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.

 

Racing Season is officially underway

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At the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (LQP) on January 7 slaying in a Nontando original siShweshwe outfit. 

Cape Town’s horse racing season is in full swing.The season began with the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (LQP)  glitzy blue and white themed two day affair that was held in the first weekend of January. As one of Cape Town’s Racing .It’s a Rush ambassador and guest, my friends and I spent the day at the Paddock Marquee , mingling with South Africa’s who-is-who in entertainment, the social scene and celebrities. Part of the fun is also sipping on champagne, eating delicious canapes and also placing a bet. Although most of us are there to show off our outfits and to slay. However, we do take the time to watch the country’s finest thoroughbred horses compete for a large amount of money…in between taking countless selfies and photos…of course;-) We placed bets worth about a R100 but we didn’t win…we are still a long way from becoming professional punters. 

Here is a breakdown of the winners:
– Winner of the MAINE CHANCE FARMS PADDOCK STAKES (WFA) (Grade 1) (For Fillies and Mares ) was Bela-Bela trained by Justin Snaith and Anton   Marcus.
– Winner of the L’ORMARINS QUEEN’S PLATE (WFA) (Grade 1) was Legal Eagle trained by Sean Tarry and the jockey Anton Marcus 
– Jockey Anton Marcus rode 4 winners on the the day! 

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If you do not take a picture with this LQPCT floral decorated sign, you were not there.

Take note of the blue and white theme as it’s there for a reason. To those who showed up dressed in colours outside the theme, STOP IT!!!! You are ruining a tradition that has been there for decades and not just our pictures with your red or mustard outfits. 

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My friend Hubert won the best dressed man title. Rightfully earned and deserved, he looked dapper and his attention to detail is on point. Gentleman!! Take notes. 

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Coming up next week  is the inaugural Sun Met celebrated with Mumm event which has been hailed as the “the richest horse racing day in Africa”. I am looking forward to this event. Hey now,  I do enjoy good champagne. So the thought of spending the whole day sipping on unlimited G. H. Mumm, eating good food in good company sounds like the perfect day to me.

The theme is “ “Decades of glamour” which means that we are  spoilt for choice when it comes to what to wear on the day. 

Here is a breakdown of the theme to help you put together the perfect race day outfit

Theme: “Decades of Glamour”: 

  •  1920’s – The Great Gatsby: an era of feminine self- expression where waists dropped and hemlines rose. The Flapper look was the rage, with long necklaces, cloche hats and chemise or shift dresses storming to the fore.  
  •         1930’s – Vintage: known as the Golden Age of Glamour for women’s fashion an era of escapism and glamourous Hollywood starlets. Favouring simple art deco lines the style moved to smaller cloche hats, skirt hems dropped and broad shouldered, puffed sleeves entered the fray.
  •         1940’s – Retro: A decade defined by the war years, the padded or puffed shoulder was the dominant look. The Silhouette with broad square shoulders and trim waist and hips was desired. This was complimented by tiny hats, large bags and nylon stockings.
  •         1950’s – Polka Dots: This decade is influenced by two silhouettes, the wide circle skirt and the pencil skirt. Ball gowns were complimented by elbow length gloves and sparkling jewelry. Summer dresses also incorporated floral and polka dot prints. Chanel introduced suit jackets and slim skirts in highly textured tweeds.
  •         1960’s – Flower Power: The era where no skirt was too short brought the arrival of the mini skirt and hot pants. The hippy revolution was about long hair, long legs and long nights. Bellbottoms bubbled to the surface. The swinging sixties were defined by a number of icons from the gamine supermodel Twiggy to the “original” first lady Jackie Kennedy who brought us skirt suits, pillbox hats and supersized sunglasses.
  •         1970’s – Disco: This decade was all about “freedom”, “identity” and “personal expression”. The hippie culture continued and fashion resulting from this period displayed rebellion. From mini-skirts to wide lapel suits, knee high boots and lace onsie’s the 70’s had it all.
  •         1980’s – Glam Rock: One word comes to mind when you think of 80’s : BIG. It was a time of excess and over-the-top flamboyance. Shows like Dallas and Dynasty depicted bedazzled evening wear studded with sequins and beads. Metallic dress colours like silver and gold also added some shine to this decade.
  •         1990’s – Denim: This decade saw a return to minimalist fashion. Supermodels such as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell and Eva Herzigovatowered over the fashion industry during this period. Tailored skirt and trouser suits, short skirts and dresses, baby doll dresses, animal prints, hot pants, slim pants and high heels. High shine fabrics such as satin, metallic, sequins, vinyl and silk were prominent.
  •         2000’s – Modern Fashion: An era epitomised by style icons such as J. Lo saw fashion trends such as the boyfriend blazer, statement necklaces paired with classic sheath dresses, skyscraper platform shoes, miniskirts, mix and match prints and cocktail rings.

