28 Sep 2023 ///

Chapter 20 | South African Fashion Made Waves Internationally During September

As ‘Fashion’s January’ comes to a close and we brace ourselves for the finalé of Paris Fashion Week this weekend, this chapter of Interlude could only be dedicated to one subject; South African designers making waves internationally during September. From Viviers Studio and their third showcase at Milan Fashion Week, Celeste Arendse’s SELFI showcasing in New York City, to the incredible partnership between Tumi Buys’ The Fashion Firm SA, Mercedes Benz and 10 South African designers at Milan’s ‘The White Show’ – it’s suffice to say that South Africa is showing no signs of slowing our presence internationally. While we have never needed international recognition to affirm the creative ingenuity of South Africa, this kind of global exposure, networking, cultural exchange and market exposure are immeasurable additions to our local industry; nurturing the possibilities of designers in the present and the talent of the future, to experience the world as truly their stage. 

Let’s get into it.

The Fashion Firm SA is an institution at this point. Founded by financier and businesswoman Tumi Buys in 2015, the space serves as the ultimate enclave of networking, skill-set, resourcing and funding opportunities for South Africa’s fashion industry. Time and again, I speak to designers who express the disheartening truth that our industry lacks the resources and accessibility found in other parts of the world, generally fostered in other countries by government’s involvement in advancing design as a vehicle for social and economic change. Tumi Buys is that woman, though – having merged her asset finance background with a vision for equipping designers with a myriad of tools in order to see their brands flourish both locally and internationally.

BANTU in Milan photographed by Temblihle Menziwa, courtesy of @abantuinafrica IG & Floyd Avenue Apparel, partnership announcement with The Fashion Firm SA and Mercedes Benz, courtesy of @floydavenue and photographed by Taff Meda.
INGA AFRICA ‘Emazweni’ Collection, photographed by Taff Meda at The White Show in Milan & EG Jewellery ‘isiCholo’ Collection photographed by Grethe Rosseaux courtesy of @e.g.jewellery
Shelley Mokoena of CONNADE partnership announcement with The Fashion Firm SA and Mercedes Benz, courtesy of @connade_ photographed by Taff Meda & SASH SOUTH AFRICA Courtesy of @sash_southafrica IG.
Since 2019, The Fashion Firm SA has partnered with ‘The White Show’ (WHITE Milano), a significant fashion trade show within Milan Fashion Week, founded by Massimiliano Bizzi to provide a platform for emerging designers, connecting them with buyers and supporting Italian and international fashion through the same lens. This is a trade show to end all trade shows and plays a vital role in utilising the prestige of MFW in order to facilitate the growth and exposure of new talents and pushing the boundaries of design. The Fashion Firm has nurtured this relationship with stunning effect and this year, for Spring Summer 2024, the firm took 10 South African designers to WHITE Milano. 

Tumi’s incisive ability to create connections between industry players, enterprises and creatives has been instrumental in the international emergence of South African fashion; having initially begun with two designers in 2019, the partnership with MFW has become such a success that TFF was able to take 10 designers to Milan this year,  we approached SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency) as well as the Department of Small Business and they also gave us leads of designers that they’ve worked with. And then we sat down and chose our best 20 and we sent them through to the organisers in Italy and they would choose their best 10.” Tumi explained in her interview with Ntombi Khulu for TRUELOVE. 

The designers who showcased at WHITE Milano were Shelley Mokoena’s CONNADE, Inga Africa and their incredible, luxury leather goods, Floyd Avenue Apparel, architectural accessories brand E.G Jewellery, Lizah Chanda Crochet Collection, SASH South Africa, LAANIRAANI, ShweShweKini Active Wear, ABANTU. and Milano alumni, Wanda Lephoto. The group expresses a mixture of ready-to-wear, artisanal craftsmanship, accessories and activewear; a kind of sampling of the current climate in South Africa and the potential of various markets within South African fashion.

Lizah Chanda Crochet Collection, partnership announcement with The Fashion Firm SA and Mercedes Benz, courtesy of @lizahcrochetcollection IG & Shamyra Moodley of LAANIRAANI, partnership announcement with The Fashion Firm SA and Mercedes Benz, courtesy of @laaniraani and photographed by Taff Meda.
ShweShweKini partnership announcement with The Fashion Firm SA and Mercedes Benz, courtesy of @shweshwekini IG & ‘His and Hers’ Basotho inspired swimwear, courtesy of @shweshwekini
Wand Lephoto and The Fashion Firm SA Announcement for Milan Fashion Week, photographed by Taff Meda & Wanda Lephoto SS24 ‘PEOPLE’ photographed by Paul Shiakallis.
Then, VIVIERS returned for their second live showcase in Milan, following their debut last year in 2022. This year’s collection ‘RE-TRACE, RE-MEMORY, RE-SET, RE-CULTURE’ was supported by “SA Fashion Week and Polimoda, that through the Fashion Bridges- “I ponti della Moda” initiative have sustained the brand since April 2023. VIVIERS was  selected to join the 3rd edition of the program “Fashion Bridges – I ponti della moda”, an initiative created in collaboration with Polimoda, Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana – Milan (CNMI) and South African Fashion Week (SAFW), and with the support of the Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana (CFMI)”. Lezanne Viviers presented the collection as an incredible homage to the label’s network of artisans and collaborators, such as Hannelie Bekker from WRAPT contributing intricately knitted backdrops and lightweight deconstructed tops, Stephanie Bentum crafting unique felted fabrics inspired by celestial motifs, while The SA Marbling Company offered their natural pigments exploring our ‘intergalactic origins’. The collection also expressed its partnership with up-cycler Nutcase, using reclaimed aluminium cap lids collected from Johannesburg streets to create signature chains while collaborating with James Barry Slabbert to craft metal trinkets and talismans, blending the mystical and the collectible.

