In last week’s installment of Fashion Decoded, Savoir Flair investigated five emerging fashion epicenters and the reason behind their rising excellence in design and commerce. This week, we take a closer look at the first country on the list, South Africa, and the brands in the region that are making a difference on the fashion and sociopolitical landscape.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s fashion-design department has been an important incubator for South African talent. Many important regional designers have emerged from the department, like Celeste Lee Arendse, who launched her affordable, trendy womenswear line Selfi in 2009. Her digital prints and soothing neutral separates form the foundation for a solid wardrobe of statement pieces and classics. Reasonable prices, high-quality materials, and unique designs will have you coming back to Selfi time and again.
While Lukhanyo Mdingi’s minimalist aesthetic holds instant sartorial appeal, his surreal lookbooks are what really ignite the imagination. At the age of 23, Mdingi is a versatile designer who started out in womenswear and is currently working in menswear. Since he graduated from Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s fashion-design program a few short years ago, he’s been steadily winning accolades and acclaim from publications around the world. His work not only promotes his heritage with the use of native textiles and weaving techniques, but his lookbooks also celebrate the diverse “Rainbow Nation” culture of South Africa.
Marianne Fassler is known as the Vivienne Westwood of South Africa. Her quirky, colorful collections have dominated the country’s runways for the past thirty years, and she is one of the most notable figures to emerge from the region. The designer favors the elevation of traditional African aesthetics, and her creations are at once familiar and otherworldly, earning the nickname “Afrofuturism”. For brilliant prints and kaleidoscopic clothes with an edge, Marianne Fassler is destined to become your go-to brand.
Eleni Labrou of the Johannesburg-based label Akedo has learned how to turn vulnerable, honest, quirky, and peculiar design qualities into wearable womenswear collections that are among the most fashion forward in all of South Africa – which is why it’s this brand you’ll see worn by the FROW attendees at South Africa Fashion Week. By blending texture, print, and gleaming fabrics into easy-to-wear separates, Akedo strikes the perfect balance between the “weird” and the sophisticated.
If the name Sindiso Khumalo sounds familiar, it could be because the African textile designer already has plenty of fans in the Middle East. Khumalo has spent her career focusing on how to turn sustainable materials into fashion-forward creations for women around the word. Bold hues and unique patterns are part of the brand’s South African heritage, but its outlook is a global one. Women everywhere respond positively to Khumalo’s message of sustainability, to her commitment to working with NGOs to develop her textiles, and to her beautiful, vivid collections.
Lisa Folawiyo possesses multi-faceted talent, which has resulted in distinct womenswear and accessories lines that exalt Ankara fabric, created by wax-resistant dyeing techniques. Her modern spin on traditional African pattern design combines a street-style aesthetic with gorgeous hand-crafted embellishment, and her unique, beautiful collections earned her the African Design Award in 2012. After ten successful years in the industry as a self-taught artist, Folawiyo has recently transformed her ‘Jewels by Lisa’ line into an eponymous umbrella brand that includes ready-to-wear, an affordable diffusion line, household goods, nail polish, and more.
Punk & Ivy
Punk & Ivy is South Africa’s cool, cult youth label, oriented toward the type of gender-blending clothes which are made from local materials. Their unisex aesthetic and commitment to sustainability means millenials of all backgrounds have flocked to the brand. It makes sense that Punk & Ivy would attract the jetset crowd, as the brand is the brain child of two Joburg “It” kids, Bianca Miles Sibiya and Khaya Bhubesii Sibiya, who were known for their stylish ways long before they launched their label. Not only are the Sibiyas the designers behind one of South Africa’s coolest labels, but they also run Punk & Ivy out of an impossibly hip “Motique” (mobile boutique).
Check back next month when we investigate the top emerging designers from Brazil.