What drives a designer?

Unknown UnionPicture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

When it comes to clothing brands, sometimes all it takes is a clean and distinct design aesthetic that will set you apart from the saturated market. Streetwear brand Unknown Union (UU) is one of a few South African labels which have managed to stand out with its distinct tracksuits and separates like T-shirts, caps, socks and jackets

I get to know the founder of the brand, Jason Storey.

Tell us a bit about yourself. I wasn’t always a designer. I actually spent my early career as an in-house corporate attorney in New York, working around the clock on deal after deal. But I always had a passion for expression outside the field of law. I grew up surrounded by the study of art (my father was an art dealer).

Tell us about starting your label.Unknown Union was born from that passion, but it’s vision has changed significantly since its origins. My family and I have been travelling to South Africa since I was much younger and it is through that experience that I developed a deep affinity for the people, places and cultures here. UU originally was originally founded in 2010 and at that time we primarily imported brands from outside of South Africa, such as Obey, Levi’s Vintage, Pendleton, and Warriors of Radness.

We also were the first to officially introduce Top Shop to the African Market through our exclusive pop up shop. Around 2011, we began developing our in-house clothing brand, UU, which was inspired by local art and culture, and it didn’t take long before this became the primary focus of our shop. Today, you can find our range at our newest location in Cape Town CBD (44 Bloem Street), where our garments celebrate the rich cultural history of Lesotho and South Africa and several new design projects that touch Angola, Congo and Kenya.

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Model, Sanele Xaba is the face of UU. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? The fashion industry is fun, but challenging.

From the outside the industry can easily appear to be sexy and glamorous, but people don’t always see how much work and effort goes into the creation of each garment. From design to production it takes a team working meticulously around the clock to produce something worth buying.

 

How would you describe your brand? We believe that there is something that binds every person on this planet together. There is no name for that thing. There is no way to smell it, taste it, feel it, see it, etc. But we all intrinsically recognise that it exists. That’s one of the meanings behind our name, Unknown Union.

How difficult is it to remain original when streetwear brands seem to emerge daily nowadays? If you are pinning your originality on the uniqueness of your design, then few designers can meet that standard because almost every design you could think of to drape the human body has already been thought of or created.

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Is it important for the brand to have the clothing worn by celebrities? While we are thankful many celebrities have taken an interest in our brand, our clothing is designed for everyone .

How have you seen the role of social media develop for you as a brand?

Social has media has become more of a focus for the brand over the last year. Until recently, word of mouth and print were our primary marketing vehicles.

 

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What’s next for Unknown Union? Our UU family can expect to see new and innovative capsule collections from upcoming collaborations with local and international artists. Everyone is invited to come through our flagship Cape Town shop for the launch of our next exhibit: Fashion Art.

Connect with Unknown Union on Instagram @unknownunion https://www.instagram.com/unknownunion/

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en  

Find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in The Mercury on June 9 2017. 

The designer who dresses the stars

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Media personality Bonang Matheba wears Orapuleng Modutle Style Avenue.

THE glamorous dresses worn by the likes of Bonang Matheba, Terry Pheto and Nandi Madida on red carpet events takes a lot of work.

They begin in the imagination of talented designers, who use celebrities as muses or brand ambassadors. South African couture designer Orapeleng Modutle is currently in the forefront when it comes to dressing some of our leading ladies for his label, Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue.

“I get to dress some of the country’s top celebrities, an opportunity that is not afforded to many young designers,” says Modutle

“I have always wanted to dress Bonang Matheba because she is one of the best dressed red carpet queens. I have dressed all the celebrities that I have wanted to dress locally such as Ayanda Thabethe, Minnie Dlamini.

 

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Artist Nandi Madida

“The women that I dress form in line with the product that I deliver and they get attracted to the quality of the style that I deliver. It’s really knowing how to stick to your clientele and quality and craftsmanship is also very important,” he says.

“Internationally, I would love to dress Jennifer Lopez and Kendall Jenner.”

I met Modutle before his African Fashion International Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week Cape Town showcase.

The collection, titled “Rose Garden Wedding”, features subliminal gowns in sequins, chiffon, satin, structured corsets.

The designs are complemented by embellishments such as flowers, pearls, lace, feathers and hats by Anita Ferreira designs. The theme of the collection says

“Royalty is getting married and they have invited their elite family members and friends. The collection caters for the attendees, the mother of the bride and bridal party”. 

