Art and Design

Designers prepare for the ramp

Zeenat Mahomed

Five up-and-coming designers will showcase their icon-themed designs at the inaugural Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town.

Celeste Lee Arendse of Selfi is drawing on the work of Antonio Gaudi and Gustav Klimt for her show.(David Harrison)

Robyn Victor, August Clothing

“I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t knit or sew,” says Robyn Victor, a 28-year-old Plettenberg Bay native whose interest in fashion was heavily influenced by her mother, a theatre costume designer.

After completing a diploma in graphic design and advertising and a certificate course in fashion design and pattern-making, Victor worked at Bibette, a local manufacturer for Woolworths, on the W Collection.

In 2009 she launched August Clothing with the financial backing of her parents. The label mirrors summer and the Cape Town lifestyle and is available in select local boutiques, as well as Poetry stores under the “Poetry by Robyn Victor” label.

Of this year’s Fashion Week theme she says: “Being iconic is more about a level of taste and style than a fleeting moment in fashion or a fad.”

Pumeza Mekuto, Black Coal Clothing

Pumeza Mekuto grew up in the Eastern Cape where she studied agriculture at boarding school. But her mother realised her daughter’s talent for drawing and insisted that she study fashion design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.

After graduating, Mekuto went to work for Woolworths and initiated their Suga Suga range, which cele-brates African heritage.

She launched Black Coal Clothing,  which focuses on denim wear, in 2009 after saving enough money.

The 33-year-old describes her upcoming range, for which she has introduced menswear and new colours, as commercial with a nautical theme. Her icons are the singers Lira and the late Lebo Mathosa. “They work and they do it to the utmost best and you can see that they love what they are doing.”

Tarien Malherbe, Non-European

For Tarien Malherbe, it is not enough just to make beautiful clothes that bring joy to their owners. It is about a brand that has an outward focus and aims to empower people from disadvantaged backgrounds and impoverished communities by creating ­sustainable job opportunities that use their talents.

The 26-year-old says her biggest challenge is having to ask to be paid for her work. “I would love to just give our clothes away.”

Born on a farm outside Ashton in the Western Cape, Malherbe initially wanted to be an archaeologist. After she graduated from the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design in 2007, the founder offered her mentoring and financial support to start a production business, which led to the launch of Non-European. Her latest line for Fashion Week is inspired by the iconic 1920s and old Hollywood glamour.

Maloti Mothobi, Strato

Maloti Mothobi says working day and night is part of her life: days are spent managing the store and her creative work happens at night.

After graduating with a degree in fashion, Mothobi worked for Foschini as a trainee buyer. She left two years later to join the Cape Town Fashion Council, where she spent the next three years.

In 2010 she obtained a bank loan and started her label, Strato. Although financial constraints and a lack of resources were a challenge, she opened her flagship store on trendy Long Street in Cape Town last year.

“A lot of designers get into it for the wrong reasons — for the hype and magazine covers,” Mothobi says. “I want to create a sustainable empire well beyond all of that.”

Celeste Lee Arendse, Selfi

Celeste Lee Arendse says her inspirations include her mother and the singer Björk. But for her upcoming collection she drew on 20th-century Art Nouveau and artists and architects of that period. “Designers of that time rejected the inspiration of classical European art and instead looked to Japanese, Celtic and other folk art as a basis for their work,” she says. “I find that era especially interesting, so I will be focusing on the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi and the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt because both of their works are very organic in appearance.”

Arendse completed her fashion design course at Cape Technikon in 2007 and then worked for Kluk CGDT for a year. With insight on how to run a design studio and develop a brand, she started working out of her mother’s home.

“I love all facets of what I do. There is always change. Fashion is change. What I love most is digging deep for something fresh and innovative that can be defined by your brand.”

Mercedez-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town takes place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from July 25 to 28

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