What drives a designer?

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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.

 

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. 

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 

When fashion meets decor

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Eduan Roos, Tamara Chérie and Leandri de Leeuw collaborated for aCREATE and Chérie Spring/Summer 2016/2017. PICTURES: JOE DAN PHOTOGRAPHY

COLLABORATION is now a common buzzword in fashion, art and design. Brands,
creatives and influencers are coming together to share ideas… curating content that is specifically relevant for their consumers.

The latest collaboration is between creative décor specialists, Eduan Roos and Leandri de Leeuw of aCREATE, an award-winning contemporary readyto- wear brand, Tamara Chérie. The collaboration, which was part of aCREATE and Chérie Spring/Summer2016/17 showcase titled “A Common Thread”, was presented at the Roodebloem Studios in Woodstock last month. It saw the coming together of interior design and fashion in a beautifully curated way.

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The two brands’ aesthetic of muted palettes and minimal styles complemented each other well, expressing clean lines and refined silhouettes articulate in a chic modern attitude.

Previously part of The Aleit Group , Roos and De Leeuw recently ventured out on their own to form aCREATE, and over the past months have made a name for themselves as the go-to-designers for bespoke event experiences in Cape Town and Joburg. Their furniture pieces offer customised décor and accessories that interpret their vision for each unique
event.

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The local events industry has evolved over the years, with clients now demanding service that not only sets them apart, but also delivers enduring memories for their guests, Roos explains when I met him and De Leeuw at Chérie’s studio in Gardens.

Roos, a fashion designer by profession, says the slow living trend has spilled over from lifestyle to décor and design.

“There is a big Japanese influence in design at the moment… a sense of calmness in the furniture pieces. Such as using a statement piece as the focal point instead of cluttering the room with different types of furniture pieces; 

Décor design is heading to a clean and minimalist approach,” says Roos

De Leeuw continues: “Less is more at the moment. Also, people are now more aware than ever and conscious of their environment… People are more aware of the fact that there is a serious water shortage problem.

“We recently did an event where the clients specifically asked for organic materials instead of flowers… which is rare;” she says 

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About their bespoke pieces, Roos says they create functioning pieces meant to be admired.

“For us, it’s really about conceptualising a look for each event, tailoring it to fit in with your brand and vision. These days clients are so over-stimulated by picture-driven social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram, that it’s key to get a sense of what the client wants and to interpret it in a way that communicates their vision and brand,” says Roos.

 

“Our aesthetic is calm, natural and none aggressive. We want the pieces in our collection to be calming in a sense and make it easy to fit any brief,” says Roos. 

 

The ottoman couch, sort of like a church bench meets a comfortable sofa, is a popular furniture piece at the moment. It’s slick, clean and a beautiful piece, says
Roos.

De Leeuw adds the niche market of interior design is so competitive that one has to stand out in order to survive.

“ You need to stand out, have a unique thing about you that will draw clients,”adds de Leeuw 

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Tamara Chérie Spring/Summer 2016/2017

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AWARD-WINNING designer, Tamara Chérie Dyson, has interned at Vivienne Westwood in London and won numerous design prizes, including the Elle Rising Star Design Award in 2014.

She started her design career last year building her brand and creating a successful diffusion line for Mr Price. In her relatively short career she has
been involved in fashion weeks such as Mercedes-Benz Africa Fashion Week
and Joburg Fashion Week.

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Her collection reflects a balanced sense of timeless elegance and current intuitive design, focusing on achieving impeccable quality and the perfect fit.

Confident and sophisticated, the brand’s collections offer clients an investment wardrobe of discreet indulgence and understated, effortless style.

She recently launched her SS’17 collection which is available at various boutiques in Cape Town and Joburg and also on online shopping platform Spree. She describes her design process as “methodical”.

“I design key silhouettes that I feel every woman will want in their wardrobe that season and then I build on that. I don’t really follow trends and fads. I design then I will sometimes research detailing to add to the collection… I usually follow my heart and it
works,” she says

The Tamara Chérie woman she designs with in mind is “confident, sophisticated and believes in investing in pieces that transcends seasons and fads. A woman who believes in high quality, good designs and good fabrics”, she adds.

