06.10.2016

The Travelling Showroom

Merge ZA recently took five of our brightest young designers to London

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Derek Kettela

South African fashion brands Selfi, Rich Mnisi, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Young & Lazy and Wanda LePhoto were recently invited to participate in the first South African fashion showroom in London. Founded by Celeste Arendse and Lilian Schulze in August 2015, Merge ZA celebrates South African contemporary fashion design by attracting international buying interest, the sharing of databases based on sustainability and collaboration, and using the showroom as a platform to collaborate and interact with fellow creatives that are based outside of South Africa.

Not one to miss out, Superbalist.com fashion director Tammy Tinker jetted over to the mud island where she commissioned photographer Derek Kettela to shoot these gorgeous black-and-white portraits in order to document the young designers’ trip.

Lukhanyo Mdingi

Of course you remember Lukhanyo Mdingi. He was the face of last year’s Spring campaign, he featured in our TVC and The Way of Us told his story in Minimal Man.

He’s more than a friendly face though, and the Lukhanyo Mdingi label aims to showcase cross-cultural references through its pieces, creating a visual language that tells a contemporary story based on its African heritage. With modern design and silhouettes, the approach to conceptualisation is consistent and seamless with the acronym A.T.I.F.Y - Africa This Is For You.

What were you hoping to gain from the experience?

Brand exposure and access to a larger demographic of retailers, customers and PR agencies.

Who did you have to meet up with?

To be honest I would have loved to have met up with my Romanian Uber driver again. He's everything. #loveat1stsight

Describe the outfits you wore?

Simply the best outfits. I only wore Lukhanyo Mdingi Essentials from day one 'til departure. With a little bit of classic Fitties and Levi's in between. 

Why do we need to connect the creative communities of the UK and SA?

I think connecting creativite communities from all over is needed. The UK was just the first of many more countries to come. Interaction and sharing creative juices hasn't hurt anyone. It's platforms such as these that allow us to share and celebrate the spirit of African diversity and design.

From a fashion and design perspective, what are the biggest differences you've noticed between home and the UK?

It seemed to me that a lot of fashion businesses operate through hiring PR Agencies to get their business exposed to publications, retailers, fashion weeks and showrooms. If one can afford it then I highly recommend it!

Anees Petersen

Established in 2009, Young & Lazy is influenced by street-wear and urban clothing culture. The founder and creative director of the brand, Anees Petersen, came up with his brand’s name based on what he felt was the most authentic reflection of his vibe at the time. However, nowadays this is only half true, and the young designer prides himself by his locally sourced material and having all production carried out in-house under his watch.

What were you hoping to gain from the experience?

To work with different people in the industry there.

Who did you absolutely have to meet?

One of my favourite stylists at the moment, Charlotte Moss.

Describe the outfits you wore?

Basically the same shit I wear in SA.

Why do we need to connect the creative communities of the UK and SA?

Personally I have always been inspired by the UK industry and culture and its been amazing to be a part of it and see where I fit and the response to the brand. I also feel like we as South Africans have a lot to offer because of the richness in culture.

From a fashion and design perspective, what are the biggest differences you've noticed between home and here?

The industry is much bigger in the UK and more resources are available over there. I also found that the niche markets are way bigger in the UK so it allows for brands that cater to a certain market that are able to sustain themselves better than what we can here in SA.

Wanda LePhoto

1/4 of a the creative collective know as The Sartists, and working as a project manager at AndPeople, Wanda LePhoto most recently added ‘fashion designer’ to his portfolio. The Wanda Lephoto ready-to-wear brand takes inspiration from traditional cultural practices and modern subculture styles. Looking to the past to create the future, Wanda Lephoto takes inspiration and design direction from under-celebrated 60's to 90's Black Pop Culture, examining icons that have paved the way and broken boundaries in film, literature and music.The collections are inspired by street-wear and workwear influences and the need for personal-touch and craftmanship with a touch of sartorial tailoring.

What were you hoping to gain from this experience?

As this is my first collection I didn't expect too much, only to learn. What I've received from this is far beyond what I could have expected.

Who did you absolutely have to meet?

I met Gosha Rubinsky, our brothers Sam and Shaka from Art Comes First, and Skinny Macho from Boiler Room was an absolute must see. He made it beyond worth it.

Describe the outfits you wore?

My own garments from my first collection. I don't want to describe them, people will see for themselves and react to how they feel, if they feel.

Why do we need to connect the creative communities of the UK and SA?

To form and create a global village of story tellers that are here to create, build and help.

From a fashion and design perspective, what are the biggest differences you've noticed between home and the UK?

Infrastructure and resources for both the designers and consumers. Our designers don't have the magnitude and quality of the resources available in places like London, and our consumers don't have half the pocket space to support the designers.

Rich Mnisi

A fashion designer based in Johannesburg and working under his own name, Rich Mnisi founded his fashion brand in 2014 after graduating from LISOF where he then went on to become an Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year. With a global view catering for an aspirational market, the brand is young at heart and explores the treasures engraved within Africa and the world of modern culture.

What were you hoping to gain from the experience?

Amazing contacts and to start conversations with people who can impact my brand positively.

Who did you have to meet up with?

Ib Kamara, the best art director in town.

Describe the outfits you wore?

Chilled vibes, jeans and T-shirt, but apparently my chilled vibes isn't everyone else's.

Why do we need to connect the creative communities of the UK and SA?

Just to broaden our network and exchange thoughts so that we're not stuck in our ways.

From a fashion and design perspective, what are the biggest differences you've noticed between home and here?

Anything goes here, compared to home where things are still a little conservative.

Celeste Arendse

As well as being one of the brains behind Merge ZA, Celeste Arendse is also the founder and creative director for Cape Town based clothing brand, Selfi. This ready-to-wear fashion label exudes sophistication, comfort and is defined by her signature design and attention to detail, with an emphasis on easy wearable apparel, deconstructed shapes and custom fabric prints. The collections now cover men's and women's ready-to-wear, and accessories with all items produced in house in Cape Town South Africa.

What were you hoping to gain from the experience?

Brand awareness, exposure to a new market , collaboration and buyers.

Who did you have to meet up with?

Its always great working with locals, we got to shoot our collections with Yanick and Rhara at Serpentine Gallery. Creatives to definitely meet up with is photographer and founder of Nii Magazine Campbell Abbey and stylist IB Kamara who also attended our showroom , both focusing on contemporary African content. Founder of NOT JUST A LABEL Stefan Siegel, it was very important to engage with him, as he added a lot of value to the brands exhibiting at Merge ZA. One of the key things I took from his talk was ‘trust yourself as so many large corporations are also overwhelmed by how fast things are moving. There are no rules.’

Describe the outfits you wore?

Mostly things from my new collection, wide leg culottes in ivory bull denim and linen, as well as our new linen boiler suit.

Why do we need to connect the creative communities of the UK and SA?

Its important to expose yourself in a unfamiliar market and for South Africans to take risks and create their own platforms globally. We need to connet with the UK as they are progressive and appreciate what we do back home. This engagement opens channels on how to build and develop our brands further.

From a fashion and design perspective, what are the biggest differences you've noticed between home and here?

One big difference is that everyone is so on trend especially the Koreans and Japanese. Another difference is seeing brands we see on the internet and being able to touch and examine the quality in stores like Dover Street Market, which feeds your soul.

https://superbalist.com/thewayofus/2016/10/06/3-ways-to-wear-slip-dress/787
https://superbalist.com/thewayofus/2016/09/28/man-s-a-mag-man/769
https://superbalist.com/thewayofus/2016/09/08/the-sole-searcher/748