Lezanne’s cerebrally and cosmically informed design-mind was on full display this season; the very of the basis of the show was a mergence between the etheric, extra-terrestrial and craftsmanship – with VIVIERS on a clear road to harnessing consciousness as its primary methodology.

Viviers SS24 presentation looks by Eva Losada.
As some the signature and extensive VIVIERS SS24 show notes reads: 

“’Re-Trace, Re-Memory, Re-Set, Re-Culture’ serves as a canvas for unravelling the threads that bind our collective origin stories, inviting us to examine the interconnections between art, science, spirituality, and cultural heritage. Through an exploration of legends, archaeological discoveries, and visionary philosophy, this collection investigates how myths and shared narratives shape our understanding of our human evolution, foster unity, and inspire positive change. 

By engaging with the archeology like Homo Naledi and myths of Crystal Skulls, the concept of the Phoenix, and the visionary perspectives of thinkers like Oscar Wilde and Credo Mutwa, our collection contemplates the potential for collective transformation and cultural redefinition. In a world where past, present, and future intertwine, art emerges as a bridge that connects our shared history with our aspirations for a harmonious world.

The overall feeling is quite otherworldly. Re-imagined, Reclaimed Couture fabrics, combined with Vintage Silks, Cottons, Lamés and Synthetics are combined and juxtaposed with unique artisanal South African Wools, Mohair and a variety of crafted, experimental Suminigashi printed textiles. The inclusion of such a wide spectrum of fabrics, conceptually ties back our shared Origin story, that advocates unity in individuality, rather than separation.

Re-Trace, Re-Memory, Re-Set, Re-Culture represents key VIVIERS signature shapes and sculpted silhouette, this season re-imagined into the past-future. The trapeze shapes and silhouettes combined with our signature sculpted arch shapes, could be considered otherworldly or extraterrestrial in nature. The overall silhouette is powerful, yet not traditionally masculine, but rather more androgynous. The collection represents both the extreme masculine and the extreme feminine, combined commenting on the duality found within all of us. We visualise more inclusive shapes that are accommodating for most body types, disregarding gender.

The palette and textures of the collection is inspired by the James Webb telescope’s picture of newfound galaxies, planets and stars, directly opposed to Madre Tierra’s earthy rocks, sand, bones, fossils, crystals and gold. Some garment resembles the crater surfaces of planets like Mars and the moon or colours that mimic Jupiter, Saturn and our sun. Metallic hues represent our milky way and shooting stars, but also reference our ongoing obsession with Crystalline quartz and the metal Gold.

The collection represents both the extreme masculine and the extreme feminine, combined commenting on the duality found within all of us: Humans, Extraterrestrials, Heaven and Earth.”

Viviers SS24 presentation looks by Eva Losada.
Lastly but certainly not least, Celeste Arendse and her label SELFI were the first to showcase internationally this month –  in New York for NYFW. In partnership with wholesale platform The Folklore, SELFI presented its ‘SPIRIT BODY’ collection at the ‘The Folklore Connect NYFW Showroom’; a continuation of the label’s structural, minimalist repertoire – continually informed by natural fibres such as mohair and linens. This collection evoked San motifs, such as signature ‘San Dance’ artistic embroidery throughout the garments. Yes, master of slow and sustainable ready-wear, Celeste brought ancient and indigenous South African ingenuity to New York; incredible. The partnership with The Folklore and Spotify also advances the possibilities for South Africa’s design future as one that is fully supported on the international stage. Congratulations to everyone involved with South Africa’s presence in international fashion; we absolutely LOVE to see it! I urge you to keep a look at as the brands release their post-showcase notes, imagery and updates.
The Folklore Connect NYFW Showroom, courtesy of SELFI.
SELFI 23 SPIRIT BODY photographed by Mikhailia Petersen, courtesy of SELFI.
Written by: Holly Beaton
For more news, visit the Connect Everything Collective homepage www.ceconline.co.za

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