 

*Useful links for more informarion. Sun Met: www.sunmet.co.za

Twitter: @SunMetZA and Instagram: @officalsunmet

Hashtag:  #DAREWINCELEBRATE

*All you need to know about racing and racing events: Racing.It’s A Rush. http://www.itsarush.co.za

Instagram: @racingitsarush and Twitter: @RacingGuru

 

Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter: @Nontando58

 

 

 

Living in colour…

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I took up the Fruit of the Loom South Africa “colour blocking challenge” with Zando and this is what I came up with. What do you guys think? I styled their t-shirts by wearing all four in one…I bet you haven’t seen basic t-shirts styled in this way before;-) The blue lipstick is from M.A.C .

Summer is here Fashionistas and it’s time to stand out in colourful clothing. I love colour and prints, no matter what the season is. From bright lipsticks to clothing and sneakers…gimme, gimme colour any day!!!

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#NontandoWoreWhat The mandarin jacket is a Nontando original (yes, I design my own clothes. Look out for my label soon)

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Credits: Pictures are by Khuthii @Khuthii on Instagram.

Location: The beautiful Lourensford Estate

Connnect with me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58

 

 

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. 

King of couture shows high style

 

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Jacques LaGrange needs no introduction.

Whether you move in South Africa’s fashion circles or are a socialite, you’ve probably admired his creations. Over the years, his meticulous attention to detail and the glamour of his garments, usually created with a touch of drama, have earned him the title “King of couture”, and his client base includes the who’s who of South African society and international socialities.

 

Describing himself as a “farm boy that happens to be in the fashion world”, LaGrange
grew up in Paarl and credits his mother for his creativity.

“My love for fashion was always there from a very young age. I remember during bath times I used to enjoy draping a towel around me in a fashionable way.

“I also used to drape myself in my mother’s curtains… I always had a thing for draping things,” he says.

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“When I was a little boy, I played with dolls instead of cars.I had a love for art and nice things and my mother loved to dress up.

“During those years there were a lot of parties and she used to dress up in these beautiful dresses. People don’t dress up like that now. In those days, I would tell her what looks better with what, which shoe and earrings go together… I guess I always had it in me,” LaGrange says.

A fashion design graduate from the South African Academy of Clothing Technology, LaGrange cut his teeth in the world of fashion working for couturier Errol Arendz as his personal assistant.

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Picture by Johann Delport 

In 1999, he ventured out on his own with his label, Jacques LaGrange Couture.

“Working for Arendz was nice and people often ask me, ‘did you learn something
from Arendz?’ But I don’t really think I learnt that much. I learnt how to work with people because there was a lot happening on a daily basis, but a flair for fashion is something I always had,” says the designer, whose first creation was a wedding dress
with a panelled corset and bead-encrusted neckline.

 

Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia describes “haute couture” as a French word for “high fashion or high dressmaking”. It further says it is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming and hand-executed techniques.

LaGrange agrees.

His designs are constructed with luxurious and quality fabrics, sourced from the world’s most respected fabric manufactures such as Jakob Schlaepfer in Switzerland and Solstiss in Paris.

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Picture by Johann Delport 

Valentino, Chanel and Dior are some of his favourite haute couture masters.

“Haute couture is a way of putting a garment together, the techniques, the fabric choices, the styling, the proportions… it’s like being an architect.

“You get fashion and you get couture, and I always say, couture is a lifestyle’,”
says LaGrange.

“Couture is made for the body. The fabric, workmanship and proportions are key. Not a lot of people do couture because it’s very expensive.

“I could afford to do things differently when I started out because I had highend
clients.

“Whereas new designers are struggling more because they haven’t really found themselves and their signature… I always knew what I wanted to do,” he explains.

