Kornelia Lohynova, in short Nela is a 21 years old free-minded girl from Slovakia, who has moved to the Canary Islands one year ago and has lived there ever since. She has been living a happy life, exploring the coasts of the beautiful island, and moreover, making her own (mostly crochet) clothes by which she wishes to inspire other people to care more about our planet and get to know the truth about the cruel fashion industry. Her own brand Lo.Ko design serves as an inspiration to people who love to be surrounded by nice things, while also keeping in mind the impact clothing industry has on the environment.
In the following interview, she talks about fashion and where she gets her inspiration from, the importance of caring for our environment, healthy living and how to find your own happiness.
D: Heyy how was your day?
N: It was good thanks. My boyfriend is just making a dinner for us. Can’t wait.Haha
D: What is that you’re having?
N: Some fish and a salad I think.
D: Oh cool, I will try to not let you starve and be as specific as possible.
N: That’s okay, go on.
So tell me, why did you move to the Canary Islands?
I’ve always wanted to run away, to live somewhere else. I’ve spent my whole life in Bratislava, and a few years in Brno, Czech Republic, but I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world. This just seemed like a great opportunity to leave and explore a different way of living.
You used to study there right? In Brno?
Yes, I was, but at some point, I realized it wasn’t making me happy and giving me what I wanted so I stopped.
So what did you do then?
I worked in a small shop making longboards together with my boyfriend and later we moved back home. After some while, we decided to move to this beautiful island- Lanzarote and start fresh.
So you live there together?
Yeah. We wanted to go somewhere where it’s hot because we always felt too cold back home. The Canary Islands were definitely a good idea.
So do you like it there? The place, the people? Are you glad that you swopped the “normal life” for the ocean life?
Yes, oh my god. I can’t even imagine living somewhere else anymore. Every day feels like in a movie. It’s unbelievable; the sunsets, the environment. It’s so magical. You can feel the energy of the ocean and the strength of nature every day and you realize how small and irrelevant you are in this big world. I am very happy here.
So what type of environment and nature is there where you live? Beaches and lot of plantation, or more like wilderness, rocks and cliffs?
There is a lot of beaches and sand, as well as volcanic rocks and mountains. That’s why I consider it magical because I feel like in the fairy tale The Little Prince. I can’t even describe it, but you can feel the energy coming from everywhere, mostly the ocean. Because the island itself is surrounded by the sea, you can often see the waves crashing against the shore at a huge speed. Most importantly, you learn how to live together along with nature and the moon and you become a part of it.
Can you tell the readers how did you start crocheting? Who inspired you to do it?
Me. It started when I got dreadlocks and I used to repair them by myself. One day I went to the shop to buy a new hook because my old one broke and I saw all the wool there so I couldn’t resist. I bought one ball and took it home with me, to see if there’s anything I can do with it.
And how did you learn the actual crocheting? The movements and everything? Did you look it up on the internet?
Not really. My grandma used to teach me how to crochet when I was a little girl, but I never really liked it. I considered it a very old school and not very cool since it’s something old people do in their free time. That’s why it’s an irony that I got into it. One time I just took the hook and the wool and I started crocheting. I don’t even know how I did it, I just assumed that’s how it’s supposed to be. Later I went to that shop again and I asked the lady who worked there if that’s the right way to do it, showing her my work and she said yes. After that, I only watched a few youtube tutorials on how to do some special movements but that’s about it. Maybe I had the skills in my nature because my grandma was a tailoress, but it’s not a hard thing to learn anyway. At least it wasn’t for me. Practice makes perfect, and when you learn the basics and you’re patient, you are set to a good start for creating amazing pieces.
So you got really hooked to it? Well, obviously, you did because you’ve made so many clothes already… is it your passion?
Yes. It’s my hobby and a passion and I do it wherever I go. I am very hyper and I can’t just sit on my ass, even if I am just waiting for a bus, I need to do something with my hands. Some people smoke or play with their hair, I crochet.
What types of clothes and things do you make by crocheting?
Everything. Whatever you want, I can make it. The piece of clothing I do the most is underwear because it’s the easiest and most comfortable as well as the most usable thing. Bikini, dresses, backpacks, dresses, sweaters. I also make accessories like necklaces and bracelets, from what I find laying around on the beaches like seashells and volcanic rocks. In spring there is a lot of flowers and natural colors blooming everywhere around too. I use them to color my clothes with them.
How long would you say one sweater takes you to make?