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CREATIVE: Eduan Roos, Tamara Chérie and Leandri de Leeuw collaborated for aCREATE and Chérie Spring/Summer 2016/2017.

Connect with with me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58
● aCreate at http://www.acreate.co.za/
● Twitter: acreate_za
● INSTAGRAM: acreate_za
● Tamara Chérie Dyson: Instagram:
@TamaraChérieOfficial

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on November 23 2016. 

 

Floral Couture

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FLOWER HEAD: Model Samira Ako Manieson of Full Circle Models, who is wearing a dress by Jacques LaGrange Couture. Her makeup is by M.A.C Cosmetics. Pictures by  Cindy Waxa. 

Flowers remain a central element for most spring and summer collections. For many years fashion designers have taken inspiration from flowers to create dreamy haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces.

Seen on runways, florals are no longer restricted to prints on garments: designers are complementing their designs with extravagant headpieces as seen recently at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Joburg.

This is currently a big trend, here at home as well as abroad. Designers such as Dutch luxury fashion house Viktor & Rolf impressed with their 2015 spring and summer collection that styled with elaborate floral embellishments.

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Viktor & Rolf impressed with their 2015 spring and summer collection that styled with elaborate floral embellishments.

Stellenbosch floral stylist extraordinaire Alwijn Burger says it is about time
that flowers were no longer reserved for just the garden or for weddings. Known as Blomboy, Burger has made a name for himself in the niche market as the talent behind surreal floral arrangements worn as headpieces and beautiful arrangements at events of all kinds.

In the past months, he has collaborated with a number of fashion designers, creating floral arrangements that add pizzazz to their showcases. Burger’s work is not limited to flower
accessory pieces for women, he also makes quirky pieces for men.

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I meet Burger at couture designer Jacques LaGrange’s studio in Sea Point where he meticulously creates an extravagant headpiece to go with a daring thigh-baring metallic
dress by LaGrange.

Working on leggy model Samira Ako-Manieson of Full Circle Model Management, he uses tropical leaves and calla lilies to create a leafy and dramatic piece which he describes as
“modest”.

Since the metallic gown already commands attention, Burger had to make sure that the
headpiece did not take away from the glamorous gown.

His process is organic; taking into consideration the dress and model, he plucks and twists and the floral piece comes to life effortlessly. 

The entire process takes just under 15 minutes.

“It’s about time that the meeting of fashion and flowers is becoming a big thing. Flowers have always been the Cinderella of the accessories: they have not been given enough prominence.

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“Also I think we take flowers for granted as we are used to having them in our gardens. We tend not to appreciate them as much. However, we are catching on to the international trend where flowers are a timeless sort of thing… I hope the trend is here to stay.

“Instead of wearing your usual hat or fascinator that will cost you hundreds of rand, why not do a floral fascinator or piece? It’s not expensive; the bunch of flowers that I used on Ako-Manieson were only R350 and it will make your outfit stand out more,”he says.

Although Burger’s love for flowers began as a child, he fell into his now career purely by chance, after landing a job as a clerk at a flower shop in the UK, where he learnt as much as he could about flowers.

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“Flowers are here today and gone tomorrow… they are not an investment but meant to be enjoyed,” adds Burger.

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Connect at blomboy.com, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: theblomboy

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on November 9 2016. 

 

Nontando Wore What?

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I recently did a studio shoot with photographer Tracey Adams. We had a whole concept planned beforehand that included amazing makeup artistry but the plan fell apart at the last minute. The shoot went ahead and we managed to pull it off to produce some of our best work so far;-)

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If you follow me on social media you will know that I am a big Adidas fan and I am obsessed with socks. Combining the two, I came up with this clean and sassy looks.

TRA_5815.JPG I am a advocate of Proudly South African designers and African designers in general. Here I am wearing a gorgeous dress by Rich Mnisi that is available at Spree:  https://www.spree.co.za/

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I love everything about this shot. The Basotho traditional hat was just genius.

Connect with me on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat @Nontando58.