As someone who has always been a fan of the fashion scene and industry as a whole, over the years, I’ve realized that perhaps I haven’t been much of a fan of the South African fashion industry. This is by no means a reflection of the state of talent in local creatives, but is due to the fact that South African fashion and its designers don’t get enough media coverage, outside of just a handful. Personally, platforms such as Woolworths STYLEBYSA have helped in ensuring that the talent that SA has to offer reaches the wider South African. “We recognize the wealth of talent in the industry and want to celebrate South African fashion’s unique point of view”, a statement from the brand read. Through STYLEBYSA I was exposed to the talent in SA, as these are up and coming designers that ordinarily wouldn’t feature on fashion week runways due to the resources needed to be able to showcase independently. Through being exposed to these designers and their work, I find myself appreciating and clapping for local fashion a lot more.
BELOW WE MEET THE TALENT BEHIND STYLEBYSA
Thebe Magugu is a multi-talented designer, photographer and stylist from Kimberley, South Africa. His designs are strongly influenced by the prominent female figures in his life. His creativity thrives in dualities, designing garments that beautifully balance unexpected juxtapositions. Sleek, forward looking-design intersects with motifs from Africa’s richly storied past to create sophisticated, multifaceted garments that are as valuable and interesting as the women wearing them.
His eponymous label, THEBE MAGUGU, is a fashion brand that primarily operates within the field of women’s ready to wear, while having a firm footing in accessories and small multidisciplinary projects. “There are so many young, brilliant designers who really need funding and support and, instead, all that seems to go to greedy gatekeepers who don’t want to let a younger generation of designers flourish,” he opened up to Mail & Guardian. “I can only but strive for excellence from myself and encourage my peers to do so, because true authenticity will always come to the fore and be recognised, despite limited resources.”
RICH MNISI is a South African based contemporary fashion brand established in 2014, by founder, Rich Mnisi. The brand is fast becoming one of the notable game changers shaping the SA fashion industry. Known for its gender non-conformist aesthetic, the RICH MNISI brand has in its infancy, been featured in world-renowned publications such as Vogue Italia, L’Officiel Manila, WWD and i-D.
“Woolworths has afforded us the opportunity to access their consumers and all the trust that they’ve built with these consumers over time,” Mnisi told Marie Claire. Earlier this year, the designer unveiled an experimental couch, marking his potential move into the Furniture space.
MMUSOMAXWELL is the vibrant brand by duo Maxwell Buko and Mmuso Potsane. The pair joined forces in 2016 and have been regular features at fashion weeks throughout South Africa. Their bold, unconventional use of colour and patterns has awarded them international acclaim, leading to a feature in Vogue Italia. Their autumn/winter collection from MMUSOMAXWELL marries contemporary culture with African heritage. This is achieved through the use of interesting cuts and shapes paired with fabrications like cotton poplin, crepes and melton.
The collection draws inspiration from the women in central Johannesburg who sell fruit and veg at the intersections in the city, particularly their distinct style. The designers describe their collection as “off-kilter, toilere and contemporary”. “This is such a great opportunity as it will open a lot of doors for us. We are willing to work hard enough for us to get there, with the help of Woolworths,” the duo recently told SABC 3’s Expresso.
The Wanda Lephoto label, a part of the multidisciplinary creative collective The Sartists is spearheaded by two designers: Wanda Lephoto, its namesake, and Kabelo Kungwane. The two have infused the brand with a strong sense of storytelling. There are strong narratives in the brand’s style, which is derived from their modern observation of traditional culture. This blend of past and present is especially prevalent in the t-shirts featuring barber and salon themed artwork created by a local Johannesburg street artist.
According to Wanda Lephoto, his STYLEBYSA collection is simple, authentic and a work in progress.
The Watermelon Social Club
Sthembiso Mchunu and Siyabonga Ngcamu founded The Watermelon Social Club in 2016. The brand is heavily guided by the streetwear movement. Bold prints combine with unisex silhouettes to form a style that is on trend with a timeless effortlessness. “Being a part of STYLEBYSA is really huge because now I really see myself as being your RICH MNISI and THEBE MAGUGU and its also a story that I’m interested in telling,” said Mchunu.
The autumn/winter collection is a modern twist on Zulu culture with strong influences from both their heritage and present-day experiences shining through, similarly to Masikandi, a South African new age music genre which mixes Zulu folk music with a digital sound.