Uf.. A lot of time. Approximately three weeks. But before, there is the colouring process, which takes the most time. You have to prepare the textile for colouring and then you have to colour it- this process takes around two weeks from the overall time.
So when it comes to colouring, you’re talking about the crochet or the textile?
Everything. I buy clean, natural cotton or a textile and then I colour it according to my own, or my customer’s taste.
In the area you live in, is there a shop where you can buy the wool and hooks?
No, I don’t think so, or I haven’t found one yet. All my wool comes from a sheep farm from Slovakia. Everything is natural. I don’t want any living creature to suffer for my hobby.
Where does all your inspiration come from?
From the nature that’s surrounding me and from traveling. Anywhere I am, at home in Slovakia or here, everything brings some inspiration to me. But water and the moon inspire me the most. I love watching the stars and the moon at night.
How much does such a wool cost you? Let’s say if you are making one pair of bikini?
Hm..the material is around 10 euro for one pair of a bikini. However, when I am doing a sweater, the material varies and therefore the price does too. For sweaters, I use warmer fabric such as alpaca or yak and that’s something totally different. One ball of alpaca wool costs around 10 euro. The sheep wool is much cheaper. I would say 40 euro for one sweater, not counting all the effort I made to colour it and make it.
So the price differs mostly according to the type of wool?
Yes. The material plays the most crucial part in the price of the product.
Can you describe me the process of colouring? I can’t quite imagine it.
I take the colour from plants, flowers, stems, fruit, and vegetables. I put the natural ingredients in a pot together with the textile I want to colour and I let it cook for some time to let the color dissolve. This process takes quite a lot of time.
That sounds cool. You recently created a website for your designs right? Do you use it to sell your clothes there? Like a shop?
Yes, my brand is called Lo.Ko DSGN, it’s good to have a name so people can remember it easily. It’s made from my name’s first two letters Lohynova Kornelia. I don’t have an e-shop straight on my website because I didn’t want it that way; for people to shop there like on some other High Street retail site. If anyone wants something from me, they can find my contact there and they can ask me for custom orders. It’s more like a gallery of my work, but every piece I make is custom made and different from the previous one.
I just don’t want it to be a shop itself, to make a big profit. I don’t want to keep making clothes while people are browsing my site, deciding whether they want something or not. The meaning behind my work is aimed to be different.
Have you ever sold something other than through Facebook or your website? On a flea market or something like that? Fashion bazaar? Something in real life?
Yes, I have been to fashion market in Prague, called Mint market. But I don’t want to do that ever again. I don’t want to be a shop where people come and dig through the clothes I made. I wasn’t enjoying it, waiting there for people to buy something from me. Going around and wanting to buy as much as possible for as cheap as possible. If someone wants something, just write me an email or add me on Facebook and I make it custom and original for them.
That’s great that you think like this, that you don’t want to mass produce clothes and you are eco-friendly. Most of the clothes you wear you always make yourself?
Of course, because I know how it’s made and that there are no little children in developing countries suffering because of it. I don’t want to support these kinds of things, nor other people to support it. That’s the message I am trying to spread among my friends, family, and public as well.
Do you ever buy clothes in stores?
No haha never. It’s been like 5 years already. I used to buy clothes in second-hands at first, but no not anymore. I don’t want to support the big companies who make so many cheap clothes.
So you make everything yourself? Underwear, t-shirts, shoes, even socks?
Yeah haha. Actually, socks are the only thing I can’t make. I usually don’t even need them, because the summer here lasts for 7 months and I walk barefoot. I wear the socks I’ve got before I started making my own clothes, so quite a long time ago. In winter I wear one pair of vans because I have to and I’ve had them for at least 5 years now.
You talked to me before about “crochet” clothing that’s sold by High Street retailers like HM and Zara. What do you think about that?
What do I think? That it’s fake and it demotivates me making my own. They tell you it’s crochet and everything but it’s not because crochet means that someone made it with their hands. “Boho clothing” as they call it was the trend of last summer so people were buying it like crazy, but that’s the thing I am trying to avoid, the stupid trends. They only last for a while and it causes all the bad in the world.
Retailers throw new trends in front of people every two months and people buy as much as they can, and then after two months, there comes another trend and people feel like they have to have that too. The worst about the crochet trend was, that machines were used to make it, not real people. If someone had to actually crochet them, it would cost the companies a lot of money. This was they can produce cheap clothes on an every-day basis.
What other things related to fashion industry make you angry?
