The burgeoning South African fashion scene is fluid, and most designers are well-known among the fashion intelligentsia. It pays to know some of the collaborations between artists, designers, and businesspeople, as this is partly what keeps the industry moving – visibility and friendships among women who are carving a niche for themselves. The up and comers are making waves, whether TV personalities, models or jet-setting designers based abroad – South Africa’s design culture is part of who they are. All are simply outstanding, creative individuals who add to the beauty of being African.
Thulare Monareng – Fashion Designer
Monareng’s CV reads like the back story of a gifted individual who was chosen by a calling. She has a degree in Political Science, and, after taking up a Masters degree in Belgium, she then interned with Belgian fashion designer Walter van Bierendonck, one of the Antwerp Six – a group of influential avant-garde designers. She then moved to New York to manage the Novo Art Gallery in Manhattan while studying at The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where she earned a degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising. On her return to South Africa she presented her first collection, which retailed at the iconic The Space. She was Awarded Most Innovative Designer Award at the Cape Town Fashion Festival in 2002. This month she opens her flagship store in the famed Long Street, in Cape Town, and we look forward to adding her distinctive pieces to our wardrobes.
Bonang Matheba – TV personality/Bonang-of-all-trades
Twenty-two-year-old Bonang, popularly know as ‘B’ by those who follow her hectic schedule, is a TV presenter, a radio DJ, voice-over artist, MC, actress, student and fashion designer. Phew! Where does she get the time? With all she has to do, the ever-fashionable B found time in 2008 to create a line of clothing for and be the face of Legit, a youth-oriented chain store across the country. She not only collaborates with major companies, but also friends making their mark in the fashion world as well, and this year designed a range of stunning handbags under the label Baby Star, with designer Koketso Chiepe. She’s not only hard-working and accomplished, but smart, and is pursuing Marketing Communications degree
The brains behind the African Fashion International (AFI) group, Dr Moloi-Motsepe successfully converted a talent for medicine to a talent for nurturing young fashion innovators. Under the group’s patronage, several South Africans designers have had a chance to showcase their works at Paris Fashion Week, and of course, Africa Fashion Week, which is an AFI event. As chairperson of AFI, she has given a very welcome platform to fashion designers from all over Africa. Noted for wanting to create employment and opportunities, this dynamo businesswoman is well on her way to seeing her dream of transforming the fashion retail industry become a reality.
This Afro-jazz goddess has made sure that the image of African women in song remains that steeped in tradition, style and substance. Never one to shy away from her heritage, she cites the late great Busi Mhlongo as a major influence. Her image is strong, unique and highly Afrocentric, and she wears South African designers with pride. For the artwork on her first album, Zandisile, she collaborated with designer Palesa Mokubung. She recently collaborated with esteemed South African designer Clive Rundle for the artwork on her recently released third album Kulture Noir.
Her Afro-space-age frocks have been part of the Daimler Contemporary Art exhibition in Berlin, after she was nominated for a South African Art and Culture Award in 2009. One of the most notable of black South African women that challenge contemporary notions of fashion, she stretches the brief and includes the bohemian, the punk, the avant-garde and the African. Her designs are treasured among the Afro-chic set, including singers Thandiswa Mazwai and Simphiwe Dana. When she was only 19 and just out of design school, she gained practical experience at legendary design house Stoned Cherrie and has since then been making her own mark with her label Mantsho, meaning ‘brutally black.’ She’s won awards that have allowed her to showcase her talent abroad, including the Annual Fashion Forward International Thessaloniki show in Greece. Her inspirations are love, war, sex and spirituality.
Lerato Moloi – Model/Beauty Brand Ambassador
Model, businesswoman and ramp favourite of fashion houses such as Stoned Cherrie, Lerato Moloi is the only other ambassador (the other is actress Catherine Zeta-Jones) and first black face of Elizabeth Arden. Chosen after an intense search for an African face to represent the global brand, the South African stunner has already made waves. As an ambassador Lerato has put her own vivacious and confident stamp on what is one of the world’s most revered beauty houses.
Koketso Chiepe – Fashion Designer
London-based Botswana-born designer Koketso’s designs are feminine, flirty and shy away from overt trends. She chooses prints that are reminiscent of the vibrancy of Africa and other cultures from her worldwide travels. She was recently in India sourcing material for her trademark floaty, feminine dresses and pretty, unique shapes. Her clothes remind women to have fun, revel in their femininity and to drape their bodies in bold tropical colours and soft, luxurious fabrics. She terms her brand “Feel-Good Clothing” and has managed to capture the attention of lovers of the sartorial in places such as the UK, Spain and Japan, and media outlets such as America’s Next Top Model and Italian Vogue. She is also an accessories designer, and has used this talent to collaborate with the TV presenter Bonang Matheba on the Baby Star line of bags. Koketso’s flagship concept store in London is sure to cause a stir when it opens later this year.
For the 2006 Oscar Awards, which garnered South Africa’s ‘Tsotsi’ a best foreign film award, Terry wore a fabulous Marianne Fassler gown with a sweetheart neckline. She looked right at home on the red carpet, and has since graced numerous red carpet events at home and abroad, showcasing the beauty and talent that have earned her a reputation in the industry as one of the ones to watch. She’s so sought-after that she was recently made the South African spokesperson for L’Oréal (Paris)
Marianne Fassler – Fashion design veteran
The doyenne of South African fashion design, Fassler continues to fascinate through her use 0f African fabrics, prints and colours. She is unflinching in her aesthetic, and her inspiration is drawn from South Africa, with her choice of fabric reflecting the wildlife, people and landscape. An avid art collector, her clothes display an understanding of the visual and emotional effect that clothes must have on those who look at the wearer. Her combinations of textures and patterns, whilst having an intrinsic understanding of the variety and beauty of African aesthetics, make her a lasting favorite amongst many a fashion devotee.
I first heard of 25 year old Milisuthando, a 2009 Sanlam Journalism Award winner, when I read Akona Ndungane’s blog. The fashion world is small, and it is easy to bump into fellow fashion worshippers. Both young women are what we’ve been waiting for in terms of black women blogging passionately about fashion, and not only doing it with such charm, wit and foresight, but making fashion their life’s work. You can find Miss Milli’s sartorial leanings and musings at her blog where she also explains the concept of her business venture Pulchritude, which aims to sell South African designers to South Africans. And you thought fashion blogging was just a personal journey? It’s definitely a platform for activism.