There are South African athletes, actors, musicians and models who are household names around the world, but that’s an honour few of Mzansi’s fashion designers have been able to claim – until now.
These fashionistas are going global and doing Mzansi proud. We take a closer look at where it all started for them. These talented South African fashion designers are making waves on the global stage.
The26-year-old, Kimberley-born fashionista (RIGHT) has had a year that would make most in his field green with envy.
First, he won the International Fashion Showcase at London Fashion Week in February, and later took top honours and a cool R5-million cash prize when he won fashion’s most coveted award, the LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton) Prize.
As a child, Thebe loved drawing and being creative. He went on to study fashion design and photography at the Johannesburg Fashion Design School& Retail Education Institute.
He sees fashion design as more than simply creating garments – he also uses his creations to speak to people.
“Fashion can be such a powerful vehicle for change and to talk about pressing issues, sow it h my own collection, I always try to have the aesthetic, yes, but also to have something a little bit more intelligent,” he says.
His 2019 collection, With Art History, looks at how people deal with trauma and their personal demons. “I just want to contribute to something bigger than myself.”
Palesa imaged she’d someday expand her Melville shop, or perhaps relocate to Sandton or Rose bank. Now her plans have gone Global thanks to a collaboration with Swedish retail giant H&M, she’s the first African designer to be showcased by the fashion chain.
Her brand, Mantsho, will be sold in 61 stores in 11 countries across the globe, as well as online. It was purely by chance that Palesa (37) found herself working in fashion. She wasn’t sure what to do after finishing school, and her mom suggested she study fashion design at Vanderbijlpark Technical College.
After a year of classes, she quit but then landed herself a job as a designer at Stoned Cherrie after owner Nkhensani Nkosi admired her skirt and invited her to make it for the store.
The skirts sold out, and Palesa hasn’t looked back. She left Stoned Cherrie after three years at age22, launching Mantsho, which means black, after travelling to New York and Mumbai.
Mantsho is known for its vivid fabrics and edgy designs with defined silhouettes. Palesa, who became a mom to a baby girl earlier this year, says motherhood has enhanced her work ethic.
“I work faster and smarter because I’m always pressed for time. I don’t get around to doing everything I want to do, but it’s still all worth it because at the end of the day, I come home to a little angel,” she says.
Here’s a man whose brand is a household name overseas, if you live in the Campbell or Carter Knowles homes, that is.
Rich Fumani Mnisi burst onto the scene in 2012 and quickly made a name for himself as one of SA’s top designers. Apart from the awards he’s scooped for his talent, he’s also dressed superstars like Queen Bey (when she was in SA for last year’s Global Citizen concert) and Naomi Campbell.
His muse, he says, is his great-gogo, Nwa Mulamula, and his designs are inspired by his family and friends.
Last month Rich (27) landed the award for Emerging Designer of the Year at the Essence Best in Black Fashion awards, an experience he describes as “magical”. “It was amazing being in a room of people who celebrated themselves, people who created opportunities for themselves. It was amazing, especially being so young in the industry. It was extremely humbling and inspiring to just keep going, because it gets hard sometimes,” he says.
Rich graduated from fashion design schoolLISOFin2014 and it wasn’t long before he established himself as a force to be reckoned with.
He launched a label called OATH and won the Africa Fashion International Young Designer of the Year award.
The following year, 2015, sawt launch of the Rich Mnisi brand and designs have been featured in international fashion glossies including Vogue, Claire Elle and Dazed.
Laduma’s unique designs have been spotted on international and local A-listers, including Alicia Keys, John and Athandwa Kani, Swizz Beatz and Beyoncé. What makes his work standout though is that his knitwear is a uniquely African heritage Luxury fashion brand.
He’s garnered accolades from across the fashion world for his striking knitwear with Xhosa-inspired geometric patterns and he recently returned home from New York Fashion Week where he showcased his latest collection, We are Kings and Queens.
“New York fashion Week was an unforgettable and thrilling experience. We’re now competing on global scale and it affirmed that our standards are international standard” he says.
Design runs in his blood, thanks to his late mom and older sister’s influences. Both are designers and they, together with his love of culture, have been his greatest inspirations.
“Design and fashion were part of my upbringing. I grew up in a household where we were allowed to be creative and free. It’s something that was part of my daily life. Even in high school I took art as a subject, before studying textiles at Nelson Mandela University,” he says.
His next project is an initiative to help young aspiring entrepreneurs in his home province, the Eastern Cape. “This is an idea of lifting as you rise, because unemployment in the province is very high,” he says.
“It’s a small step in getting creative entrepreneurs to empower themselves to put their brands out there, and it’ll help to impart some of the knowledge I received during my personal and professional growth.”