KAREN KANISHA’S fashion art is statement-making not only for her beautiful illustrations of dramatic ball gowns and dresses in various mediums such as colour pencils, pens, crayons and acrylics.
Her deft use of discarded junk such as scrap fabric, paper bags and other materials is just as unique.
While the designer-illustrator draws stunning fashion art, her ultimate goal is to highlight upcycling and creating sustainable art, using leftover material to create collage, in which pieces of fabric and paper cut-outs are arranged and pasted on a drawing.
“Through my art, I would like to teach the importance of sustainability to the next generation, explains Karen. “Sustainability can be a fun and creative process that everyone take part in, for a better future.”
Karen (Instagram @MissKay_fluffy) has used paper bags from international fashion and cosmetic brands, even daisy petals to create aesthetically beautiful pieces which stand out from other fashion artists.
“I have tried leftover make-up items like foundations and eyeliners, scrap fabrics and embellishments, flowers, straws, bubble wraps and nail polish,” said the 24-year-old.
“As a fashion student, illustration caught my eye,” said Karen, who once took part in Choo Sketch competition by shoe icon Jimmy Choo.
“I started to experiment with my illustration skills. The concept of sustainability gained my attention while working on my degree. I came across a lot of issues such as wastage, pollution, among others.”
Karen intends to incorporate the concept of sustainability in her career plans, to raise `green’ awareness in the industry and shoppers.
In fact, Karen has designed a mini capsule collection of upcycled leather and diamante embellishment.
What attracted you to art?
The diverse expression of artworks such as the colours, textures, or shapes. Over the years, I found art therapeutic and expressive, which made me experiment and get involved in producing fashion illustrations with sustainable materials.
How did your journey into fashion art began?
It started when I was studying at Limkokwing University and slowly, I developed my illustration and collage skills using various mediums. Upon learning about sustainability and (green) issues faced by the fashion industry, I started to experiment using scrap fabric and leftovers in my fashion art.
What inspired you to create upcycling artwork?
During my degree, I came across tonnes of fashion illustrations.
I was keen to observe how it is done, the types of illustrations, and how illustrators incorporate their personality into their works.
I started to develop my own style and incorporate the art of collage using leftovers to make my artwork more interesting and reduce wastage.
Why did you choose to use shopping bags and ribbons?
I love to shop and collect shopping bags all the time. During the MCO, while cleaning up, I found a large amount of shopping bags, ribbons and scrap papers.
I tried to turn these items into my artwork.
Making dresses out of paper bags turned out to be a fun thing, actually.
I have seen shopping bags being recycled but upcycling them would be somewhat challenging and experimental.
Why are you passionate about upcycling?
I find upcycling is a really creative and innovative method to make new things with existing items, even reducing wastage.
Since young we have been taught ‘not to waste items’, and upcycling gives us the opportunity to explore our creative sides.
What are your future plans?
I am looking into creating a sustainable fashion accessories brand, and I will keep going on with my illustrations and experimenting with more innovative and creative ideas.
My ultimate dream would be to design a dress for (a celebrity) to attend the Met Gala in New York where they raise money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.