The launch of Canvas Studios by Bash – TFG’s fashion and lifestyle platform – marks a feat for thoughtfully designed, local fashion in South Africa. Building brands that stand the test of a curious and creative customer-base is so critical and with an approach centred around the innate creative expression in our personal wardrobes; Canvas Studios is encouraging women to express their original essence through fashion.
Designed by David West and his team, the label merges clean lines and a minimalist sensibility – focused on silhouettes and considered cuts – together with prints and bold colours; this approach sees the softness of womenswear made versatile, timeless and adaptable for all seasons, occasions and practices. Having launched a series, profiling two immense artistic forces in – Amy Ayanda and Masego Morgan – the Canvas Studios campaign is an incredible accomplishment in the art of creative collaboration between the brand, the campaign team and the creatives themselves through a local lens. In two intimate portrayals of Amy and Masego in their own respective spaces, the campaign centred around their practices as creative beings as #CanvasGirls, in the form of ‘edits’ – curated pieces from the collection that reference their personal styles.
Canvas Studios is designed with creatively-expressive women in mind; those who will draw out their own originality with whatever they wear. With the first collection launch, Canvas Studios’ designer, David West, explains that, “when we design we always ask ourselves questions like, ‘how easy is this to wear?’, ‘how does it make you feel’ or ‘is it comfortable’ – because we want our customers’ personalities to shine through the pieces and not let the clothes wear them. Comfort is so important to us, so we tend to strip the pieces down to their simplest form and allow the bold prints to do a lot of the work when it comes to adding design elements.” From a multitude of co-ord sets in linen and prints, to broad-strap dresses, shirt dresses, shorts, accessories and more; the collection blends statement pieces with essentials, motivated by the mentality of ‘mix ‘n match’ across multiple garments.
The campaign itself composed together two creative women, distinct from each other yet aligned in their respective approaches towards colour and ingenuity in their expression. Amy Ayanda is an artist and musician for whom textured colour, transient motifs and metaphor inform her work. Describing her practice, Amy explains that “in my final year at Michaelis, I developed my artistic process using dried flowers, layering acrylics and oils. Initially I thought I would focus on oils, but the birth of my daughter redirected me to watercolours and abstract line-work. This shift birthed a distinctive style that defines my current practice. My work has evolved to be more figurative lately – as I’m aiming to explore new and deeper motifs.” In terms of Amy’s thematic and referential concerns, she explains that “my art revolves around personal narratives, delving into loss and land politics in South Africa, resonating with themes of longing, belonging, love, and loss. The metaphor of a flower remains a powerful metaphor in art, and I’m very grateful to have maintained a disciplined, ritualistic practice, with a curiosity to learn and explore as foundational to my art.”
Sustainable ‘hunny’ and stylist Masego Morgan, has been a champion of local design for a long time, feeling that a localised textile and fashion industry is necessary for a more sustainable future in South Africa. Masego’s soft approach to sustainability is about finding balance, particularly with her focus on regenerative, handcrafting and re-using practices are part of her expression, a refreshing viewpoint for someone in the fashion industry to embody. The terms ‘activist’ and ‘advocate’ hold and require context and expectation, whereas Masego’s expression is ultimately invested in inspiring change in people around her, to see sustainability as ways of living that are beautiful, practical and achievable. As she says, “it’s not about being 100% sustainable, it’s about doing what we can and doing it in a way that is sustainable to us. Striving for a sustainable way of living centres around the concepts of ‘ubuntu’ or ‘ukama’, our interconnectedness with each other, the planet and the future generations to come.”
Shot by photographer Aart Verrips and styled by Kristi Vlok, the creative team behind the Canvas Studio launch ventured to Amy’s studio and Masego’s home, shooting them in the familiarity of their spaces. As the team explains, “each artist brought their individual perspective and artistic vision to the project, which was inspiring. Amy’s studio was incredible to see first hand. It provided a behind-the-scenes look at her creative space and allowed us to gain a deeper understanding of how she produces her artworks. Masego’s home in Southern Peninsula, nestled among picturesque mountains, provided a breathtaking backdrop that enhanced the overall creative experience. Masego’s unique style, with her skillful use of colour and print, added a vibrant and captivating dimension to the project.”
As Amy says, feeling aligned to the project was rooted in the interconnectedness of Cape Town’s creative community, saying “knowing who was on the team, I trusted that it was a really well thought out collaboration on their side already. I absolutely loved the pieces and Kristi did such an amazing job selecting from the collection what would be true to my personal style. I’ve known Kristi and Gabby for a very long time – we used to waitress together many years ago – and in a way, they’ve watched me grow up, so that was really beautiful to have them in my space and for Gabby to be curating the flowers while Kristi styled just felt super aligned and full circle.”
The team explains that, “the most interesting and exciting part about working on the campaign was really delving into the psychology and experience of the women who would be wearing Canvas Studios. As a creative team, we had to consider how to speak to her and visually communicate and educate her about the product given the newness of the brand.” Noting that part of their process involved finding ways to centre these women and their stories, as a core value of the brand is ‘lived expression’, the team expressed that absolutely everything was workshopped, with deep consideration across colours and language.
This campaign was shaped by the borrowing and sharing of ideas across the entire process – truly, the art of creative collaboration – as the team says, “we worked closely with the designers and strategists on launching this brand and it was an absolute honour and a huge collaboration. Having everyone in the room with us gave us a better understanding of the thinking behind who they wanted to make this brand for. The result was a cohesive visual language across various channels. Bringing this brand to life was a massive collaboration between designers, copy and strategy and David and his team. It gave us room to give our customers the best shopping experience, surfacing what we know they love and meeting them exactly where they are.”
Launching a new brand with an identified philosophy and clear customer in mind, speaks to Bash’s commitment to collaborative and creative-led thinking. Through the vehicle of Canvas Studios, this commitment is integrated into the Bash offering as a local retailer focused on enhancing the local landscape; of customers and creatives alike. We absolutely love to see it.
Written by: Holly Beaton