With the Covid-19 changing the way we socialise, instead of the traditional runway congregation, 28 designers showcased their latest creations at the ‘SA Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2021’ digital collection. We chat with upcoming designers Thulani Vuyo Mlambo and Mpumelelo Dhlamini about their first fashion week experience.
Byline: Mokgadi G Letsoalo
Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week
The fashion week kicked off on 29 April and concluded on 01 May 2021. The exclusive extravaganza was held at Mall Of Africa, but this time the fashion shows were displayed on large digital TV screens. This was a departure from the normal runway gatherings – in efforts to adhere to the social distancing regulations. Despite adapting to the new normal, designers and fashion disciples came out to spread the fashion word.
One of the designers who shined on the runway is the upcoming designer Thulani Vuyo Mlambo of Saint Vuyo. His fashion line was established in 2020 and aims to “dismantling or deconstructing the hegemonic gender codes of society.” The Design School of Southern Africa graduate, and an honours degree graduate from LISOF, has created a unisex brand that pays homage to his heritage and his suburban “botjie” lifestyle.
Blacklight had a chat with the designer about his fashion career and brand Saint Vuyo.
Blacklight: What is the role of your brand as the new talent search finalist?
Thulani Vuyo Mlambo: I am just excited to show ethical fashion and sustainability in our fight for authentic South African fashion.
BL: How do you feel about being part of the new talent programme for 2021?
TVM: I am incredibly grateful for SA Fashion Week, for just being here and coming full circle. I am proud to be a designer showcasing at fashion week, and I got to tell and show the world my story as Vuyo.
BL: Tell us a bit about your brand?
TVM: When I embarked on my professional designing career in 2013, I wanted to create something incredibly personal – something that tells a story. I used my middle name Vuyo, which means joy/happiness in Xhosa. I found it fitting because fashion has given me nothing but joy and happiness.
BL: What story are you telling with your latest collection?
TVM: The collection is titled Chapter 1, inspired by tarot cards. A wheel of fortune came up on my cards, and I decided to use my personal story to tell the beginning of my journey into fashion through the lens of Saint Vuyo.
Another designer who presented a first-class collection was the director and designer at Ezokhetho, Mpumelelo Dhlamini. The graduate from Villioti Fashion Institute was named “one of the designers to watch”. At Villioti, he received the most innovative and the Dean’s Merit awards. He was also chosen to sell his first capsule collection in Milan, during the famous Milan Fashion Week.
Ezokhetho, a Zulu name meaning ‘chosen’, is an exclusive contemporary womenswear brand. The designer makes use of multifunctional pieces that provide for an easy-to-wear and versatile style. Mpumelelo’s brand is inspired by various African cultures and aims to celebrate African heritage.
While preparing for the Satiskin Rise and Shine Designer, he reveals to Blacklight that he lost his father. The collection pays homage to him.
He chats to us about his triumph over the loss and displaying it on a runway.
BL: I loved the collection, the waists, ruffles on the sleeves, the gathers and all that feminine detailing. What inspired the collection?
Mpumelelo Dhlamini: My collection is about “uMfazi Wephepha” (lawfully wedded woman). She is modern; she knows who she is; what she wants, she is confident; has a bold persona.
BL: How long did it take to create the collection?
MD: I had the collection on my mind for two to three months, but my dad passed on, so I had to pause and deal with that. I received a call that I have been selected to be part of the Satiskin Rise and Shine collection two weeks after his passing. I knew then that this was the collection I would showcase.
BL: Tell us a bit about your journey as a professional designer?
MD: This is my third year as a brand. I started working in fashion in 2010, but I have paid my dues and done the work. I have worked for a few brands and in retail. I was one of the designers that were part of the design innovation program in varsity; that is how everything started.
BL: How do you think the pandemic is affecting the direction of where SA Fashion Week is heading?
MD: It has affected it but in a good way. We have been doing the same thing for many years in the fashion industry, the ramp, and a crowded venue. Most of the time, people that come are not even invested in the clothing showcased; they just come for the event and networking. I believe people are now going to focus on clothing for what it is. The fashion industry will finally get the respect that it deserves.
BL: The theme at the fashion week was “Be Dressed By An SA designer You Love”; how important are such themes in the local fashion industry?
MD: It’s about time! You find people queuing outside international stores to spend tens of thousands. If they can spend that amount on international brands, they can spend that money in the country. It is not just about buying locally but also growing the economy. The local fashion business needs sustainability and accessibility. I have seen that people do not mind spending if the product is accessible, and it is good. Such themes remind people where to buy.
The new talent search has opened global opportunities for designers in the past – most are not so new to the fashion industry. It is also great a platform for designers to rise and shine.