“Real couture takes months to create if everything is done by hand. It can take up to six months, which makes it very expensive.

“The word ‘couture’ today is so widely used and most people don’t understand it. It’s a lifestyle because you can’t wear couture every day. I always say that couture is not a party dress, it’s a lifestyle,” says LaGrange.

 

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Picture by Johann Delport 

He describes his typical client as an elegant, confident, strong and powerful  woman who knows who she is, what she wants and who is not afraid to draw attention to herself. The demand for his services is great, with a stream of orders coming in throughout the year, says LaGrange.

“I am a very simple and plain designer, but I am over-the-top at the same time. Sometimes we have to work quickly to produce a garment which is not really
proper couture, but an illusion”

“Also, if you do proper couture, the dress may appear outdated, so we cheat here and there to make it more modern.

“Sometimes we do very simple wedding dresses and sometimes over-the-top extravagant gowns. I enjoy the whole process, from the start to seeing the end product;”

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Picture by Johann Delport 

“It gets frustrating sometimes, but I love doing things such as the beading by hand. I have dressed a lot of people over the years, high-end people who live the couture lifestyle”

“ I never planned on being a wedding designer, but I did one wedding dress and everyone loved it – and they kept calling.

“I always say that if you dress a bride and you don’t get clients from that wedding,
then you are doing something wrong. All my referrals are by word-of-mouth. I am fully booked and I don’t even have a website. I am active on social media, but I don’t really believe that’s how you get business”

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“It’s nice to be out there, but that is not how my clients work… They fly in and out
for consultations, from Paris and all over Europe…

“We create beautiful garments that people sometimes think are done by a European designer. They come here wanting one dress, but they leave with three”

“A lot of people ask me, ‘what awards have you won?’ I have won a couple, but it’s not the awards that make you famous, it’s the clients.

“You can have great people writing about you in magazines and you can do TV interviews – all of that is great for a brand, but at the and of the day they are going to pay for your lifestyle,” says LaGrange.

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Designer Jacques LaGrange

This article was first published in the Cape Argus on May 24 2006.

Randy Fenoli aka the ‘Bridal Gown Whisperer’

Randy with Brides (Courtesy of Francois Dischinger)

Wedding gown designer and stylist Randy Fenoli,of the reality television
series Say Yes to the Dress and Randy to the Rescue, is the go-to-guy about everything bridal.

The first TLC network series follows events at Kleinfeld Bridal in Manhattan, while the second was a roadshow to cities across the US where a team, led by Fenoli, helps brides-to-be determine the perfect look – dress, hair and make-up – for their wedding day.

Fenoli, aka the “Bridal Gown Whisperer” is the star of both shows, whose flamboyant and lovable personality has endeared him to many around the globe. In Say Yes to the Dress, brides travel from far and wide, usually with their wedding party in tow, to the bridal salon, seeking Fenoli’s expert opinion. The hunt for the perfect dress is usually a tear-filled affair where the party disagrees on things such as the colour or style of the dress.

Countless brides have been reduced to tears or stormed out of the shop during a consultation.

“Unlike other reality shows that only rely on drama, Say Yes to the Dress focuses more on family relationships and personal connections. I think viewers can relate to the show on that personal level because their families may have the same dynamics as the families they see on the show,” says Fenoli.

Now in its 14th season and viewed in 130 countries, the show is one of the longest running reality TV shows.

“So many different people can relate to the show, from little girls who want to be Cinderella, who dream about their wedding dresses in the future, to brides who are in the process of getting married and are looking to see what’s out there. Even grandmothers who maybe never had that shopping experience with their families and maybe fathers who watch the show and and think: ‘Oh, what am I going to do when I have to go shopping with my little girl?’

“I think it has really opened up people’s mind to what happens in a bridal salon and it really speaks to the family unit and just how they interact in a public setting. Also because we don’t script the show, it’s real families going through real things and real people can relate to it… that’s why it has lasted so long,” Fenoli says.

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Fenoli, who will be a special guest at Bridal Fair SA at Montecasino in Joburg next month, made his first dress for his motherwhen he was nine.

“My mother came home with a new sewing machine, good scissors and some patterns with the intention to make her own clothes. However, she soon discovered that she could not sew a hem in a terry cloth towel. She left for work the next day, but not before telling me that I was not to touch her sewing machine or good scissors.

