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Welcome to Krel’s World
Having access to Karelle Levy’s atelier is definitely a privilege, one that’s available to anyone willing to buy her knit garments that truly hug and celebrate the female body, or one of her surreal and kooky dolls! The sound of Maggie -her knitting machine- in the background is like a metronome setting the pace for an intimate and fun experience deciding what sexy dress, top, shorts -and so much more- make you feel like a goddess, one who accepts and loves herself.
WHEN YOU WERE A KID, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO BECOME?
I thought it was going to be an artist. I didn’t know what kind of artist.
WHAT GOT YOU CLOSE TO ART?
I grew up with a very artistic family. My dad is a doctor, but he’s also a musician and a painter. My mom was a fashionista. I used to tell my friends when I was little: ‘My dad is a doctor, and my mom goes shopping’, because she had a boutique where she sold European lines for kids.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN, WHERE IS YOUR FAMILY FROM?
I grew up here. We came to Miami when I was six, from Paris, where I was born. My mom was born in Sweden, of Polish-Jewish parents who were basically Holocaust survivors and refugees in Sweden. My dad will never admit that he’s Tunisian, he left when he was 17 because, as Jews, they were not accepted in Tunisia anymore. I come from a family of refugees.
HOW HAS THAT INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?
I’ve always had this fascination with the North African culture. But I also grew up with my mom, who was a needlepoint artist. She was a weaver when she was young. She knitted us sweaters; she was always really crafty. And my dad is super artistic, and they would collaborate on these things. Also, I didn’t get regular clothes, I got samples because my mom always had access to samples (through her store). I would get clothes nobody had because they were one of a kind. I also grew up going to like this little art camp in Hallandale. We were always encouraged to be artistic. And art was always a very prevalent thing in my life. I was always surrounded by art and fashion.
ARE YOU AN OUTCAST?
Always. For sure. Always and forever. I mean, I’m a knitter in Miami. And I had this weird upbringing because I am European and North African, and if I said that I was African, they would assume that I was black. I’ve always had this very strange relationship with identity because I might have been Jewish, but I was a different kind of Jew.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
It’s a guttural feeling. I feel like I need to make this piece that’s been in my head for a long time. Miami is a big inspiration; its nature, the way that people dress here, they really have no fear. You can be colorful, bold and sexy here. I think that as women in Miami we have permission to be as sexy as we want to be. It’s a blend between the heat and the Latin culture. So sexy and fierce. Owning it no matter your size. There’s some secret underground fueling. We definitely live in one of the sexiest cities in the in the world.
SO, YOUR GARMENTS CELEBRATE THE FEMALE BODY?
I definitely celebrate the female body and I celebrate everybody. I’m not a size zero, not even close to it. I’m more of a size 12. I’ve always been curvy. My body type doesn’t fit into regular clothes. So, because of that, when I started knitting, at first it was more like costumes and this kind of very theater kind of clothing, because it’s not really wearable. They were full body size, things that covered your entire body. I was a performance artist for a long time and those were performance art pieces I wore from head to toe, all knitted, so people wouldn’t see my identity. I’m a textile engineer, I design fabric. I did that for 20 years and I figured that there was a way to make fabric that was tubular. And because of the structure, no matter who wore it, or what the body type, it would always mold. The more you stretch it out, the shorter it gets. So, it’s not whether or not it fits, it’s whether or not you like how it fits.
WHAT’S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
A lot of times I don’t have an idea of what I’m making until I literally make it. I always design the fabric first, rather than the final piece. That’s very artistic in that way of creation. I want to play with these colors together and these materials together and these fibers together, and that’s always been fun.
WHO HAVE YOU DRESSED?
Alanis Morissette and Nicki Minaj. But I don’t really necessarily have dreams of dressing people. I’m not really that in tune with celebrities. I just do my thing and hope that people appreciate it.
WHO DO YOU DESIGN FOR?
This is not for the faint of heart. This is not for a woman who doesn’t want to be noticed. I hear it all the time: ‘Every time I wear your dress, I get compliments’. ‘If I want to get compliments, I wear your pieces’. These are bold and powerful women who are really confident in themselves and -in a way- exhibitionists. These are really sexy clothes that get attention. So, if you don’t want attention, don’t wear my clothes.
WHY DID YOU START CREATING YOUR DOLLS?
I started having all these scraps. So, if they were bigger, I would make them into my patchwork outfits or curtains. And if they were too tiny to make anything, I would start making what I called Nuggets, I shoved all the leftovers in them and would sew them up. It was like a little sculpture. Then I decided to make dolls. I did that with all my scraps. All of these dolls have yarn in them.
IS THAT’S WHAT MAKES YOUR BUSINESS ZERO WASTE?
Yes. Even my shopping bags are made out of fabrics that weren’t successful. Plus, I don’t buy one hundred kilos of anything. Where am I going to put it? I really buy very small. And that’s another way of just keeping it sustainable. I grew up that way a little bit. Having a family that survived a major war, Jews, you eat everything, you don’t leave anything. And having grown up going to Sweden almost every summer of my life, we recycled everything. We went to the recycling plant. This goes here. This goes there. There’s a place for everything. I always cared about the environment. And I thought that if I was going to have a company, that it should also care for the environment.
IS THE LACK OF ZIPPERS AND BUTTONS IN YOUR CREATION A CONSCIOUS DECISION?
Absolutely.
AND ALSO, PART OF YOU BEING A MINIMALIST?
Absolutely. I don’t do pockets either. Maybe one day.
WHAT DOES COLOR MEAN TO YOU?
Everything. Color is like a mood. It shifts like your moods. You can have mood swings and then you can also have a very somber mood. You can go dark or you can go for absence of color. I don’t have a favorite color. Rainbow is my favorite color. I just really love the way color can have relationships with each other. I think it’s everything.
YOU SAY THE FASHION INDUSTRY HASN’T ENTIRELY ACCEPTED YOU AND NEITHER HAS THE ART WORLD. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
I don’t like the box. The box doesn’t like me. Why would I fit in the box? The models who like it. Great. The ones who don’t. It’s fine. You don’t have to like it. Not everyone’s supposed to like what you do and not everyone’s supposed to get it either. It’s fine. I’m totally fine with that. There are so many people in this planet. I just need to get the attention of a few.
LAST QUESTION, WHY MIAMI?
I realized that, by being in Miami, and as many times as I dream about moving from here, this is really still my favorite place because there’s so many people from so many places and there’s so many shades from light to dark, there’s every shade. And so many different diversities. I really like that, because I feel like I fit in because nobody’s really from here. It’s like we’re made up of a city that is really from everywhere. Everyone is used to being from somewhere else.
WELL, WE’RE DEFINITELY GLAD YOU’RE NEARBY

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