08 / 08 / 2014
Alhabama Duel reminds me of one of those gorgeous seventies creatures who used to listen to music, wear flower crowns in their hair and carry wicker baskets around the beaches of Ibiza and the streets of swinging London.
She started up SweetBilitis to make her own crowns out of flowers and feathers. People have been going crazy for them ever since. Everyone wants one to be seen wearing one at their favourite festival or sunset beach party. If you were lucky enough to go to Calvi on the Rocks_, Marseille Rock Island, Aires Libres or the Yeah! festival in Lourmarin, you would definitely have seen at least one person in the crowd or up on stage wearing one of her creations.
We wanted to get to know Alhabama Duel a little better. Did you know that she also contributed to our Indicrafts exhibition?
Hi. Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself?
Hi. My name is Alhabama Duel. I got the name from a fictional character I created when I started my blog “Duel au Soleil”. Like the character in my blog, I live in the south of France in Marseille. My blog persona enabled me to meet lots of other bloggers, artists, designers and brands to share ideas with.
How did you start out?
I studied architecture but soon moved into communication. It was in 2008, when I went back to being a student again at the Marseilles school of Journalism, that I began to get interested in blogs and social networks. I quickly became a Twitter and Instagram addict. That’s how I met the guys from Kulte and began writing the editorial for Kultorama. Then I worked on a mini-collection with them designing flower crowns. We called the collection Sweetbilitis as a tribute to David Hamilton’s heroines in the 1977 movie Bilitis. They wore flowers in their hair too. In 2012, this first collection was a great hit at all the summer festivals. Since then I haven’t stopped. I love decorating people’s hair with them and making people look even more beautiful.
What is your relationship with Sessùn?
Sessùn is a label I’ve worn since it first appeared. Subconsciously, I think the clothes have had a big influence on me.
Flowers, lace, long hair are all very poetic and romantic…and very Sessùn.
I was lucky enough to meet Emma through my boyfriend. When I first met her and subsequently got to know her I think I secretly hoped she might notice my work. And that’s exactly what happened. Sessùn asked me to make feather headbands for their Indicrafts exhibition. I also suggested making personalised hats too. Ever since the beginning of Sessùn, Emma’s designs have always being very influenced by her travels. Like Emma, big open spaces, South America and its traditions, all inspired me to create a collection of headbands and men’s’ hats, like those worn by proud Colombians in the mountains. I was very lucky to make be able to make a range of accessories that symbolised my love of far-flung cultures, beautiful fabrics, freedom and music.
How would you describe your work and your designs?
Whether a headband, a flower crown, a hat or a turban, my designs serve to attract attention and create a camouflage both at the same time. That’s me all over – that’s why my second name is Duel. It symbolises the duality between wanting to look good but also wanting to hide away; and taking on a fictional identity to reveal your true self. I’m full of contradictions, dreams and fears. My designs reflect who I am.
How do you work? Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
I’m very nostalgic so I get a lot of inspiration from the past. I spend hours on blogs, Tumblr, Pinterest etc…researching images. Whether it’s the roaring twenties or the hippy chic seventies, I love party clothes. Not long ago, I came across a fantastic book by the New York journalist Julia Chaplin called “Gypset”. It’s full of great ideas for people who love the stylish globetrotter lifestyle, full of beautiful naturally flamboyant women, beautiful houses, and elegant tribes.
Which is your favourite piece and why?
My hats. Because when I wear them I feel good; I feel like I stand out but I also feel protected.
Describe your typical day. What does your studio look like?
My average day is that of a typical working mother; nothing special, but always very busy. In the evenings, I go to my room and spend hours on my bed rummaging through fabrics, flowers, feathers and chains….I don’t see the time go by. For projects like the one with Sessùn, I spend a few days in their office, working with their team, to produce a collection of handmade, unique pieces.
What did you want to be when you were little?
As far back as I can remember I used to draw people. I got into architecture and then communication, but perhaps I ought to have gone to fashion school or Art College. Working on one-off projects with different brands and designers, is the perfect way for me to express my creativity. Unfortunately, it’s not enough for me to be able to earn a living out of it yet…but maybe one day…