Presidential collection on show at Fashion Week, writes Nontando
The Presidential brand is known for its luxurious, hand-painted silk batik prints and attention to detail at every level of each garment's creation.
But for the most part, it’s known for its connection to Nelson Mandela.
Mandela made the “Presidential Shirt”, fondly known as the Madiba Shirt, world famous when he wore one presented to him by brand founder Desré Buirski following his election to office in 1994.
On Friday, Presidential embarked on a new direction with a debut women’s collection for the African queen.
The “Presidential Queen” AW17 collection, together with their latest menswear range, was unveiled at SA Fashion Week (SAFW) in Joburg’s Hyde Park Corner.
Collaborating with Italian-born designer Pietro Giannuzzi, the presentation included 35 looks designed and made in South Africa.
The intricate detailing of the embellishments, beadwork and embroidery on each garment was impressive, as models walked down the catwalk in exquisite gowns, bomber and biker jackets, kaftans, pants, and silk and cotton shirts in African and Eastern prints.
The collection showed African haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces could be mixed and matched as separates or worn as sets.
Speaking after the show at a gathering of the Presidential team and special guests, brand founder Desré Buirski explained how Presidential was evolving to cater for men and women while sticking to its original aesthetic.
“I am so proud and so excited to be working with Giannuzzi… he is taking the brand to the next level.
He is inspired by the brand and the history of the shirts being connected to the history of Madiba.
“What is amazing is how he has managed to use our fabrics, not only combining Eastern fabrics with African, but also that he has brought in his Italian skill of design
"As much as he is proud to be associated with the brand, we are proud to have him on board with us.
“The existing team will remain and the heart of the shirts will remain. However, as we grow we will add new collections.
“We are so proud that we can represent the country in such a beautiful way,” Buirski said.
“We have been asked for years to produce womenswear and I never really wanted to do shirts for women as it was going to be too much of a duplication.
“We felt that this was the right time as we had Giannuzzi on board to bring in the Italian flavour with our fabrics, beaded details… the collection is absolutely stunning,” she said.
About his involvement, Giannuzzi says that being part of the already established brand as they embarked on a new journey and being entrusted with the task of producing the brand’s first women’s collection had been a huge honour.
“I was very proud to be asked to be part of the team and to design the 'Presidential Queen' collection.
“Before Presidential used to sell only shirts and now you can find jackets, dresses… It is a brand that is evolving.
“It is becoming younger, but is still inspired by the past and the great man Mandela,” he said.
Another milestone for Presidential is the bulk of their production is now being done by a local factory, thereby playing a big role in supporting the local fashion industry.
“Presidential Group took a decision to make the Presidential Shirt range in South Africa two years ago. Before that, the shirts were made abroad, now 80 percent of the shirts are made in Cape Town at Lontana Clothing.
“Our support of the factory has ensured it has continued operations in a very challenging economic environment,” said Giannuzzi.
“The craftwork in our range showcases South African talent.
“The skills are here, they just need to be found, harnessed and given an opportunity to shine.”
Buirski said: “What is also fabulous for us is that we are not just aiming to be a wonderful brand, we want to keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive.
“And in order to do that, it is not just by wearing shirts and these beautiful fabrics, but to actually create jobs by giving local fashion a bit of a boost.
“We are still doing all the shirts and we will keep the shirts coming in all different styles and fabrics, but adding other pieces makes the collection a bit broader.
“We felt that this was the right time because the brand needed to evolve and we would really love at some point to take the brand to the rest of Africa.
“But we first had to introduce the new collection because this is the heartbeat of our home and the heartbeat of Nelson Mandela,” added Buirski.
Celebrities and fashion influencers who attended the Presidential showcase included stylist Dumi Gwebu, TV presenter Mthoko Mkhathini and a photographer from According To Jerri, who all wore printed Madiba Shirts.
Information on Presidential visit
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