Langa-based designer and photographer Anele Cephus Nono launched his denim brand, Jeanius Platform, as a social movement in 2016. With friends, he started it to raise awareness about student issues during the time of Fees Must Fall, a time of protests against the increase in student fees, which also took on issues of decolonisation of education. We caught up with Anele in Cape Town:
Tell us about your work.
We make one of a kind pieces: wearable artworks. This work is special because it’s handmade and it forces me to collaborate with other artists. We’ve never repeated a design. I am more creative when I’m surrounded by nature, and listening to music.
What is the inspiration behind the name Jeanius?
Jeanius Platform is a homage to Jean Michel Basquiat [US artist 1960 -1988], to artistic freedom and to being a voice for the youth. We use denim material because it never goes out of fashion. It allows us to communicate with different generations. Denim is our canvas. For now we use Tingercor fabric dye, but we’re planning to learn about natural vegetable dyes.
How has Langa influenced your style?
Being born and bred in Langa township, outside Cape Town, is a blessing in disguise. My parents raised us to thrift. It has always been part of our culture. My mindset is to work with what I have.
How are township designers making a mark on the fashion industry?
Yeah, township designers are on fire. The idea of up-cycling comes with limitless possibilities. I’ve been making a lot of amazing work. My daily life now [during Covid-19] is about creating. I don’t think the fashion industry is ready for what’s coming. Through these tough times we’ve became artivists, producing positive messages and collaborating with other brands to heal people.
Who is your role model?
Jean Michel Basquiat changed my life, especially about influence. He said: “If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realise that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” His spirit will live forever within us.
At what time of the day do you like taking photographs?
I prefer sunset in an open space. Nature sets the mood.
What challenges do you face?
I always tell my friends, I’m just a thrifter. Designers are too serious; I don’t know how they feel about our style. We make “Hot Mess” that other creatives vibe with.
What does sustainability in design mean to you?
Sustainability in design for me, means to come up with creative solutions to every situation we find ourselves in. Up-cycling is the present and future.
Do you think fashion can build bridges in our society?
Yes, definitely. Fashion makes a powerful statement especially if you are a spiritual person. You can heal people with your style. Now, we tell African stories through our style, not just Xhosa stories. From hair to fabric, we always communicate or raise awareness about something. It has opened a lot of doors for us but it wasn’t easy growing up because of township stereotypes.
Tell us about your involvement with the open-source design studio, Our Workshop?
Our Workshop gives us a platform to give back to our community. Before the studio opened in Langa, we didn’t have a working space. Being under one roof with different artists is inspiring. Our Workshop plays a huge role in our growth. I’ve always wanted to be part of something great. Creating together is amazing: we’ve learnt a lot from our collective collaborations. It’s everything an artist can ask for, Our Workshop made Guga S’Thebe [community arts centre in Langa] better and gave artists hope again. We do what we can.
- To contact Anele follow him on Instagram
- Photos supplied