It’s an exciting time to be part of the South African fashion industry. Local designers such as Port Elizabeth-born Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa by Laduma and Adriaan Kuiters have become regular features on international fashion platforms, demonstrating to the world what South Africa has to offer.
However, many are unaware of the available talent for a number of reasons, including that the industry is saturated with international retailers and online shops.
This has left local designers, who often don’t have the resources for production and marketing, struggling to get exposure for their brands.
However, movements such as Wear South African (Wear SA), key in garnering support for locally produced apparel, have stepped in.
Wear SA is an initiative of the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers Union (Sactwu). The campaign encourages consumers to support local labels and brands created in South Africa by South Africans – from bags and shoes to jewellery and millinery, as well as inner and outer wear.
Each year, they host a Wear SA Fashion and All That Jazz Gala Dinner, where young designers are given an opportunity to showcase their latest designs.
This year the event, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, included established and up-and-coming designers, among them Bokang Lehabe of Bookha Creations, Jade Ashleigh of the Hive and the House of Wear SA brands: B.Zar and Democracy of Denim by Tamsyn Johannisen, Blue Collar White Collar by designer Paul van der Spuy, Magents by designers Didier XX and Tey Spanks and Relabelled.
School of fashion design FEDISA graduate Ashleigh’s collection was titled “Amara”, an African name for grace and elegance. A mix of cotton, linen and chiffon, and inserts of embellishments, the collection was inspired by nature and her travels.
“My base inspiration always comes from nature and this time it’s twisted with African flair and street fashion… The African prints and proteas have been sketched and worked in by myself and Di Christian; then hand painted and brought to life by the amazing team at African Sketch book,” says the 25-year-old.
Describing her label as “boho chic”, Ashleigh designs for those who love attention to detail, textures and the feel of the fabric. Someone who walks with grace and elegance, and loves the outdoors.
“I have always seen clothing as a means of art and not just a dress’,” she explains.
“I want to be part of a moment that inspires locals and creatives alike to support local manufacturing and skills, and use our African resources such as fabrics, beading, prints and crochet to make quality garments.”
Initiatives such as Wear SA provide an opportunity for young designers to showcase their labels on world-class platforms and spread the word of buying proudly South African products, says Ashleigh.
“We need more initiatives like this and more pop-up events in public spaces; having fashion shows as well as how was it made’ videos screening.
“We also need more funded co-ops in shopping malls marketing locally-made designs, skills, and labourers and telling their story in shop windows,” she says.
Lehabe’s interest in fashion started with a matric jacket that he designed and made and which became a hit in high school. Born in Ganyesa in the North West province, he describes himself as a shy, hard-working individual with a zest for life and an appetite for success.
Staying true to his aesthetic of uncommon fabrics, his pieces were made from cotton, printed bull denim and cotton twills.
“Being able to see my vision come to life and knowing that I was a part of the process is one of the things I enjoy about being a designer.
“I design for that young individual who is fashion conscious and who is not afraid to take risks when it comes to expressing their individuality through fashion,” explains Lehabe.
“Working for myself is not as glamorous as I thought it might be as it requires a lot of self-discipline and sacrifice knowing that you have to put in extra hours to achieve that goal.
“But in the end it is worth it when you see your dreams becoming a reality,” he says.
“It is always a good thing to see organisations such as Wear SA teaming up with small upcoming brands in support of locally made products, as this encourages young people like myself to grow our businesses and create more jobs and ultimately contribute to economic development.”
* For more information on the Wear SA initiatives, visit www.wear saofficial.co.za