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Modutle said: “It’s a day of fun, people are wearing hats, butterflies on their hair and big gowns… taking couture to another level.

“Our previous collection was very playful, our clientele was very young, she wore crop tops and shorts.

“The couture fashion scene in SA still need to grow, we need to educate our clients about the design and production process, the craftsmanship and the behind-the scenes that goes into creating a couture garment.

“Some of my favourite international designers that I look up to for inspiration includes Tom Ford and Elie Saab and locally Gavin Rajah and Gert-Johan Coetzee are amazing at couture,”he says.

 

Modutle, the Tshwane University of Technology fashion graduate, developed his love for fashion and attention for details while watching his mother and grandmother do needle work.

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“I used to watch them hand stitching and that caught my attention from when I was about eight- years-old – that’s when I also developed my love for sketching.

“The first item I made in varsity was a pencil skirt, which took me a whole two weeks to make. My big break came when I interned with Khensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherie. That was an amazing experience and she is the pillar of where I am now.

“I learnt a lot about how she ran her business. She taught me that fashion is not all about the glitz and the glam,” he says.

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Describe the Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue woman?

“She is between the ages of 20 and 60. She is a romantic. She exudes opulence and luxury. She is the kind of woman that will wear a pencil skirt with a slit paired with with a feather jacket to work,” he says.

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His advice for aspiring designers:

“You need to learn the skill of design, your talent is not enough. Once you know the skill get an internship. It’s very important because you will be working with other people who have been in the industry longer than you.”

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● Connect with Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue on instagram @Orapelengmodutle.

Photography Credits: Creative direction: Rich Mnisi. Styling: Bee Diamondhead Photographer: Apart Verrips. Hats: Anita Ferreiradesigns. Make-Up Artist: Muzi Zuma. Flowers: Amor Flowers South Africa.

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

Read more of my work at http://www.IOL.co.za http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in Top of The Times on May 29 2017.

 

Stem cell team brings new life to skin

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REGENERATION SQUAD: Jerome Jackson, Tracy-Lee Rosslind and Aseyah Rosslind. Picture: Rizqua Barnes

The USE of stem cells in the beauty industry has been making headlines for years. There are several breakthrough results that have been attributed to stem cell innovations.

It has been reported that stem cells can help achieve younger-looking skin. They are thought to encourage cell regeneration and repair skin damaged by the sun. But what are stem cells and what does the scientific term mean?

Chief scientific officer for natural product range Dermistem Jerome Jackson explains: “The advancement in the understanding of how stem cells work and how we can create them is changing the world in an unprecedented way. Stem cells, basically, are cells that are undifferentiated. That means that they can become any type of cell in the specific plant or animal – a skin cell, or liver cell, for example.

“This technology has changed the landscape of biological science, especially in regenerative and resurrection science, and medicine,” Jackson says.

He says: “Stem cells enable regeneration of previously irreparable damage. There is an unfortunate misunderstanding that whole, live, plant stem cells are used in cosmetics, and this is not true.

“We use an extract of the stem cells… we lyse (split open) the stem cells. This kills them, and we process the liquid contents of those stem cells into a botanical active that can be added to cosmetics for mostly regenerative and anti-ageing effects.

“There are creams employing the use of human stem cell extracts. However, these should be, and mostly are, regulated as drugs (medicines) and not as cosmetics.” Jackson, a consultant herbologist (herbal or botanical medicine) by profession, is passionate about natural medicine and its power.

His field of study also includes biology, medicine and natural medical science. He and aromatherapist and natural perfumer Aseyah Rosslind founded Dermistem in Plumstead when they realised that there was a huge demand for natural base cream products.

Their range of natural skincare systems consists of cleansers, toners, moisturisers, serums, eye gel, exfoliators, a hyper-pigmentation cream and two excellent masks that contain Swiss glacial water which they use at their in-house treatment salon.

“Our point of difference is the plant stem cell extracts that we use throughout our range. Our skincare system is high in botanical actives and vitamin A, and we have kept it as natural as we possibly can – natural works.

“Our ethos is, ‘what you put on to your skin, you eat’. Therefore, use something that the body recognises,” says Rosslind.

The beauty and skincare market is saturated at the moment with a high demand for natural and organic products… leading to most consumers making uniformed choices about the right products to use.

