Masks have long been associated with myriad cultural functions from ceremonial rites and dramatic performances to defense and protection from disease or inclement weather. For London-based designer Kamila, who works under the name Mila Textiles, ski masks—also known as balaclavas—provide a fitting canvas for elaborately embroidered, wearable compositions.
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A 19th century military staple, balaclavas saw a sartorial rise in 2021. The practical knitwear item takes its name from the Ukrainian port town of Balaclava, a key battle site during the Crimean War of 1854, and in the 20th century, the garment became a trope in movies and television depicting burglaries and heists. Kamila’s colorful reinterpretation of the mask relaxes these associations. “I want my work to make my audience feel happy, forget about their stresses for a bit, and chill,” she tells Colossal.
Kamila draws inspiration from her local environment, sharing that “living in London means I am constantly surrounded by events, museums, and galleries where I can take pictures of anything that gives me creative ideas.” The vibrant hues and textures of coral and marine life are another influence, especially in the context of cartoons. “I try to include creatures in my designs because this brings comfort to me, almost as cartoons would,” she says. Bright colors are paired with beads and layers of thread to produce playful patterns around the wearer’s eyes.
In addition to balaclavas, Mila Textiles produces meticulously embellished bags and pouches featuring faux fur and patterned fabrics. New items are listed in the shop on her website, and you can follow more of her work on Instagram.
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