Another thing I don’t like about these retailers is, how they misunderstood the word and the meaning of cotton. The cotton in most of the developing countries is not organic but genetically modified because they use various chemical sprays on the crops, which makes them grow faster. It’s simply a fake cotton.
Well, it is cotton but not naturally grown.
Yes. And it also feels different on your skin. The organic cotton is the real one, which should be used in every piece of clothing. The worst thing is, that it has awful consequences on people who live on those farms where these sprays are being used. I’m talking mostly about Bangladesh, China and Africa.
An interesting movie to watch about this issue is the movie called The True Cost, which shows the real face of the fast-changing fashion industry. People who live in these villages where the pesticides are used, often suffer chronic diseases and their children are born with handicaps, like they used to in Chernobyl, back in the 90’s. Almost every single one is born with either a physical or psychical difficulty. That’s when it gets serious. Not only that you wear that shit on your skin, but that people actually suffer and die for the clothes you wear. It makes me sad, it really does and that’s why I am trying to make things different.
Would you consider yourself living healthy? I get the feeling that because you make your own clothes, you help the environment and you’re strong ecological spirited, you also eat and live healthily. Is that true?
Yes. You can’t just do one thing and not the other. These things go hand in hand. If you care about your outside, then you have to care about your inside too. Well, mostly about the inside. I used to live much worse, eat whatever and I don’t want to do it to my body anymore.
So you wouldn’t go to Mcdonalds to get food or some other fast food even if you were totally broke?
No, haha. I excluded McDonald’s from my diet a long time ago. By eating fast food you only support the big firms and the shits they are putting into you. These big companies only want to make money out of it, on us and they are using loads of plastic in the process of making the food. It’s horrible. I don’t support restaurants either. You ever wondered how much water goes to waste there? And food too, it makes me sick. People go to a restaurant to have dinner and then leave half of the plate full. Fuck the logic right? I buy fruit and veg from local farmers and little shops and I drink a lot of smoothies which help me to stay energized during the day.
Are you a vegetarian?
No, I eat fish and all sea creatures. I don’t want to exclude anything that’s healthy from my diet.
So I asked you about crocheting, but you also make clothes by recycling the old ones, or sewing right?
Yes. I sew and I recycle old clothes. I also asked some friends and family to give me their old bed sheets and I remade them into dresses. Or I cut colourful t-shirts and I knit different rucksacks, mats, and home accessories.
How do you put it together? Do you glue it?
Yeah or sew it together. You can do anything with old clothes and it’s very useful. I’ve done so many things for our apartment already.
Tell me, who takes such beautiful pictures of you in the clothes you make?
Usually me with a self-timer. Haha. Or a friend of mine.
Really? They look like professional adverts.
You think so? That’s great, thank you.
How much does such a piece costs from you? Approx.?
The prices vary on the material and the time I have to put into it. I am always willing to go the extra mile to make everything feel comfortable and perfect for my customer. Small things start at 10 euro and go up with the size and amount of wool used.
So when you make something for someone and it gets destroyed or torn, can people take it back to you and you repair it?
Yes of course. If something is wrong with the clothes, or you put on or lose weight I can adjust it according to your wish. Luckily no one got back to me with complaints yet, because I live far so it would take more time to get the item back.
You were telling me about the ocean and the beaches, and how dirty it actually is.
Yes, it’s horrible. The plastic is everywhere. Because the Canary Islands is a luxury travel destination, you’d say the beaches will be remarkably clean and beautiful, but it’s not true. Near the hotel resorts, the sea and the beaches are being constantly cleaned in order to stay pretty, but if you ever go outside this zone, you’ll find out how dirty the ocean actually is. Whenever I go for a walk, I see tons of plastic being washed ashore and some of it even merges with the rocks and nature. It becomes a part of it. It’s sad that people don’t care about our planet.
I even made these plastic bottle holders from old t-shirts so that people can take drinks to the beach or for trips and not leave them there because of not having anywhere to put it into. This way they can just carry them in a cute little handbag.
Do you have any inspirational message for people who are reading this?
Live and let live. Also, there is no need to wait to start turning your life around and making changes. You can always be the first one to inspire people by the things you’re doing and actions you’re taking. Be the one who makes the change. I also wish for the world to wake up and be more kind to those in need. To have quality over quantity and for people to stop being so materialistic.
If you liked this article and you want to support Nela, don’t forget to share and comment.
If you’d like a custom design made only for you, contact Nela via Facebook on Lo.Ko DGN or through her website http://kornelialo.com/