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Welcome to Alek Wek's world. In collaboration with Weekend Max Mara, Wek has created her ultimate AW21 collection infused with “African culture with a London calling vibe and a touch of Boho". Wek's own artwork have been featured, printed onto silk scarves and loose mini dresses. Below, Wek talks us through her first fashion collaboration:

How did the collaboration with Weekend Max Mara happen? WHAT was it like working with the design team? 

“Working with Weekend Max Mara creative team has been an emotional journey. It all started last fall. I shared my ideas, my inspirations and especially my artworks with the team. It was amazing to see how they have transformed these ideas in such a good way, giving life to this collection. They had the right sensibility to transform my artworks in such a wonderful way. It is incredible how beautifully they have put them into this collection.”

How did your experience in the fashion industry prepare you for this collaboration with Weekend Max Mara? 

“Working in the fashion industry for so many years, I have learnt to know the quality of fabrics, the perfect fitting of a dress, the little details that make perfect an outfit.”

What kind of person do you see wearing this signature collection? Did you imagine a specific person when you created the patterns? 

“Well, a woman like me! It doesn’t matter if she lives in Tokyo, London, Milan, New York or Paris. It’s a woman that feels comfortable with herself, with her body, her age. I wanted every single piece of this collection to be wearable but elegant at the same time. You have to feel good and beautiful while wearing this collection.”

Do you miss South Sudan and Africa? 

“Oh yes I do! I miss Africa! I miss my African folks, they are so important to me! And this collection is in fact a tribute to Africa, to my homeland. You can see it in many details: from the scarves, to the belts and the hooded coat with the colours inspired by the flag of South Sudan. In this flag every single colour has a specific meaning: yellow for the sun, green for the land, red for the blood, blue for the sky, black for the people and white for peace.”

How have the places where you have lived influence your personal style? 

“Well, style is what you make of it. I feel that the surroundings for sure influence your life, your vision. I think that you take from the every day’s experience. From the people around you. I like to be in places where I can be comfortable. It’s beautiful to be comfortable and this collection reflects this feeling. The jackets, the coats are warm and cozy. Wearing these pieces really make you feel good.”

Some of the prints you created for the capsule are inspired by some of your art. What is the relation between art and fashion? 

“Art and fashion go hand by hand. You cannot separate them. Art celebrates fashion and fashion celebrates art. It has been such an emotional experience for me to share for the first time my artworks. The title of these artworks is Life Lines. I draw these paintings almost 20 years ago when I first came to New York. And now it is so moving to see how Weekend Max Mara creative team has been able to put my art into this collection. It’s so important to educate young people to art, to beauty.”

We know you are heavily involved in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. What is your committment here?

“I was appointed Good Will Ambassador for UNHCR in 2013 and my main objective has always been to raise awareness on the reality of the refugees, now more than ever. I am a survivor. I wrote a book 10 years ago about my experience as a child in the civil war. No child, no human being should ever live such experience. We have to fight to impose respect for refugees. We need to do all we can to rescue them, give them shelter, home, education. We need to fight for peace.”

We are all facing the global pandemic. What have you learnt from it?

“This has been a very challenging moment but at the same time it has forced us to slow down. It has pushed us to reflect on our lives, on what it’s really important. A time to appreciate the smallest things of life. A time to reflect on humanity.”

Best memory so far?

“I have so many memories! I have met so many people. I have travelled in so many countries, worked with so many important artists, designers, photographers... But if I have to pick up just one, it would be when I met for the first time Yves Saint Laurent and the way he looked at me, with his genuine elegance and kindness.”

What is the secret to your success?

“My secret? Happiness! Always looking at the good part of things!”

Alek Wek's collaboration with Weekend Max Mara is available from today.