Vagus Magazine Fall 2021 Feature Story
Elise Mesner is a photographer, creative director, and entrepreneur, whose work is characterized by fruit, bursts of colour, and intriguing angles.
Her photography work spans the industries of Fashion, Fine Art, Commercial, Product, and Photo-Journalism. Currently, she splits her time between New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, and Coachabomba for work. This fall, she will launch her clothing line LELLOPEPPER (@lellopeppers), a sustainable knitwear brand which she describes as "A body of art that encapsulates an evolving window into the world that I love that’s both earth-conscious and kind to all".
What do you aim to express through your creative direction?
The dance between being tuned in and dishing out ideas like a scientist where inspiration and generation are in a continuous bubble bath together. I aim to keep everything linked to nature through creative direction.
When did you begin taking photographs?
In my past life, pre-cell phone era, you could find me working the 9-5 in accounting and in my free time creating art. I was heavily involved in the Detroit art scene and had many painting shows/installations at underground galleries, museums, and music venues. Lots of innovative treasure spaces blending art and immersive activities all over Detroit and I was happy to be a part of it. I’d sell pieces and then wish I had photos of the paintings.
Around 2010, I bought my first Canon solely to take high resolution photos of my paintings so I’d have a portfolio/record of sold art… I couldn’t set the camera down. I hadn’t intended on literally switching from painting to photography but it naturally progressed and has become my constant companion. I found myself enjoying the journey into photography. Almost 15 years later, I’m staying in the zone with photography but plunging back into painting once again and it feels really good. I’ve noticed that the camera itself has really trained my eye into seeing things a particular way with a sense of zoomed in curiosity. I’ll be incorporating mix-media art into my photography and sharing with the world this FW21.
What inspired you to create your fashion brand “LELLOPEPPER”?
I wanted to expand a new body of art into a brand. Welcoming the world to wear sustainable art. Artwork in the forms of knitwear, paintings, vintage revamps, sculpture… so much to share.
What sparked your interest in the fashion industry?
I feel there’s room for more ethical, wearable, sustainable art in this world. We need it, the entire globe needs it. Our climate is in crisis and that’s a stark reality. I’d like to make a difference where I can across many mediums using upcycled materials, found objects, and processes that are kind and mindful of our earth’s resources.
What is the meaning of the name “LELLOPEPPER”?
I always enjoy word-smithing and often name photo shoots and various projects with a colour and a food item smooshed together into one word. I came up with Lellopepper mostly because I love the way it sounds and how it makes your tongue move first with “lello” and then your lips bounce on “pepper”. Visually love the double LL and the double PP and if Lellopepper was a colour/flavour it would be a soft yellow with spotted black pepper spots.
What is the importance of having sustainability at the forefront of your brand and what does sustainable clothing mean for you?
I was soooo beyond inspired by reading Neil deGrasse Tyson’s books over the course of the pandemic and his quote “we are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.” sings to me. Sustainability is at the heart and core of everything I’ll be creating for LELLOPEPPER. Ethical and sustainable fashion go hand-in-hand. Clothing that is designed, distributed, manufactured and used in ways that are environmentally friendly and mindful means everything to me and I want to take part in doing good for the planet.
What is the significance of fruit items shown throughout your brand?
I just follow the little voice inside my heart. I have no clue why I’m obsessed with fruit.
I trace this all back to my first watercolor painting in kindergarten - it was all fruit and I remember associating colours with fruit as a child. Instead of “yellow” it was “banana” to me. But the significance is beyond me.
Talk about some of the items you’ll be offering:
Handmade knitwear (hand-dyed, plant fiber dyes). Revamped vintage goods. Body art. I even made a “Marshlello” pillow that’ll add some dreaminess to Zzzs. Handmade one-of-a-kind vegan leather shoes! Hand-made cotton garden gloves dyed with beets and strawberries. Hats made from recycled bottles. Things you can wear that look like spun sugar. There’s so much cool stuff all lined up to sprinkle out this F/W21.
You’ve also taken inspiration from animals and other life forms to design clothing items, such as the “snake crop” and “scallop swirl body piece”. What was it like to find inspiration through these forms and develop it into a tangible/wearable item of clothing?
I had so much fun knitting, sewing, and hand-dying the snake crop tops. I hope people find it charming and I can’t think of a better inspiration than nature itself.
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
I’m certainly a curious lady and one creation leads me into another honey pot of curiosity. I can get an overload of too many incoming ideas. I’ve learned to wind down, slow down, take deep breaths, and understand the importance of writing on a daily basis to unclog the idea pool. Lots of Thich Nhat Hanh meditation practices are so helpful, especially when juggling multiple creative projects.
The LELLOPEPPER shop will launch in Fall/Winter 2021.
This interview was originally published in Issue 3 of Vagus Magazine: Restoration & Elevation (October 2021).