Culture is not stagnant. It is dynamic, ever-evolving, and with deep roots. As culture evolves, mediums through which it is expressed and remembered evolve too. Fashion is one of these mediums. On 8 June 2023, local fashion designers, Thabo Makhetha, Celeste Arendse of Selfi, and Mzukisi Mbane of Imprint ZA presented collections at a farewell dinner for a delegation of international tourism experts – known as The Bellini Bravissimo – organised by Mount Nelson, a Belmond hotel.
To celebrate and showcase how South Africa’s rich cultural heritages are memorialised by fashion designers, Twyg Studio – the fashion production branch of Twyg – curated an immersive fashion presentation for the dinner guests. While there were synergies between each designer, they were each applauded for their distinct ways of weaving cultural narratives into textile adornments.
Models wear Thabo Makhetha. Photo by Ben Mallinson
Designer Thabo Makhetha in conversation with Jackie May. Photo by Ashraf Mustapha
Model wears Thabo Makhetha. Photo by Ben Mallinson
Designer Celeste Arendse with models in Selfi. Photo by Ashraf Mustapha
Models wear Selfi. Photos by Ben Mallinson
Designer Mzukisi Mbane with models in Imprint ZA. Photo by Ashraf Mustapha
Models wear Imprint ZA. Photo by Ben Mallinson
Thanda Choir performance. Photo by Ashraf Mustapha
The eponymous label Thabo Makhetha makes use of traditional Basotho blankets to create garments that appeal to the sensibilities of contemporary Basotho women, honouring their cultural heritage through fashion. Basotho blankets are traditionally worn by the Basotho people, who live in Lesotho and parts of South Africa.
For the Bellini Bravissimo salon-style presentation, she showcased multi-functional coats and capes from her Phetoho collection, which she describes as a concept exploring the many ways our world has changed since the pandemic. “Each signature piece possesses the power to transform, transfer, and transcend,” says Thabo.
To transport the audience into the Thabo Makhetha universe, Vinyl DJ, Kolawole Gbolahan of VINYL DESTINATION curated a vinyl set of contemporary Basotho music, opening the show with John Lundun and Morayks’, Nnayle, and took guests on a sonic journey through Southern African sounds.
Committed to articulating her identity in contemporary South Africa as a woman of colour, Celeste Arendse from Selfi marries indigenous teachings with sustainable business practices to create an authentic design signature.
Inspired by the way the San are connected to nature and use the sun and moon as a guide, Celeste presented a considered collection imbued with ancestral honour. “For this collection, we looked at how we can adopt their ancient rituals [the San] and ways of living and apply it to our modern daily lives,” she says. “It’s a pursuit in becoming more present and centered, and to be guided by Mother Earth.”
The collection incorporates raw silk, cotton, ramie linen, and mohair sourced in the Wilderness, a town on the Southern coast of South Africa, near an area that was a meeting spot for San chiefs. Additional San motifs included embroidered rock drawings which refer to a San trance dance which was a way the San would connect to their ancestors and nature.
Flautist Mulalo Mphaphuli signaled the audience to silence with a soothing rendition of Bonegizwe Mabandla’s Masiyekelele. The show closed with the Mbaqanga classic Yehlisan’umoya Ma-Afrika by the iconic Busi Mhlongo whose calling as sangoma influenced her music, tying into the ancestral influences of Selfi’s collection.
Buyele’khaya – The Homecoming, a collection by Imprint is inspired by designer Mzukisi Mbane’s desire to communicate the need for all of us to reconnect with each other and our African roots. “It’s a call for us all to remember who we are and remember that we exist together for the greater good,” says Mzukisi.
Over the years the brand has evolved to tell stories of Pan-African identity rather than a singular culture without losing its Xhosa influences. The afro-maximalist label presented a ten-look collection featuring the label’s iconic bold prints and dramatic silhouettes which were softened by ostrich feather trimmings and printed organza, adding a whimsical glamour to the overall presentation.
Excitement filled the room as Thanda Choir accompanied Imprint ZA’s presentation. Founded in 2021, the choir provides youth in Khayelitsha with a safe space for expressing their talents. They sang local pop hits such as Lira’s Feel Good and some Maskandi favourites leaving an indelible mark on the evening’s celebration.
Curator | Jackie May
Director | Ky Bxshxff
Fashion Director | Tandekile Mkize
Backstage Manager | Tyler Graham
Backstage Coordinator | Thapelo Mofokeng
Backstage Assistant | Elliotte Maweyi
Hair | Kitsune Hair