“In this industry one day you are in, and the next you are out.”
I am proud to announce that I am one of the Cape Town-based fashion designers, originally from Kathu in the Northern Cape, selected as one of the 12 aspiring designers, from hundreds of entries, that is currently participating in the first season of Project Runway South Africa. This world famous reality show is on its 5th episode airing on DSTV Channel 161, Mzansi Magic on Tuesdays at 9:30pm (SA Time). Project Runway South Africa is proudly presented by Ndalo Pictures, the new multimedia division of Ndalo Media, in association with 4th Street Wine. Supported by Edgars, Kelso Beauty, TRESemmé, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, and Lexus. The production partner is Rapid Blue.
This premier fashion design contest is charting our journey as 12 aspiring fashion designers by putting our skills to the ultimate test. Each episode sees us, as contestants, creating garments restricted by a certain theme, budget, material and time. The tasks are stretching the boundaries of our passion, innovation, creativity and ingenuity.
My aim during the next few weeks is to create beautiful (quality, well-executed and innovative) clothes that empower the modern woman that wears them and evoke emotions of glamorous femininity with subtle modern elements that keep it relevant to current fashion trends. I believe that individuals that follow trends do not buy something purely out of necessity … they are buying into the brand to feel a sense of emotional connection, a status of some kind, or to belong to, or aspire to, a specific lifestyle.
As a contestant, I see the programme as a platform to create awareness around my brand as well as to show my unique skill-set as a couture designer and to be a pioneer in advocating that a fashion brand can truly only be successful when it is part of a sustainable industry that celebrates the skilled artisans ‘behind the seams’. This can be brought about by skills development, job creation, the elevation of less privileged communities, and the preservation of the unique craftsmanship and skills of tailoring & dressmaking, that in the fast-paced modern world of technology are under threat.
Challenge 1: ‘Create an ensemble that reflects your aesthetic as a designer, as well as the specific challenge theme.’
Location: Constitution Hill, Theme: Freedom
This was my first visit to Constitution hill, and it evoked a lot of emotions in me as a South African designer. This national heritage site brought to my attention that I needed to acknowledge the struggle, violence and great sadness of the past, in order to be able to celebrate the positive changes of the present and to preserve our country’s constitution and uniquely diverse heritage for future generations. This site was once a women’s prison (Winnie Madikizela Mandela was incarcerated here), but today it represents FREEDOM, and with my ensemble this was exactly what I wanted to create – a juxtaposition of contrasting elements that are in harmony. The colour combination (opposites of the colour spectrum), the silhouette (fitted, yet shapeless) and the design elements (strong structure with feminine frill details) brought all of the above to life.
Challenge 2: ‘Create a fashionable ready-to-wear ensemble inspired by the streets, people and shops of the Maboneng Precinct.’
Location: Maboneng, Theme: Electric Jungle
I loved the eclectic nature of this theme, and that it was all about COLOUR! We were handed cameras and had to capture vibrant, colourful and interesting elements, while walking the bustling streets of Maboneng, and then use our photos as inspiration for our ensembles. My look was inspired by the many retro thrift stores located in this area as well as the amazing street art. My muse – THE MABONENG COOL GIRL! She is young, self-empowered, chic and effortless. My biggest challenge was to create this look from only 1.5m of a very narrow lace-like fabric, due to a limited budget, with various colours of bias binding and multi-coloured metal zips! The OUTCOME was just gorgeous, way better than I could have ever have imagined.
Challenge 3: ‘Create a ballgown for the red carpet using recyclable materials – The ULTIMATE unconventional challenge.’
Location: Menlyn Park Shopping Centre, Theme: Unconventional
This challenge was pure magic and we could freely make use of a glue gun! Suddenly we were acutely aware of the competitive nature of this competition as we had to race towards heaps of recyclable materials at the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre and collect whatever we could lay our hands on. There was a lot of grabbing, pushing and shoving. I ended up with a bag filled with cold drink cans, plastic woven bags and paper. My aim was to create a couture dress that looked expensive, polished and wearable. The result was just breathtaking. I styled my model in a very demure manner to add a soft, gentle and feminine element to the over-all look. I really took Enhle Mbali Maphumulo’s comments to heart, she said ‘I think your dress is the perfect synergy of yourself, your personality as a designer, the model and the dress. It worked so perfectly. It was one the first dresses to come out and it opened the show up so well. It is beautiful.’
Challenge 4: ‘Create an outfit for Thandiswa Maswai’ to wear on stage, when she performs at an all women’s music festival.’
Location: The Soweto Theatre, Theme: Steam punk meets Afro-futurism.
Another first, a visit to the beautiful Soweto Theatre and, to top it off, to meet one of our country’s most celebrated female Jazz artists – Thandiswa Maswai, Aka ‘KING THA’. She said, ‘Make me an outfit; make me look good…don’t mess around.’ The ultimate task was to design her a stage outfit that she would wear to an all women’s Jazz festival later this year, inspired by Steam Punk and Afro-futurism. I was humbled by resident judge, Noni Gasa’s comment about my final runway ensemble, ‘You took us back to the future with this look’.
Challenge 5: ‘Create an high-fashion outfit for a Destiny Magazine shoot inspired by the powerful women in your life.’
Location: Braamfontein, Theme: Women’s month
This was a very emotional episode, as we got a surprise visit from the women that inspire us in our lives. From the second Lerato Kganyago announced that there were special women there, I started crying. The mere fact in knowing that there was someone (Mother, sister, friend or muse) that we had not seen in about 3 weeks, because we were totally secluded and cut-off from our loved ones, was just overwhelming. I was very grateful to have one of my closest friends, Ivanette Britz, arrive on set. Ivanette is a true friend, muse, confidante and also a fellow designer! She is a friend that celebrates by victories, but also encourages me when I lose. This visit uplifted my spirit and brought me a fresh perspective which I took into the competition. My main goal for this challenge was to stay true to my aesthetic as a designer, which is feminine, modern and glamorous.
Let’s celebrate ALL the wonderful WOMEN that inspire us, not only for one day, but EVERYDAY!