Mercedes-Benz has championed emerging fashion talent since 2009 with its Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents programme, which during the past eleven years has supported more than 150 designers across 30 global platforms.
In 2020, the programme has shined a focus on South African talent. This year’s designers, who showed their AW20 collections at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin were Clive Rundle, Floyd Avenue, Rich Mnisi and Viviers. We caught up with them post show to find out about their brands, South Africa’s creative scene and the importance, for them, of embracing their cultural heritage.
FEELING FUNCTIONAL WITH FLOYD AVENUE
Floyd Avenue is all about slow fashion, individualism and sustainability, according to founder Floyd Manotoano. Soweto born and bred, Manotoano’s design aesthetic reflects the multi-layered world we exist in, using cultural references to inspire innovative design.
His AW20 collection in Berlin consisted of unusual tailoring inspired by the noun ‘Ken’, which refers to one’s scope of knowledge, range of vision, comprehension, perception, and understanding. He wanted to explore the concept that nothing surface level or material can give you a sense of purpose and meaning quite like the true understanding of who you are and where you come from.
With African designers shaking up the preconceived ideas of how the world expects them to present themselves, and with the creative industries in a key transitional phase, Manotoano is keen to dissolve boundaries: “People are looking at Africa from a different perspective and are slowly shelving the stigmas. It has been very emotional and an exciting process being part of Berlin Fashion Week. It is my first time outside of the African continent and showcasing there represents a new milestone in my career and for my business. So, to every young person out there who is trying the same approach, I say, come to us as you are!”
“The world is looking at Africa from a different prospective and have shelved the stigmas.”
GOING BOLD WITH RICH MNISI
Rich Mnisi founded his brand in 2014 and has since been exploring the heritage, culture and spirit of Africa through clothing. With a keen interest in the world of pop culture and exploring the moment’s zeitgeist, his designs and vision for the brand are modern and playful, yet firmly rooted in his heritage “My cultural identity is inherently everywhere around me and it is who I am and, therefore, everything I absorb influences my output.”
Rich is often inspired by the strong women in his life, as well as an exploration of his ancestral past. Despite looking to his female lineage for inspiration his designs have a gender-fluid quality. He often photographs the look books for his women's ranges on male models and vice versa.
Also inspired by sources outside of the realm of fashion, Rich looks to film, music, art and nature. His AW20 collection is “maximalist and confrontational” mixing bold colours and prints with classic silhouettes. With a new group of creatives at the forefront of creating work that is not only personal but informative, Rich describes the South African fashion scene as honest. “For centuries we’ve had our voices taken away from us, so now is the time for us to retell our stories and reveal the truth. We are designing with consciousness. I think as a lot of people start diving deeper into the political ideas presented to them with a pure understanding of what they actually mean, us creatives can start to effect change in a genuine way.”
“For centuries we’ve had our voices taken away from us so now is the time for us to retell our stories and reveal the truth.”
SECONDSKINS WITH CLIVE RUNDLE
Zimbabwean born Clive Rundle creates unique pieces ranging from the classic and minimal to the decorative and avant-garde. Although he opened his first store in 1989, and showed his first collection at SA Fashion Week in 1998, this year’s showcase at Berlin Fashion week was his first on an international stage.
Rundle chooses not to describe himself as a fashion designer. His aesthetic is rooted in craft and individualism, viewing replication as an erosion of his creations and a procedure that kills the uniqueness and spontaneity of his art-making. “I would be doing gardening and landscaping in Japan if I wasn’t creating clothing. I am a trained Peruvian Sharman and able to work in the traditional lineage of Peruvian Sharmanism. I am about craft and creating art in everything I do. It just so happens my art is currently displayed on the body,” he explains.
Rundle’s AW20 collection is all about looking at construction, composition and the idea of a second-skin. Exploring the idea of using animal skin as clothing without actually using real animal hide. “It’s about exploring the protective shell that shields the fragile wings inside. Thinking about this idea metaphorically - the beauty being in the flight.”
Identity plays a huge part in Clive’s work and he is always striving to find beauty in the textures of everyday life. “I come from a country that has so many different types of people, cultures and languages. Our differences are all beautiful if you take the time to look and listen. Life has so much beauty and part of my job as an artist is to reveal and express these differences in a way that can be shared by many. The South African fashion scene is rich in its diversity and transforming its global reach very fast. It’s exciting that the South African people are starting to tell and express their own story in their own way after years of it being told by others. We are at a tipping point for designers from Africa to take up their place as global cultural influencers and this is why it is particularly exciting to be partnering with the Mercedes-Benz Fashion team in this year’s Berlin Fashion Week.”
“Our differences are all beautiful if you take the time to look and listen.”
FUTURISTIC HYBRIDS WITH LEZANNE VIVIERS
Lezanne Viviers was the former creative director at Marianne Fassler, but last April saw her launch her own eponymous clothing line. Viviers' collections are made up of an array of limited-edition “imperfect garments cut to perfection”, blurring the lines between what is seen traditionally as masculine or feminine and sophisticated or rebellious.
Drawing on her previous experience in the fashion world, as well as her love for sculpture and visual arts, Viviers creates unique collections of impeccably crafted pieces that are made in small runs or as one-off limited editions.
Each item is carefully conceptualised and crafted by hand in her Johannesburg-based Viviers studio, which forms part of Viviers' flagship concept space named Lotus House.
Her AW20 collection explores a hybrid between the ancient and the future and will also be available as numbered limited editions or can be made to measure.
Sustainability and ethical conduct are a key part of her work and process. “I hope to see the fashion industry work towards more transparency and inclusivity. Fashion to Viviers is an amalgamation of a collective consciousness with regards to transformation, sustainability and craftsmanship. A mirror to reflect us both as people with our distinctive individual character, yet aware of the possibilities for change if we all work together. I see South Africa as a beautiful hybridisation of cultures, backgrounds and upbringings; the result is a unique amalgam that is only true to us. It is so important that as young African designers we embrace our own communities first, establish your clients at home and then scale. Mercedes-Benz has been an incredible host and has really made an effort around PR and business. Berlin has an exciting underground scene and is feels both rebellious and avante garde much like my work.”
“Living in the multi-layered city of Johannesburg stimulates all my senses with colour, light and energy.”