“After she left, I looked through the patterns she had brought home and found a McCall’s pattern with That Girl (a TV sitcom that ran on ABC from 1966 to 1971) actor Marlo Thomas. At the time I had a huge crush on Thomas. I set up everything on our dining room table and proceeded to make the dress from the pattern.

“That night, when she came home, she saw the dress hanging in her bedroom.
She wore the dress to work the next day and came home with another pattern. So I guess you could say the passion began with my mother.”

Those dresses were the first of many that he would make, launching his career as a designer. Fenoli says shopping for the perfect dress can be a stressful time for most brides-to-be and one of the reasons is that brides always try to please everyone.

“The bride needs to realise that if she loves the dress and feels beautiful in it, the people who really love her will also love her choice. And if they don’t, then why did she put them on the guest list to begin with? It’s like, if they’re not going to show you the respect and love because you are who you are, then let them sit at home.

“When shopping for your gown, bring people who are supportive and who understand what your style is and the look you are trying to achieve, as trying on a wedding gown puts women in a vulnerable position of being put on a pedestal and being judged, says Fenoli.

“One of the most important, if not the most important, days in a woman’s life is her wedding day.

“To be able to share in this event and help a woman feel confident of her selection of gown and to help her feel beautiful is such a special feeling. I am the luckiest man alive,” he says.

Randy’s tips for finding the perfect bridal gown

THE SEXIER the better: I think the girls are definitely going for sexy dresses of sheer panels, really low backs and see-through. I don’t think they’re really thinking about the ceremony, but more about the reception or the honeymoon.

Diversity: Every bride wants their wedding to be unique, so they are thinking outside the box. I hear this from almost every bride: “I don’t want to look like any other bride before me”. But the truth is that even though looks may be similar, every bride has a quality about her that makes her look unique.

I personally prefer great style over a trendy look. However, each bride is different and some brides want to showcase the latest trends. Looking at some of today’s most talked about weddings such as Kim Kardashian’s head jewellery piece, Kate Middleton’s wedding dress sleeves, LeAnn Rimes’s high-slit dress, there really is not a single direction that bridal wear is trending. And that is the true trend, the desire for every bride to be unique on her wedding day.

Every dress is cut differently and every person is shaped differently. I would not want to generalise and say that a certain style or silhouette looks flattering on everyone. It’s true that more people can wear an A-line silhouette and that a mermaid gown is more difficult to pull off; however, there is more to be considered than simply the silhouette.

You also need to consider the neckline, waistline, and details of the dress. For example, a gown in chiffon or charmeuse will look completely different from the same gown made in taffeta or satin. I usually try to refrain from making blanket statements that may inhibit a bride from trying on a silhouette she may think she can’t wear. You never know how a certain dress or silhouette will look on you until you’ve tried it on.

BEFORE starting to look for a gown every bride should establish four things:
●The story: What type of couple are you and what would you like your wedding to
represent.
●The plan: The venue, time of year, etc should all be chosen before looking for a gown.
This can help when trying to determine the level of formality of the gown as well as fabric, colour, etc.
●The budget: Gowns come in every price range. A bride needs to establish how much they want to spend on the gown, as well as the entire wedding. For example, if you come from a large family that gathers around the dinner table every week, then the food may be the most important thing in your budget. Or it may be the music if you love a big party. You may find the perfect gown that is a little over budget. If this happens, you need to know where you can trim from other areas of the wedding in order to get the gown of your dreams.
●The look: A bride should ask herself what type of bride she wants to be. Ask yourself:
“Am I classic, flirty, fun, sophisticated, retro or a combination of classic and edgy?” Then ask yourself, what’s your story, and that of your fiancé’s? Are you nature lovers, are you artists, do you have a special connection to a location? Then decide how you can translate these into your wedding theme. Once you answer these questions, finding your gown will be much easier.

 

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●Say Yes to the Dress is aired on TLC, channel 135 on DStv.
●The Bridal Fair SA 2016 at Montecasino takes place from May 27 to 29.
●Visit http://www.bridalfairsa.co.za for more information.

*This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on April 15 2016. 

