Durban - The Pre-Raphaelites, Salvador Dali and Gustav Klimt, are among his favourite artists, but fashion designer Joel Janse van Vuuren is a bit of an artist himself.

He made his national debut in 2010 with a collection inspired by ink on folded paper, and is one of six finalists in the inaugural 2012 SA Fashion Week Renault New Talent Search competition, which takes place next month.

Janse van Vuuren grew up in Pinetown with his ceramist father and schoolteacher mother and went to school in Kloof.

A gap year after high school working in a fashion store brought him to the conclusion that clothing and its construction was for him.

He bagged the prestigious Emma Smith Award at the Durban University of Technology and did well in competitions at the Vodacom Durban July before heading to Jozi to “embrace fashion as art”.

Describing his 2010 ink-blot collection, he says: “I searched for a method of design that was both random, non-restrictive and would produce garments that were creative from the outset of the design process.

“In my exploration of this process I came across Rorschach’s ink blots, which sparked the idea of creating fashion illustrations from ink blots.”

Janse van Vuuren used a variety of mediums, from acrylic paint to gouache and ink, placed on a page and flattened with another page on top of it or folded, both of which created interesting shapes that could later be transformed into fashion designs.

“Once the paint and ink had dried on all the pages, I placed a figure into the ‘paint blot’ shape to create a fashion silhouette,” he says.

“I did not want to allow thought or logic to dictate the figure and the design, so I allowed myself a brief 20-second window in which to draw the figure before moving on to the next paint blot page.

“Restricted logic and any design knowledge was put aside while I attempted to access my unconscious and allowed for truly random and creative designs to unfold.”

Janse van Vuuren calls it the cycle of “order and chaos”. The media called it a coup.

In a copy-cat industry, originality is scarce. The brightly dip-dyed colours of the 27-year-old’s parachute silk collection were invigorating on the ramp.

Just a few years later that platform and positive press – along with hard work – have put Janse van Vuuren in business. He has a steady clientele in Johannesburg and stocks a boutique store called Egality. His aim is to spotlight designers who are carving out a niche for themselves and hopefully elevate their careers.

Like art, Janse van Vuuren’s work captures emotions. Here’s hoping the audiences at the up-coming show will be moved. - The Mercury