Rosslind advises: “The thing that scares me the most about skincare products is the harmful ingredients that they contain and how they can affect one’s health. Therefore, we encourage consumers to learn what those ingredients are and to read labels.

“Avoid those harmful ingredients as far as possible. There is always a new thing that comes along, whether it be jojoba wax, Argan oil or AHA skin products, because there are always new raw materials being developed to address the needs of particular markets.

“You can’t go wrong with good basics though – establish a good daily routine of – cleanse, tone and moisturise. Look after your skin and remember to be gentle with it. Good skin can indeed be your make-up – skincare is essential – make-up is optional,” Rosslind adds.

For information, see Dermistem at  Image 2 RosslindXDermistem by Ashley Marie.jpg

Tracy-Lee Rosslind

From fashion stylist, producer, TV presenter to marketing director of a cutting-edge skincare brand, Tracy-Lee Rosslind has partnered with Dermistem to co-create a serum named RosslindxDermistem #RxDskin. She will be launching a full premium range called Diamond, which will be showcased at In-Cosmetics Global, a skincare event held at the ExCel in London in April. We spoke to her:

Tell us about the RosslindxDermistem range.

It is a natural unisex skincare range created to repair, protect and enhance your natural skin. It is auto-adaptive, which means it adapts to any climate and skin type. It contains plant stem cells and glacial water imported from the Alps, all to increase hydration and repair. It is especially for those in the entertainment industry using a lot of make-up and constantly under hot lights. I got a few of my industry friends to come and try the product. They all loved it.

Tell us about your beauty routine.

In all honesty, I never really had a beauty routine, but since turning 30 I can see a definite difference in my skin. It is the reason I walked into Dermistem in the first place. I use a cleanser, toner, our RxD Serum, an eye gel and then the Stem Cell Moisturiser.

What is your one can’t-do-without beauty product?

Our RosslindxDermistem Priming Serum; it really keeps my skin hydrated, ensuring my make-up stays put and flawless. I love putting it on if I am feeling tired, it refreshes me. I love the refreshing naartjie scent that does not linger for too long as we have ensured that it becomes odourless once completely absorbed in the skin. I am a big fan of perfumes and do not like it when it is affected by my creams.

Connect with Tracy-Lee at and Instagram @mstracyleerosslind

 

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on January 10 2017.

See more of my work here:

Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter @Nontando58

 

 

Michelle is on a Michion

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Michelle Heslop, of luxury fashion space The Bromwell Boutique Mall, is an advocate for African talent. Her boutique prides itself on selling and promoting art and fashion apparel that is made locally by Africans, for Africans. Drawing inspiration from this, Heslop recently launched the boutique’s in-house brand Michion, “for strong women who are not afraid to dream big and live life to the fullest”.

“The Bromwell is all about making, shaping, exposing and offering beauty made locally and around Africa, and I strongly believe in this mission,” says Heslop.

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“Over the years, I have been active in creating a platform for young designers who can have their creations and brands showcased in an intimate and tailored space. Being this involved in curating such a space brought to life a hidden passion in me which I have overlooked, which is designing clothes.

“My brand is about making clothing for women who are carrying out their own life missions. It is simply about clothing that works… my focus is on easy-to-wear and one-piece-ready garments. Which makes the ‘getting dressed’ part of life fun and spontaneous,” she says 

The Michion debut range includes body-flattering bodycon dresses, faux fur gilets and tweed coats in textured and muted colours. The fabric quality is topnotch, a testament to Heslop’s welltailored style.

“The brand’s phrase is ‘I like me’, which says the Michion woman is confident, she loves life and lives it fully, pushing the limits of her goals and her experiences. And she wants to look good doing it,” she says.

 

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Michelle and I wearing the Michion tweed coats 

Heslop’s love affair with fashion began from a young age. The process of dressing up and how one can use clothing to tell a story about oneself has always been interesting to her.

“I used to pay extra attention to how clothing made me feel, what the clothes were made of and the functionality of each piece. “It was something very natural for me to take up a career in the fashion industry. The biggest lesson I’ve leant so far is ‘Don’t be limited in what you feel is possible on your journey… let life surprise you’,” Heslop says.

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Heslop’s signature style varies. There is the elegant, graceful and classic woman on one hand, and on the other a wild child who enjoys dressing up in flowery, bright, sexy clothes.

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Michelle, queen’ing in the Michion red bodycon dress. 

