?

Gabriella: Definitely my first collection! Sometimes I still wonder how I was able to design, sew and creatively direct an entire collection on my own; although it was challenging, seeing the end result was the most rewarding feeling (I also had an incredible team). Creative collaboration has also been one of my greatest achievements to date.

I've always wanted the opportunity to create and collaborate with like-minded individuals who are pursuing different yet similar paths within the creative industry. I've met some of the most incredible people in doing so too. I'm still hoping for the opportunity to collaborate with other designers in the near future!

Styled by Gabriella Carter

What are some of the things you are looking forward to in 2022?

Gabriella: I am currently in the process of completing an Advanced Diploma in Fashion Design and have a new collection launching in December this year – entirely constructed using deadstock/ end-of-roll fabric. I’m hoping that will kick-start my career as a stylist and aspiring creative director

Styled by Gabriella Carter


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