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VANKLAN is marrying creativity with conservation

by | Sep 21, 2020

Alex van Heerden, a 22-year-old fashion and textile design student, has caught the industry’s attention. Alex’s fashion journey began later than most. Fresh out school, she was set to follow her friends to Stellenbosch to study teaching. Although, she had never touched a sewing machine, she says: “All I could think about was fashion. I realised I had chosen teaching for all the wrong reasons. It wasn’t my passion or my love, it was simply a degree that I had selected because I was too afraid to step out of my comfort zone and go against the grain.”

That all changed one day when her mother said: “To be successful you have to do what makes you happy”. This was a major turning point for Alex who enrolled at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) in 2016.

Influenced and inspired by fashion designers Stella McCartney and Charles Jeffrey Loverboy, Alex is navigating a way to marry creation and conservation with her work. “I want my designs to make an impact in an unconventional way. I want my garments to challenge the fashion industry and me.”

After winning the Judges Award at the third year’s final fashion show and exhibition at DUT in 2019, Busker Boy grew legs rapidly and Alex was able to develop the project into VANKLAN – a handcrafted brand that questions the conventions of fashion which has since been featured in Sunday Times Lifestyle.

Busker Boy is an upcycled collection inspired by Durban buskers, the men and women who paint themselves white to entertain people at traffic lights. Made from board shorts, granny cardigans and pillowcases that Alex thrifted from the Kloof and Highway SPCA, Alex’s patchwork designs symbolise an appreciation for the melting pot of cultures in Durban. She portrays the eccentricities and playfulness that the buskers exude in crocheted lollipops and rainbows appliquéd onto baby-pink knitted vests paired with sketch-book doodle-style trousers. “I used bold and eccentric colours as a reflection of the rainbow nation which is our South Africa.”

Busker Boy’s pièce de résistance is her BunnyKat jacket. The jacket is made from BunnyKat dolls from the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust which she created as a visual representation of the non-profit organisation.

At the moment Alex is focused on finishing her honours for which she is working on a mini collection based on the topic: “An unconventional form of fashion sustainability.” The project focuses on presenting an unconventional form of fashion sustainability to challenge today’s throw-away culture.

“Through my designs I hope to illustrate and communicate that sustainable fashion does not always mean ‘100% organic cotton’ or ‘recycled’, there is far more to sustainable fashion than that which is present in the industry today and I hope to reveal this in my designs by producing innovative and impactful garments using unorthodox practices of sustainability.”  We look forward to the challenge!

Image Credits:

Feature image: Photographer : Zander Opperman @Lampost
Photographic Assistants @LampostLuminaries.org
Stylist : Carla Vermaak @Lampost
Stylist Assistant : Thabisile Msibi
Make Up Artist : Orli Meiri @Lampost
Model : Ponahalo Mojapelo @MyFriendNed
Studio : Sunshine Studios Jozi

Image 2: Model: @plu.jam

Image 3 and 5: Model:  @niccvanheerden

Image 4: @billcypherrr

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