“My aesthetic will flaunt these extremes. I’m inspired and drawn to women who are comfortable in their own skin. Who have lived full and thrilling lives. Who design from a place of real experience and real inspiration. Diane von Furstenberg is one of the designers who inspires me,” she says.

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“There is a significant interest in African designers at the moment, and it’s time we use this to our advantage,” says Heslop.

“We appreciate the attention around the talent coming out of Africa. It’s certainly fast-tracking a lot of our young designers. “However, more attention should be given to that hard-working designer who is making wearable clothing that women love and rely on, as opposed perhaps to the designer who is an exhibitionist, who enjoys creating a stir,” she said.

● Shop the Michion range at Bromwell Boutique Mall at 250 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. Connect with Michelle on Instagram: @Michelle Heslop

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @Nontando58

This piece was first published in the Cape Times ‘Top of the Times’ supplement on December 9 2016. 

Meet Mrs South Africa 2016

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The reigning Mrs South Africa Hlengiwe Twala, the beauty from Hartbeespoort Dam, was crowned as the 2017 Schwarzkopf Professional Mrs South Africa at a glittering grand finale at Emperors Palace.

The Mrs South Africa pageant may not enjoy as much fanfare as its counterpart the Miss South Africa competition. Entered by married women, Mrs South Africa sells itself as a women empowerment platform promoting women with philanthropic interests. Although the “queens” or the winners of both competitions take home a sparkling tiara and sash, and also enjoy a yearlong reign, the similarities end there.

While Miss South Africa is also big on women empowerment and celebrating beauty with brains, Mrs South Africa takes it a step further by promoting entrepreneurship and a sense of self. Hlengiwe Twala the current reigning Mrs South Africa explains this to me during her recent press tour in Cape Town.

The Joburg-based Twala has all the trimmings of a beauty queen. A slim and toned body, a dazzling smile and flowing hair, however it is her aura that immediately puts me at ease. I would later learn that this is due to the fact that we share the home province of KwaZulu-Natal. She, born in the quiet town of Pietermaritzburg says Durban is her happy place when she needs some quiet time: “I love Durban, it calms me,”she says.

Unlike most young girls who daydream about entering beauty contests, Twala on the other hand never gave it much thought until her mother died due to a rare blood cancer. This is one of the main reasons she entered Mrs SA.

“I have never really had an interest in beauty contents. “I literally found out about Mrs SA about two years ago. “And what really grabbed my interest was that they work very closely with the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa),” says Twala

“It was really heavy on my heart and I wanted to do something that would help raise cancer awareness… the competition was a perfect fit. “I also went through a cancer scare as I was planning on entering, so this has been a very personal journey for me.

“I got my test results a couple of days before the entries closed. “I saw it as a sign that I had to do it now because there are no guarantees for tomorrow,” she says. “I entered and I was not expecting win. I really wanted to have a year of fun. I wanted to have a year of me, because I realised that I was not living but I was just merely existing because I was in so much pain over my mother’s death.

“It has been a truly fulfilling journey. “I am so happy, my kids are happy and my husband is happy because they see me so happy,” Twala says.

Twala, a mother of three daughters, is fresh from competing in the Mrs World competition in Korea. Winning the competition has been a life changing experience, she says. “ My life has changed completely. The one thing that I love the most is that Mrs South Africa is all about women empowerment. “Unlike other pageants, we don’t really compete among each other.

“Soon after the Top 10 was chosen we had to prepare for a Cancer Gala to raise awareness and funds for Cansa… the whole experience empowers you to think like a business woman or a business person,” she says. Her philanthropic interests come from her mother Ntombifuthi, who taught her children from a young age to share what little they had with those who had less, Twala explains.

“I come from very humble beginnings. I remember my mother used to sew clothes for kids in the community who did not have any. “Although we also didn’t have much money to go round, she thought… I have hands and a machine, I will sew’;

“My mother used to say to us ‘When you give to another, you give to yourself’ and that is how I grew up… I don’t know anything else,” Twala explains.

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Top left, Lilliana LulliMarruchi won second princess, Mrs South Africa Hlengiwe Twala and first princess Olwethu Leshabane.

