Do you wonder how South Africa’s fashion industry is keeping up with the international sustainability trend? Well it’s growing at a good pace, and our adaption of the trend looks very exciting. To get a taste of what’s happening, Fashion Revolution is presenting a group show of some leading South African sustainable brands at the AFI Fashion Week in Cape Town on Friday night. The show, produced by Deon Redman, comes a month before the start of Fashion Revolution’s weeklong international campaign #whomademyclothes which started five years ago when a clothing factory collapsed in Rena Plaza, Bangladesh, killing 1138 people. Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry. Below are the fashion designers participating in the group show.
When Mzukisi Mbane was in matric he read in a newspaper article that “thanks to Kanye West now real men can wear pink”. From that moment, he says, “I knew I was going to make clothes to give a certain sense of belonging, tell a story and leave a mark”. Mbane has been in business with his label Imprint ZA since 2012, first working from his mother’s kitchen and now from a studio in Woodstock. Understanding its economic impact and as well as the psychological impact on the consumer, Mbane has always been passionate about the “Made in SA” movement. Supporting and buying local is more sustainable than importing clothes which have to travel far, and which cannot always be monitored for ethical labour practices and environmental responsibility. Supporting local also helps support local employment. In his collections, Mbane likes to work with one of the most sustainable fabrics available to him, linen, and with upcycled material. For his show on Friday, he tells a story of a woman as wife, mother and daughter. He says, “the story is told from a context of modern SA, inspired by different cultures, motivated to inspire more and still rooted in her own African roots”. In an earlier collection (pictured here) he has worked with stylist Kwena Baloyi. His intention, too, is for the new collection to ask whether the global interest in Africa as a fashion trend is leading to any positive change in people’s lives on the continent. “Are they getting a share of this trillion dollar fashion industry?”
Africa is Now X Imprint ZA
Africa is Now Magazine is collaborating with Imprint ZA to showcase their signature Africa is Now T-shirts. With this collaboration, Chrisna de Bruyn will introduce the public to Africa is Now Magazine, her new online platform exploring the emerging, contemporary African creative landscape. “We were invited by Fashion Revolution to join the group show. We hope to be a voice for both established artists as well as emerging African artists and include an ethical and sustainable approach to fashion and art,” says de Bruyn.
Since he was 12 Sibusiso Mahone says he has been able to spot trends. So, it should come as no surprise that he is part of this group show. But his interest in launching a sustainable and ethical brand wasn’t about following a trend, it’s about caring about the world and our environment. Mahone makes his clothes in collaboration with two older women from a township in Tembisa. He says, “I work with these ladies to help them make money and support their families. I believe this is my way of giving back to those less fortunate and also growing and learning from them”. His current collection is based on recycling hessian (sack cloth). After he read how slaves used hessian because they couldn’t access cotton fabric for making clothes, Mahone decided to use it “to create modern conceptual and ready-to-wear clothes that show people both the power of upcycling fabric and the history of this fabric”. The looks, he says, are a symbol of peace and unity. And, he hopes they will raise awareness about sustainable fashion and start conversations about how we can recycle fabrics, and other materials like disused rubber to make clothes.
Emma Longdon launched Sitting Pretty in 2009, without a clear vision for the brand. After trial and error, she realised she needed to become an environmentally aware and ethical brand. “We use natural fabrics as far as possible, utilising rayon (manmade but from cellulose), cotton, linen and hemp. Our knitwear is 100% natural yarn, mostly wool and mohair sourced locally and sustainably,” says Longden. Sitting Pretty is always looking for more environmentally-friendly fibres. Longden started the Cape Town-based T.H.E.M (the ethical market) in 2017 as a pop-up to create awareness around what ethical fashion is and why it’s important to buy local and ethical as opposed to cheap fast fashion. She was surprised by the unexpectedly good response. “I think people are slowly becoming more aware that fashion has to become more sustainable and ethical,” she says.
As a student, Durban-based designer Leandi Mulder learnt how the production of fast fashion depletes the world’s natural resources, encourages people to consume more and more, and to attach less and less value to their clothes. As a result her work gravitates towards exploring ecological and sustainable design through recycling and upcycling. “I look at the resource potential of waste-clothing, and through using an intuitive and creative process I transform scraps of fabric into textile pieces to use in my garments,” she says.
Sustainable fashion, she says, can be considered as fashion that opposes environmental destruction through a full-circle design approach that implements processes such as innovative, zero waste pattern making, upcycled and sustainable fabrics, and ethical construction. Leandi makes all her clothes by hand. She uses patchwork and handweaving techniques to construct textiles. She sources her fabric from second-hand outlets, receives donations and buys textile company samples. “I’ve also sourced second-hand kimonos from thrift stores in Japan. And many, many old saris from the incredible car boot market in Durban.” Leandi hopes her work inspires people to be more mindful and think harder about their consumer habits.
More brands involved in the Fashion Revolution show:
Hemporium, Lalesso, Steffany Roup, Karoo Moon, Afrigarde, Chrystal Birch and Design Afrika
CORRECTION 22 March 2.48: The Joinery has been removed from ‘more brands involved’ in the show. It is not participating.
- For more information and to buy tickets to the 9.15pm show on Friday see here
- Photo credits: Supplied