Changing the Face of High Fashion with Chanel Joan Elkayam

Interview by Yinsey Wang.

Chanel Joan Elkayam is not a designer that simply follows the trends of the day, instead her purpose is to inspire leaders amongst women and create unique, timeless works of art that empowers the wearer. A rising star in fashion, Elkayam has already showcased her designs in four major fashion weeks and is the youngest person to have done so. Her recent AW19 collection, as unveiled in London recently, was led by Munroe Bergdorf (transgender model and activist) and the game-changing model Kate Grant. Inclusiveness is a core value of her brand and Elkayam does not shy away from doing things differently and channeling her visions through embracing gaps in the diversity of the industry today. A granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, Elkayam is passionate about spreading understanding and acceptance of all cultures and pushing the vision that one should not be restricted in their potential simply because of their origin or beliefs. Yinsey Wang interviews the prodigious designer in this exclusive piece.

Your AW19 collection is inspired by an independent woman with a sovereign mind who believes in the empowerment of women. Why do you think you were drawn to this theme and overarching concept?

Women should be encouraged to empower each other. This is the key foundation for female empowerment.

How did you come about to selecting Munroe Bergdorf and Kate Grant for opening your AW19?

My view in general is that the way forward in fashion is diversity and inclusion. I implement this vision through every collection and with my varied selection of models.

What is so important about diversity and inclusion in your show?

Society should no longer ignore diversity and should accept everyone and stop judging people's choice of lifestyle.

Your family has an incredible history, particularly about your grandmother’s search for freedom. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

My grandmother is a Holocaust survivor. She escaped with her family, leaving all their assets and wealth behind.

My grandmother's story was my inspiration for my previous collection that was shown in Milan Fashion Week last year (2018).

To think that my grandmother was discriminated due to her forming part of a minority and just because of her religious beliefs inspired me to spread a message that one should have the freedom to live his/her life without the constraint of others' expectations.

You are the youngest fashion designer to showcase a couture collection across key fashion weeks. How does this feel and what motivated you to push beyond expectations?

I set for myself goals and try to achieve them. I started my career as a fashion designer when I was 16 years of age and my goal was to complete the big four fashion weeks by the age of 20 years. I achieved that. Now, my next goal is to build the foundations of my brand into a global influential fashion house.

What piece in your AW19 do you love the most and why?

The tailored business suit which comprised a skirt and jacket. The skirt has a dramatic cut in the side to reveal a garter.

The shoulders of the jacket were bursting with an origami cut. The details in the suit and the total look work to highlight female power bursting from the details. The whole look was completed with a fedora hat made from 100% wool, which is also one of my designs. The suit was created from a heavy weave, houndstooth fabric (which is normally used for men's suits).

Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

Happy and satisfied with the result of my hard work and creations.

What designer has been the most influential on you?

Christian Dior.

Photography by Ray Lee.


More from Chanel Joan Elkayam (pictured below) and Yinsey Wang will be featured in the next issue.