However, life in the spotlight attracts involuntary attention and sometimes not the right kind. Also, beauty pageants of any kind are always under scrutiny and are said to promote vanity and forcing unnecessary pressure on young girls to be perfect. Twala is well prepared for what is coming, good or bad:

“There is nothing wrong with us women looking pretty and enhancing what we have because when you look good, you feel good. “I think we should now promote being comfortable in your own skin and stop wanting to judge,” she says. “I am a little nervous about being in the limelight. “But I think right now, I feel so blessed that even the fear has taken a back seat. I feel so blessed and happy.

“I know it’s going to happen, when people see something good, they want to pick at it. “But you know what? I have so much positive support as Mrs SA, from my family, from my home and my friends… I am going to concentrate on the good,” Twala adds.

● Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @Nontando58

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on December 9 2016. 

New Month, Fresh Start.

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Hello December!!! As I welcome my favourite month beacuse it’s my birthday month and it means Summer is officially here!  I started a new journey today, as the Fashion and Beauty Editor for the Independent Media group…my dream job fam. I am so grateful and excited for the future;-)

So… naturally, I had to SLAY on my first day at the job. #NontandoWoreWhat 

Top by H&M South Africa 

Pants by Top Shop 

Socks are by Happy Socks the “Local Hero” edition

Shoes by Steve Madden

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The pictures are by Tracey Adams 

Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58

Reflecting the times, refreshing fashion

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Fashion designer Rich Mnisi is one of South Africa’s celebrated talents in the fashion industry. Launching his brand “Oath” soon after being announced as one of the winners of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg AFI Fastrack in 2014, Mnisi may be a newcomer to this competitive industry, but his brand is well-respected – at home, in Africa and overseas. I speak to him about his journey and SS’17 collection.

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What sparked your interest in fashion? My whole family has some sort of interest in fashion, particularly my sister. Watching her prepare to go out was absolutely incredible. She’d take time to do her hair, make-up and style her look, and if she didn’t like something about the way she looked she would just alter the clothing on the spot.

“The proportions and moods I explore come from my mother and the need to push the envelope comes from my sister”

What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career out of it? It was when I learned about Lisof Fashion School and what it had to offer. I never saw fashion as a viable career option, it always felt so glamorous and bizarre. But exploring the business side of it was enlightening.

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How has your work evolved since you started your own label? I can’t be specific as it has been a gradual growth. The brand is gradually growing into its own attitude and style. Does your approach differ when designing menswear compared to womenswear? No, I approach them the same way.Usually something intended for a man ends up on a woman and vice versa.

What is your creative process? Music is at the beginning of it all. I let the music I listen to lead the way – define the proportions, mood and colours. Then link all of that with the inspiration of the collection.

How do influences from outside South Africa find their way into your work? It’s the time I’m in, information is everywhere. My work is conversation driven. All the conversations I have with my friends and myself influence my work.

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What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? The beauty in blackness. I almost apply a Solange Knowles: for us by us approach.

Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? Not necessarily, it needs to come naturally. I don’t start a new collection unless I know what I’m trying to say through it.

“The research process comes with the Reflecting the times, topic at hand and they can’t all be tackled the same”

What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your company? That I’ll never stop learning. It’s not as easy as it looks. It’s a very complex industry; you almost need to stop thinking about it too hard to make the best decisions.

“The support for young designers could definitely be better, but it’s also on the young designers to educate themselves and find a means to communicate their ideas”

I’ve also had to learn about the business. Sometimes creative meets corporate and the two need to work together. I still go 60 percent creative and 40 percent corporate, for my sanity.

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How would you describe your design aesthetic? It’s a reflection of time, and it develops as time develops. Do you feel there’s significant interest in young designers? Definitely, I think young designers stripped fashion of its glamour and tackled it in an honest way.

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Who inspires you the most in fashion? My peers: Orange Culture, Tzar, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Nicholas Coutts, Jenevieve Lyons, Nao Serati, Thebe Magugu, Selfie, Young & Lazy, Tsepo Tsotetsi, AKEDO. Describe the person you have in mind when you design? A curious mind, a fashion enthusiast, a traveller.

What’s your motto? The philosophy stems from the need to remind people of the importance of expression and not feeling lost in a world of globalisation and trends, but to use this more exposed world as your motivation to live fully.

“It’s about being unapologetic about your stance and knowing that it may never be accepted by many, but as long as you do it well it will translate”

What’s next? Our A/W 17 Collection

● Shop Rich Mnisi’s collection at  Rich Mnisi  or at . Spree

Connect with me on Twitter and Instagram @Nontando58

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus  on November 30 2016