Mail & Guardian article: Heritage on the runway
In celebration of Africa’s creative heritage, Sanaa Africa 2012 launched its four day event with a runway show featuring eight local designers.
The show featured Rubicon, Gugulam, House of Ole, newcomer Sylvester Falata, local menswear designers Palse Homme, Thunderstorm and Ephymol by Ephraim Molingoana and South African based Kenyan model, designer and musician Liz Ogumbo.
Liz Ogumbo has been round the fashion block a few times; since her early days as a model she has launched her own fashion line and even got into the music industry.
“I am a Kenyan creative entity living in the continent and creating for the globe to appreciate and celebrate.
This show is in commemoration/celebration of Africa day and therefore I believe that any African (including myself) would be inspired and honoured to be a part of this event,” said Ogumbo.
“This collection was specifically recycled for this show. It’s time for us to start celebrating our wardrobe for life. My advice through this range is: Spend your money on durable quality timeless clothing so that you can create several life spans for the same garments by switching up the style through recycling, otherwise you will die broke,” said Ogumbo.
The range featured hints of kitenge which is the cotton damask fabric used to make boubous – flowing wide sleeved robes worn by men in West Africa – some sequins and some felt for affordable warmth over sleeveless dresses during winter.
After high school, Ogumbo left Kenya to go to the United States study and model. She worked in Milan, Paris, and the US, sharing the catwalk with household names such as Naomi Campbell. While modeling, Liz wrote a book denouncing the idea of size zero models and a song called Big Ass in the Blue Jeans which featured on her album KenSoul.
Ogumbo explains that she found her way into design because of her frustration with being unable to find clothes that fit her properly. During her time in the US she started adapting other designers’ work and when people started complementing her on her clothes she decided to pursue a career as a designer.
Gugu Mlambo Msomi, the owner of the label Gugulam, spent part of her childhood in Swaziland where Africa Day is celebrated with the spirit of the Swazi culture, something that is not done in South Africa.
“South Africa is very diverse but I sometimes wonder how we are ever going to see ourselves as Africans if we don’t acknowledge that we are African and celebrate it. We need to find our identity in this country.”
Photo: Madelene Cronjé (M&G)
The range for Sanaa Africa 2012 consisted of eight pieces that remained true to Gugulam’s classic style. Part of the range was Afrocentric while the rest was simpler and accessorised with African jewellery.
She describes the range as ‘accessible Afro’. “Italians sell their clothes to use and we love them and I want them to do the same when they come to Africa. It mustn’t feel like a costume,” she said.
“South Africans, unlike other African countries, only began to wear traditional African attire after we were liberated but this too was mainly in the villages and not much in cities. It is like this even today so I want to be accessible to the people I see on a daily basis.”
After graduating from Wits Technicon (now known as the University of Johannesburg) with a diploma in fashion design, Msomi went on to work for as a stylist for magazines such as Soul and Y Magazine and on music videos for Sibongile Khumalo, Judith Sephuma, Lucky Dube and Lady Smith Black Mabhazo. She worked for the television soap Generations for three years as head of wardrobe before starting her own label in 2009.
House of Ole
Of late, there have been quite a few South African designers focusing on bespoke tailoring. Ole Ledimo went to London in 2009 to understand why London is the best place for men’s tailoring. He brought back the knowledge after studying advanced tailoring at the London College of fashion and created a label to combine Saville Row with an Afro approach.
“We specialise in fusing Afrocentric styles with Eurocentric tailoring and Sanaa Africa is a great platform to showcase what we do,” he said. He showcased seven women’s and seven men’s pieces.
Photo: Madelene Cronjé (M&G)
For this collection Ledimo chose to use vibrant colours. “I used burgundy from my grape harvest collection. My inspiration comes from the people that would flock together and there would be element of spirit of ubuntu in it. When it’s time for harvest people sing, celebrate and pick grapes so those colours – dark grapes, wine red, greens and browns – were used for this range.” He also used prints – Nigerian and Cameroonian prints and some created by himself.
He explains the attraction of bespoke tailoring. “Brands use to be the in thing and it meant that you were part of a certain group and it became your identity. Now that more people are educated and well-travelled, they are looking for authenticity. With the influx of Chinese goods, brand quality is deteriorating. With tailoring you are sure of what you are getting as you choose the fabric and we engage the client in the making process and clients know what they are getting before they get it.”
Hangwani Nenghovela of the label Rubicon describes her collection as proudly South African and Sanaa Africa offered her a platform to exhibit this, “Africa Day is an event which stimulates Africans’ sense of belonging and affirms the world that it is a tradable continent with a remarkable potential to shine,” says Nenghovela.
The six pieces featured were inspired by Vhavenda tradition. “The inspiration comes from the diverse culture of the my VhaVenda people. Different aspects such as the domba (snake dance) influenced the creation,” said Nenghovela.
With ten years in the industry, Rubicon clothing is influenced by nostalgia with a feminine, classic and elegant furnish. “When creating a range, I am inspired by our everyday experiences with nature and a flair of vintage in classic silhouettes,” said Nenghovela.
Nenghovela also recently founded the Rubicon Foundation to provide clothes to people in need.
Sanaa Africa is a four day African cultural festival in celebration of Africa Day.