Durban-based designer Fezokuhle Dimba turns waste plastic and scraps of fabric into edgy afro-centric looks. Raised and nurtured by women who not only adored fashion but crafted their own clothes, it was just a matter of time before Fezokuhle developed her own style which gave her the nickname ‘Vogue’ by her peers. Fezokuhle’s brand, Love Hate Designs has been showcased at South African Fashion Week, the KZNSA Gallery, and the Durban University of Technology’s Annual fashion show. She uses these platforms to create conversations around ethical and environmental issues. As a designer Fezokuhle wants to encourage us to be mindful of how consumerism affects the environment and the well-being of each living thing.
Why is your craft so special to you? It satisfies my urge to create something out of nothing and I love seeing how people react to what I have to show them. My art for the most part gives people hope. It gave me a voice and I love the Art of Fashion collection because all my garments are handmade, crafted, upcycled pieces. I was able to tell my truth, tell my story and nobody judged me for it, instead they embraced it. In the words of Virgil Abloh, “Fashion should serve humanity not vanity”.
What does circular design mean to you? It makes a statement about how ‘one person’s trash can be another’s treasure’. Things considered waste can become beautiful and functional.
Who are your design inspirations and influencers? My greatest inspiration is my family. Also artists like Gideon, Grace Jones, Vivienne Westwood, Bas Timmer and Sade Adu and all the everyday people at Extinction Rebellion, Common Objective and Fashion Revolution. The common thread about my favourite people is the design culture and the information I inherit. I am reminded to stay true to my identity, to continue to tell my story and be authentic.
What materials do you use? Hessian, cement bags, plastic bags, plastic wires, donated scraps of fabric and off-cuts. I source offcuts from local fabric wholesalers. I get fabric donations from clothing manufacturing companies or from designers. I also know a woman who makes a living out of recycling plastic bottles, cans and paper. She gives me any materials she thinks I might find interesting, such as plastic wires and metal can openers.
What does sustainability in design mean to you? It not only means to recycle, upcycle and re-use but also to educate ourselves about products we choose to consume and at what rate we chose to purchase things. Are the things we buy necessary? Are they good for the environment, the people, and animals? Are people who make our clothes paid fairly? Do they have good working conditions? The world is such a beautiful place. Our only job is to make the world a better place, to not destroy ourselves. Throughout my design process I ensure that I am transparent, resourceful and thoughtful.
What challenges do you face as a designer? Sustainable, quality clothing is expensive to produce and difficult to sell because it is extremely niche. As an emerging designer I find it particularly hard to break into the fashion market because our industry is still developing very much like our country and fast fashion is increasingly in demand because they produce trends at a fast rate at affordable prices.
Is your packaging sustainable? Yes. My packaging is made out of recyclable cardboard and branded with the Love Hate Designs logo and my business cards are made of recycled cardboard paper.
Do you think fashion can eliminate divisions whether it be cultural, racial, ethnic, religious etc in our society? How? Definitely. Much like music, fashion can unite people – it is a form of art. But there is sustainable fashion and then there is fast fashion. The culture of fast fashion makes it harder for consumers to think. But the narrative is slowly changing and the fashion industry is becoming more authentic and evolving more organically.
What are you doing to protect your business against coronavirus? Business has been put on hold. We are making masks, which we are donating. We advocate for the well-being of ourselves, others and the environment. I also make sure I keep my clients up to date with what Love Hate Designs is doing by communicating through our social platforms.
What advice would you give for holding onto hope? This is the time to make a gratitude journal and meditate. Mental health should be everyone’s first priority. Secondly, slow down. I think now more than ever it is time for brands to reflect and build sustainability into their businesses, products, packaging and supply chains. Find new ways to connect to the consumer and add different value to your product. It’s important to align yourself with the digital-age thinking, learn to do business online and collaborate. It is time for businesses to be more authentic, more transparent and for us to reinvent ourselves.
Why the name ‘Love Hate Designs’? The brand stands for people who express themselves in a different way but who unite in spirit and mind. The Love Hate logo consists of two letter Es facing each other, meeting in the centre. This is an emphasis on the fine line between love and hate.
Watch: SAFW SS19 FEZOKUHLE DIMBA – The Art of Fashion Collection at SA Fashion Week’s SS19