We caught up with Brooklyn-based fashion designer Chelsea Bravo for a quiet conversation about Mediterranean inspiration, new masculinity, and slowing down.
Chelsea Bravo was born in New York and moved to London at the age of two. By the age of eight, Bravo exhibited a keen interest in developing her identity through clothing, taking to fashion as a means of self-expression. In 2010, she graduated from the University of The Creative Arts and went on to intern with menswear designers, Christopher Shannon and Martine Rose.
In 2013, Bravo launched her eponymous menswear label with her well-received spring/summer 2013 collection, ‘Dysfunction’. Her collections now feature both womenswear and menswear, creatively expressing simple and free-flowing shapes through contemporary silhouettes. Her Trinidadian and Grenadian roots are apparent throughout her work. Pieces are made-to-order in New York City.
Your designs are a beautiful example of how one can bridge several cultures and ideas, yet remain focused, with a distinct design language. What is the vision for the Chelsea Bravo brand?
The vision for Chelsea Bravo is ultimately to be a pure form a self-expression and exactly as you said, ‘to bridge the gap between cultures’. Also, to be a visual representation of my background and culture and the backgrounds and cultures of people from all over the world.
Tell us about your design process?
I work in a very intuitive way. Each piece or collection comes from a place of inspiration, which for me is a feeling, an idea bubbling within that I want to express through design and materials. It’s always fun and amazing to see an idea in tangible form, as something that can be physically worn on the body.
How to find inspiration?
I’m inspired by art, movement, music, literature, people, world cultures, and most of all, life! Just living and breathing and being present with everything that is part of this human experience. Right now the potential for and possibilities of what I can do and what we can do as people in this world is what’s currently inspiring me.
Sand is a magazine focused on men’s wellness. How would you describe masculinity today from your point of view. And how does it find its way into your collections?
For me, masculinity is a man owning who he is. It is a man not trying to fit into an image of how masculinity has been presented to him but to define what masculinity is for himself and then to act and move from that place of recognition. As a man, how do you want to feel? How do you want to navigate through the world? What do you want to stand for? What do you value? What do you want to protect or see grow within yourself, your community, your family? I feel when a man simply owns who he is and lives from what is true for himself and his experience he is in his authenticity and therefore in his power.
Your clothes are made for comfort, not only for beauty. How does that influence your designs?
My clothing is about self-expression and freedom. Freedom to be yourself, freedom to move, freedom to have fun, be playful, and curious. This is also my nature and spirit. My garments are never restricting, they’re always easy-wearing and apart from specific pieces that I made for women under the Keïta collection, the garments I design and make are more or less gender-less.
It seems Morocco heavily influences your style. How do you feel about this Mediteranean country?
Morocco is a magical place for me because it was the first country that I visited that felt completely foreign to me. A smell that reminds me of there is Amber. Amber is sweet and warm but also a little intense. I feel that’s how Morocco can be; sweet and warm but a little intense at the same time - at least Marrakech!
Can you tell us about your self-care routine?
When it comes to self-care, balance is what I try to focus on. I’m always aiming to keep my active moments balanced with moments of lightness and rest. This may look like meditation, yoga, dancing to music, cooking a delicious meal, going for walks, reading and journaling - whatever feels good and helps my body to recharge and my mind to rest.
At Sand, we believe in the importance of slow-living. How do you find ways to slow down? How do you deal with the hectic rhythm of life?
I love taking things slow. I am not a fan of the rush-rush-busy-busy-lifestyle. Though, sometimes things become this way. The last two to three weeks were quite busy for me, staying on top of responsibilities and commitments outside of my own work, dealing with unexpected delays, and cancelled flights whilst travelling, shooting new pieces for the brand, and catching up with loved ones in London after being away for over a year. If it hadn’t been for my practice of meditation, journalling, and yoga, which have all taught me how to handle challenges, process emotion and slow down a busy mind, I would have been incredibly stressed and probably had several meltdowns!