Clive Rundle’s clothes have always been able to speak for themselves. Famously driven by his technical prowess, attention to detail and a dedication to perfecting design crafts, the eponymous label has been a leader in South African fashion since 1983. He kicked off his career supplying local and international fashion in his Boutique Wizards, launched Clive Rundle in 1988 and by 1989 secured his first showing at the Collections Printemps-Été at the Cour Vitrée in Paris. It’s a big, loud legacy for a designer who is known to be introverted, elusive and fame-shy – but it is this commitment to craft, rather than clout, which has held Clive Rundle in good stead, and will continue to make its mark long after he puts away the sketch book.
I’ve always been creative, I just chose fashion over art
This is no small feat, considering that ‘designer’ is not a label he has easily welcomed. Some parts inventor, some parts artist and some parts something else, he has never cared to fit the mould of the fashion industry. This is likely owing to the fact that he did not grow up with the conception of ‘fashion designer’ being a kind of profession – owing to South Africa’s limited media access during the apartheid years, and one imagines, a more traditional doctor, teacher, lawyer expectation of young men at the time. Speaking in a rare interview with Nigeria’s Bella Naija, he explains: “When I started my brand in 1983, there was nothing like a line or starting a fashion label because we didn’t know at that time what a fashion label was. Fashion happened to be something I applied myself to. I’ve always been creative, I just chose fashion over art. When the opportunity came to go to tertiary, I enrolled for a fashion course which I did for six months. At that time it was apartheid era and after high school, I travelled the world for four years and when I came back to Africa went to Zimbabwe which is my birth place. That’s where the fashion bug began in me.”
But Clive has also been instrumental in paving a path for designers and fashion workers of today. Speaking to internationally acclaimed creative director Bee Diamondhead, who first met Clive at the start of her career as a fashion assistant, it is impressive to see the impact made on a new generation of creatives.
“I first met Clive over a decade ago, and I’ve always had great respect for his work. He truly makes high fashion – he takes you on a journey, he tells you a story, he uses materials that no one else would think to put together. Clive is one of the people who makes something that you would see on the streets of downtown Joburg or Paris and it would turn heads. And when you meet Clive, he’s such a quiet and gentle man, but he is so open creatively.”
Over time, the Clive Rundle brand has become synonymous with an approach to fashion that is much like soft, sexy armour. Technically strong angles, daring use of colour in unusual ways and a fit that seems moulded to each woman, it is the height of fashionable power-dressing. No frilly bits, no delicate flower energy – just powerful clothes for empowered women.
Senior trend researcher, analyst and speaker Nicola Cooper has sat at countless Clive Rundle shows over the years – watching the brand (and the man behind it) operate with a single minded commitment to his work. Speaking to Twyg, she says, “His work has purpose, I don’t mean in an ethereal purpose, once a Clive Rundle garment hits a runway you know it is finished to perfection, he has edited his collection fiercely and will only present work that has met a certain level of quality, detail, thought and critique. Editing your work does not come easy, critical thinking and showing restraint is a skill that is not exercised by some South/African designers. It is a rare value and is evident in the work he produces and as a result had offered such an valuable narrative to the fashion industry over many years”.
Despite having geared down his operation, he has not faded from view. Clive Rundle will be showing at the upcoming South African Fashion Week on April 30 at 9pm. We look forward to its unveiling and continue to celebrate the remarkable impact Clive Rundle continues to have on the world of local fashion. Johannesburg, 2020.
Clive Rundle won a Twyg Sustainable Fashion Award in 2019 for the Nicholas Coutts category.
- Images are glimpses of Clive’s upcoming fashion show by Lizmarie Richardson @lrphotographysa and the last image of Lucilla Booyzen, director of South Africa Fashion Week, Lindsay Coutts, Nicolas Coutts’ mother and Clive receiving his award.
- Buy tickets to Clive Rundle’s show on April 30 at 9pm and to other SAFW shows here.