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serpentine faka telfar performance london
Photography Layo Mussi, Courtesy of Serpentine Galleries

Telfar, FAKA, and an acapella choir took over London’s Serpentine

The NYC label presented ‘For You, Not For Everyone’ – an immersive performance offering a sneak-peek at SS19

“This was like part three of the Telfar 2018 World Tour. We kicked it off in Milan in January, then took it to NYC for fashion week, and now we’re rounding it off in London,” explains Telfar Clemens of the performance he curated alongside South African musicians FAKA at London’s Serpentine Pavilion on Friday night. “We’re huge fans of the group – they have amazing talent and energy, and their music is truly special.”

Fela Gucci and Desire Marea, who together make up FAKA, first appeared at the launch of the label’s exhibition at the Spazio Maiocchi in Milan earlier this year. There, they performed an energetic set of heavy, industrial sounds in front of films featuring tribal dancing – demonstrating their forward-facing focus and respect for their African heritage. “They represent something totally new,” says Clemens. “We’ve been in love with their voices since meeting them in Milan.”

“FAKA represent something totally new. We’ve been in love with their voices since meeting them in Milan” – Telfar Clemens

As part of the Park Nights series, which takes place at the Serpentine throughout the summer, Not For You, For Everyone saw the duo lead an acapella choir – dressed in pieces from Telfar’s SS19 collection –  through the assembled audience, before entering the red-lit structure at the middle of the space. Guests peered through the cracks, as if looking into a lion’s cage, as the dancers chanted and paced around each other.   

“We created this space and this screen between the viewer and the audience by closing the entrances to the pavilion through the slats in the walls,” explains Babak Radboy, Telfar’s creative director. “This wasn’t about keeping people out – it was a framing device and it forced the viewer to move along with the performers in order to see them. It ended up choreographing the audience’s bodies so they became part of the performance. The wall was actually broken down by involving the audience.” Inclusivity, as is always the case when it comes to Telfar, was key.

The performance follows on from the label's AW18 show in New York, when the likes of Dev Hynes, Kelela, Kelsey Lu, and Oyinda, took to the stage alongside Clemens himself, and turned the traditional fashion show on its head with a riotous, joyful gospel performance. The designer is known for fusing music and fashion, and exploring the inextricable link between the two. 

“Music kind of completes the full package of a collection and gives it context,” he explains. “We couldn’t imagine our collections without sound, we always make original music to go with each collection. And we want to make music that is as good as the clothes.”

For Gucci and Marea, fashion is integral to their work, too. Not only have they been working closely with Clemens and Radboy, they also caught the ear of the inimitable Donatella Versace earlier this year, when she chose their track “Inhliziyo” to soundtrack the SS19 Versace menswear show, and invited them to sit front row. For FAKA, the crossover between the two mediums was inevitable.

“We know how fashion impacts and influences our work and our identities, and now we want to turn it around and explore the ways we can subvert and impact it” – Fela Gucci

“We’ve always loved fashion, the reason we became best friends from the get-go is because of fashion,” explains Gucci. “At this point in our career, we’ve solidified our voice as artists, and we know exactly what we can contribute to fashion. We know how it impacts and influences our work and our identities, and now we want to turn it around and explore the ways we can subvert and impact it.”

Could September’s Teflar show see an appearance from the two, given Not For You, For Everyone was only a sneak peek at what Clemens has in store for SS19? “Who knows,” says Marea. “We love working with Telfar and we love what the brand represents.” Watch this space.