Cyril Naicker takes a look at South African designers making waves on the global stage.
Africa with its bursts of colour, rich textures and beautiful fabrics has long been a source of inspiration for designers from the Northern Hemisphere. Many have come in search of basket–weaving techniques; some have come to learn how print patterns are mixed and worn together.
Could it be that these designers came for something and leave with so much more? A sense of identity?
Discovering that although the continent of Africa is a developing one, with political uncertainty, its people hold the key to understanding what brings about a sense of belonging?
Could it be that many fabrics printed in Africa which tell amazing stories – stories of identity and belonging – offer solace at a time when the world is in flux and people are searching for meaning?
Not only are designers looking to us for inspiration; many top international fashion brands have opened stores in Africa looking to grow their markets.
South African Designers Doing It Big
Most recently South African designer Athi-Patra Ruga collaborated with Dior on their Lady Dior Art Bag, which will be available worldwide in 27 Dior boutiques and on dior.com from the beginning of the year.
Similarly, South African fashion designer Thebe Magugu won the LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) Prize, beating over 1 700 applicants, claiming the most coveted award in fashion for young designers.
Launched in November 2013, the LVMH Prize was created by the French luxury conglomerate to celebrate young fashion designers from around the world and help them propel their career. He won €300 000 (about R4,9 million) and has the privilege of a one-year mentorship program provided by a dedicated LVMH team.
Thebe tells the South African narrative past with his forward-thinking design and motifs for his primarily women’s ready-to-wear clothing that is global yet homegrown.
The beauty of all this is that a global brand like LVMH, which invests in local talent, benefits both the talent and the brand, as they are now going to be exposed to each other’s respective markets.
The talented young South African designer Rich Mnisi made South Africa proud after winning the Emerging Designer of the Year Award at the Essence Best in Black Fashion awards.
The inaugural Best in Black Fashion Awards took place in September last year, two days before the New York Fashion Week. Fashion knows no borders, and it is very clear that South African designers are taking the world by storm. The world now wants what’s on the African continent!
The list of local designers making their mark on the global stage is exciting. We have Sindiso Khumalo, who has created an exclusive collection for IKEA. Her work in the Africa Now presentation at the Milan Fashion week was a great success.
Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung is the first African designer to collaborate with H&M. Mantsho means “Black is beautiful” in Sesotho. This collaboration is a great achievement as the first South African label to do so in H&M’s 15 years of designer partnerships.
Another local designer that has understood the importance of international collaboration is Amanda Laird Cherry, whose Instinct brand was produced in Southern Africa and sold all over the world, with the majority of sales in North America.
She was appointed as design director and remained at Instinct for nearly 10 years. Most recently, Amanda received the award for Designer of the Year at the World Fashion Awards, celebrating the best fashion brands, designers and outlets from around the world.
“Those who think of clothing exclusively in terms of this or next season’s fashion are missing the point a little. The fabrics and the cuts we wear tell us about our society,” says.
In 2019, Editor of Vogue International Suzy Menkes brought her Condé Nast International Luxury Conference, the premier global event for luxury business and creative leaders, to Cape Town, South Africa. When she landed in Johannesburg, Suzy visited the studios of two of South Africa’s talented creatives, Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa and artist Nelson Makamo.
International Luxury Conference
The fifth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference examined the promise and value of the African market for the global luxury and fashion industry, and the power of the continent as a creative, manufacturing and retail hub.
The “Nature of Luxury” theme explored the artisanal skills and creative talent on the continent, whilst examining the broader landscape of the global luxury market, as well as sustainability.
During her stay in Cape Town last year, Suzy visited a few of our local fashion stores and she took to her Instagram account to applaud the work of Jasper Eales, who is a part of the Fashion Revolution South African team: “liking Sealand – a new store in Cape Town of up-cycling materials. The strong, sweet colours reminded me of something.”
Menkes explains that she has been advocating for the conference to come to Africa for some time now. “There has never been a conference that deals with the subject of luxury in the Sub-Saharan Africa. Many people couldn’t think of luxury and Africa in the same breath,” she says.
So why now? “The promise of Africa is such an important thing… It’s something that I have believed in for the longest time,” she says. The world is watching and we couldn’t agree more with Suzy’s remarks: “the promise of Africa is such an important thing.”