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'Musically, I try to create worlds that don't have limits... and I think clothes can be just as fun'

Singer-songwriter Laura Mvula talks to Prudence Wade about her ever-changing personal style and the icons she looks up to

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Bold looks: Laura Mvula isn’t afraid to experiment

Bold looks: Laura Mvula isn’t afraid to experiment

Laura wearing a hooded outfit to a 2016 event

Laura wearing a hooded outfit to a 2016 event

Press Association Images

Laura in a long white coat at the Brit Awards in 2013

Laura in a long white coat at the Brit Awards in 2013

Press Association Images

Bold looks: Laura Mvula isn’t afraid to experiment

Bold looks: Laura Mvula isn’t afraid to experiment

Press Association Images

Grace Jones

Grace Jones

Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae

Press Association Images

Bold looks: Laura Mvula isn’t afraid to experiment

You could never accuse Laura Mvula of being a cookie-cutter popstar. The singer-songwriter's unique style goes hand-in-hand with her soulful music, which has already garnered her two Mercury Prize nominations.

Muvla credits her inventive sense of fashion to her parents, who she says "never discouraged me from experimenting with style".

Whether it's off-duty or performing, Mvula is constantly pushing the boat out with fashion, which she sees as yet another outlet for self-expression.

How she describes her style...

Mvula thoughtfully describes her fashion as "constantly changing". She remembers a time when her god-daughter was about seven years old and was surprised by her casual outfit choice. The singer says with an explosive laugh: "I was wearing jeans and she said, 'Look, auntie Laura's wearing normal clothes for once'."

It's true that you're far more likely to see Mvula in sequins and a cape than jeans, but that's because she thinks there are no limits in fashion. "I like to think that, musically, I try to create worlds that don't have limits and I think clothes can be just as fun."

Mvula is currently working on her third album - a follow-up to the widely acclaimed Sing to the Moon in 2013 and 2016's The Dreaming Room - and she sees a new era of fashion on her horizon. "There's so many places I want to go with clothes that I can't wait," she says. "Especially with this new record I'm working on, I think I'll have a new opportunity to do exciting things with fashion."

Her style icons...

Mvula's fashion inspirations are just as eclectic as her personal style. She was recently looking at singer and actor Janelle Monae's Instagram page and says: "It gives me so much courage and this passion, that's really infectious, to try all kinds of things - to experiment with shape, to be fearless with it."

Again, Mvula's sense of style is intrinsically linked to her work, she says, adding: "That's what music calls me to do - to be fearless and to be exactly who I am in the moment and to express that with strength and power, so I will wear bold colours and I will wear a wig if I feel like it, or I will be bald if that's what I feel."

Another hugely influential sartorial figure is Grace Jones, who she grew up with "in my subconscious, so she will never leave me as one of my number one inspirations". You can definitely see echoes of Jones in Mvula's wardrobe, particularly with her hooded on-stage outfits.

Then there's actor Lupita Nyong'o. "I just love her red-carpet style," enthuses Mvula. "She takes everything to another level." All of these style icons are mavericks in their own way.

Mvula calls it an "interesting time" to be young, black and female, saying: "I see the vibrancy of that, this new narrative where we are being heard.

"Things are changing and it feels like some kind of revolution - and all off that is reflected in clothes and fashion."

Mvula knows she needs to carve out her own niche in fashion. "Solange is a great example, with all the things she's doing. I always think she's amazing," she says. "I want to do it, but you can't just copy it - you want to find a way to be inspired by it."

Her favourite looks...

One of Mvula's all-time favourite outfits was for the Brit Awards in 2013, which was also her first red carpet event.

"I was wearing this white shoulder-to-floor oversized coat," she reminisces. "It was off-white... just the simplicity of it. It made me look like I was six feet tall. I felt like I was very effortlessly striking, which is something I enjoy when I'm covering everything up."

This fits into her ethos around red-carpet dressing. "When all eyes are on you, you could be wearing the most amazing thing that looks great on the hanger or in pictures, but in the flesh, if you're not comfortable, you won't wear it well," she says.

"That's something I'm still learning, so I try to make sure I feel good, regardless of what it looks like. That's why I end up wearing a lot of things that feel good on the skin but aren't too tight necessarily."

Another standout outfit was her sequinned jumpsuit for the 2017 Ivor Novello Awards, which Mvula describes as a "Michael Jackson-inspired glitter suit". Mvula was watching the reality TV show The Great British Sewing Bee and spotted designer Chinelo Bally. They linked up and Bally ended up creating this for her.

Laura Mvula is working with Hotel Indigo on Clues to the Neighbourhood, a curated collection of artefacts which lets guests and visitors discover off-the-beaten path experiences

Belfast Telegraph