Originally founded as a couture brand, Kamera Obscura’s founder Martine Abate spent the early years of her career creating bespoke items of clothing for her personal clientele. After years of experimenting with fabrics and exploring the realm of dressmaking, she was urged by clients and friends to pursue accessories design.
From a personal standpoint, Martine was never much interested in handbags – growing up, she always found them a hindrance; with their short straps and heavy stature standing in the way of the tree she wanted to climb, or the bus that she had to sprint for. Thus, it was never easy to find a bag that felt special, or that she looked forward to using. This urged Martine to create an individual design that catered to the needs of an active and practical individual, without forgoing elegance or style.
As a child, Martine Abate was surrounded by an abundance of creativity and was constantly encouraged by her family to explore any creative outlet that she pleased. With this freedom and a wild imagination, she began crafting small items by hand, until she was given her first sewing machine and began designing clothing. In her early twenties, Martine moved out from her quiet hometown in France to London. Enchanted by the plenitude of the city and the endless list of things to do and people to meet, her creativity level was at a high. Having secured a job in central London, Martine spent her lunch breaks in the Liberty haberdashery, mulling over vast swathes of enticing fabrics, and creating her own designs.
With a natural flair for the skill, and brimming with ideas, she became a proficient dressmaker and eventually purchased the space for her own atelier. When working with personal clientele, couture isn’t formatted: it’s spontaneous, organic and inspiring. These traits made couture fashion design a natural fit for Martine, and set up her with the skills needed to expand into accessories design. This development happened several years into her couture career, as she was asked by clients to create original accessories that they could style their couture pieces with.
BAGS AND MATERIALS
The Kamera Obscura accessories line boasts an often neglected material within the luxury fashion market: 3D black polyester mesh. Highly regarded within the sportswear market for its supple texture and lightweight quality, Martine selected the utilitarian material for its deep black tones, and three-dimensional structure. The complexity of the material seamlessly overlaps with Martines original inspiration for the collection: space.
The darkness of the flexible fabric invites the wearer to imagine a boundless setting, in which the only things in sight are dashes of silver zips darting through the cosmos, across the bag. Throughout the collection, zips are used in both a practical manner, as well as a design focal point and are hand-encrusted into the fabric.
‘Space’ became the primary source of inspiration for its mystery, astronomical size, and immense power. A mere few seconds spent considering the vastness of space can minimise one’s troubles instantly. Space represents a new beginning, unchartered territory, and a place to escape to, unlike any other.
Kamera Obscura explores this idea with each design. The black base of the bag represents the boundless void of dark matter, all encompassing and never-ending. Contrasting to this, a beaming silver zip runs across the bags, blending the edges, the body and the corners, and surrounding the darkness to represent the sweeping rings of Saturn. The darkness meets the light in the form of bright contrasting accents, such as the orange zip detailing found on the Cosmos, Carbone and Felixette bags. Guiding one through the darkness, the orange fabric reappears as lining for the inside of the bags, creating a clear and navigational interior for the bag. Contrasting to the deep black tone found on the trio of handbags, the Black Leaf Clutch Bag and Green Leaf Clutch bag offer a vibrant alternative to the mysterious set. Hand-encrusted onto the 3D polyester mesh sits a large, striking leaf, surrounded by the supple fabric.
As Kamera Obscura emerged and evolved, it remained of the utmost importance to Martine that her products were sourced and constructed in a climate-neutral manner. With this in mind, each piece of fabric used in the creation of a Kamera Obscura design is obtained from surplus fabric purchased from her local supplier. By creating a line of accessories using fabric that is destined to be discarded, Kamera Obscura has creatively brought new life to an otherwise wasted material. In order to further reduce the waste produced by the brand, each bag consists of only three elements: the 3D polyester mesh, zips, and the clasps that secure the strap to the bag. This minimalistic approach to the design process ensures that Kamera Obscura is not reliant on overseas suppliers, and required to purchase pieces in bulk that never get used. Furthermore, each item is conceived and created by hand in Kamera Obscura’s London studio. This process ensures that the brand maintains a slow-fashion approach to the design process.
Along with a cautious approach to wastefulness and sustainability in the design process, Kamera Obscura bags and accessories are designed to place ease, comfort, and durability at the epicentre. Having previously felt inhibited by handbags, Kamera Obscura has ensured that their bags remain comfortable to use. The long straps found on the Felixette bag can be worn cross-body or draped over the shoulder, whilst the wrist strap sported on the Carbone bag can sit comfortably on the wrist, freeing you from the obligation to hold your bag all day and night. Similarly, the soft glasses cases are short in length, allowing the corner of your glasses to peer out making them easily accessible, whilst the eye mask features a concave bend to fit comfortably over the wearer’s eyes.
Designed to slot effortlessly into your busy life, Kamera Obscura seeks to embed a little bit of magic, mystery, and imagination, into your day-to-day.