 

‘Happy’ singer Pharrell Williams is working for a greener planet

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HE SINGS and the world claps and dances and his style is emulated by youngsters
everywhere, but lately Pharrell Williams has been using his influence to galvanise the masses to support environmental causes. It was announced yesterday that he has become the style director for Woolworths, a collaboration that will see the star and the business align their values and actions to make a difference to people and the planet.
“We hope Pharrell will help us make sustainability cool for the next generation of South Africans and help us create a better future for our children,” said Ian Moir, chief executive of Woolworths.
It’s a cause Williams has wholeheartedly embraced. In an exclusive interview in Los Angeles for Independent Media, Williams reveals he became an eco-activist because he began to realise the importance of the environment. “You realise that this is your home,” he says.
“If you can tend your lawn, field or garden, you can tend the Earth because it is the biggest lawn we have. “It’s this big rock; it’s the only thing we have. It’s our biosphere, it’s where we live… we have to think about it,” says them musician and designer, who was not wearing the vintage Vivienne Westwood mountain hat he made famous but rather a dark green cap.
“To have a corporation like Woolworths understand that and for them to have the kind of matching initiative in South Africa, in the middle of that precious gem and continent… I have to be a part of that,” he says.

Williams is spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of people knocking on his door to work with him, so what does it take for him to lend his name to a corporation or collaborate with an artist?

He says he first examines their intentions and then asks himself whether he can contribute. “If I don’t feel like there is much I can add to it, I don’t want to get in anyone’s way,” he says.

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As the creative director of Bionic Yarn, which makes ecologically sustainable yarns and fabrics from recycled plastics, he has helped forge eco collaborations with clothing manufacturers.

The biggest of these is RAW for the Oceans, an initiative that recycles plastic from the sea into G-Star denims. Addressing an event at the UN in New York last month to celebrate the International Day of Happiness, Williams highlighted the importance of
tackling climate change. He asked supporters to sign a petition to put pressure on world leaders to commit to climate action.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, he joined Nobel peace prize laureate Al Gore in announcing a Live Earth music event on June 18 to demand action on climate change. He is serving as creative director of the event taking place across all the continents, including Antarctica. Cape Town is one of the cities hosting a Live Earth concert, about which Williams says: “Expect energy and intention. There will be music that will be played with intention so you will feel it. You feel the intention.” At Davos, Williams called for the support of everyone who believes in clean lakes, rivers and oceans, who cares where their products come from and who is giving to make sure every kid gets
the best shot at a great education, an issue he regards as close to his heart.
Although Williams’s mother, Carolyn Williams, was a teacher, he has admitted
not doing well at school at first and says that words of encouragement from his teachers kept him interested.
“Don’t give up,” he advises youngsters. “Keep looking for that one spot that makes you interested in learning.”
He adds: “It’s super simple. If you figure out what you love to do, what you would do for free, that is usually where it starts.

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“Then you ask yourself: ‘Is there a way to actually service humanity while you are doing it?’ If you can, then that is a dream job.
“And if you are helping humanity at the same time, now God loves you too.” Williams feels that process starts as early as primary school. And if the Woolworths fundraising programme, MySchool, “is going to offer that, I want to be part of it”, he says.
Currently one of the judges in the eighth season of TV singing competition The Voice and with a new album out titled GIRL, Williams is a busy man – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t want to take any of it for granted,” he says. “I would rather stay focused on the work.”
He says he appreciates his success “because I know where it comes from. It comes from the seed which is the work, being curious about what you do and being appreciative to be able to collaborate with people. That is where all of this comes from”, he says.

He says he was humbled by the success of Happy, the song from the Despicable Me 2
soundtrack, and had no inkling it would become such a global phenomenon. It was
the best-selling single of last year, peaking at No 1 in the music charts of over 20
countries, and sold 12 million copies.

“You never know that,” he says, “because it’s not up to you. It’s up to the
people. “That is why I’m always saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I am so grateful’.
I really mean it. “To be supported in that way, and to the magnitude that I felt,
is humbling.”

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As we shake hands at the end of the interview, he says something which will excite
his many fans here: “I am looking forward to coming to South Africa.”
●Nontando Mposo was flown to Los Angeles courtesy of Woolworths.

This feature was first published on April 10 2015, in the following Independent Media Newspapers. The Star, Cape Argus, Pretoria News and Daily News.