As part of a global culture that is becoming more aware and mindful of the impact it has on the environment, fashion brands are developing more sustainable systems that encourage circular production and ecologically conscious design.
True Fashion: Try on Green is a mentorship programme developed by the French Institute of South Africa and the Goethe-Institut South Africa – with the support of the Franco-German Cultural Fund – that directly centres this conversation and gives young talented designers the tools necessary to transform global thinking on the aesthetic and practical capacity of sustainable design.
Under the mentorship of the LVMH award-winner, Lukhanyo Mdingi, the founder of the eponymous slow fashion label, Buki Akomolafe, the founder and director of the first and only fashion school in a favela in Brazil, duplicated in France, near Paris, Nadine Gonzalez, and multi-talented artist, fashion designer and alternative activist Olga Pham – five emerging designers were selected as a part of the immersive True Fashion: Try on Green programme.
The compressive programme took place over three months (August-October 2021), offering over 40 hours of mentorship and workshops, conversations with 8 experts on sustainable design, 4 masterclasses in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as direct guidance from their 3 mentors.
At the end, the mentees presented a complete look that integrated their learnings from the programme and their own perspectives and visual languages. These looks were then assembled for a photoshoot in the Mother City under the creative direction of Lukhanyo Mdingi.
Xola Maxoba’s journey with sustainable design started in her grandmother’s home where she watched her grandmother weave bags from recycled clothing, and carpets from dried grass and beadwork.
Now, Xola herself experiments with vegetable dying methods on linens and raw silks. Through the programme, she designed and produced a Turmeric dyed dress with beaded trims from linens and raw silks.
Burton Miles is currently completing his second year of his fashion design degree at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
Burton’s gender-nonconforming designs for the programme include an elegant kimono and dress inspired by South Korean culture, made from recycled material and dyed using vegetable extracts.
Inspired by his family, friends and community, the self-taught Khumo Morojele realised his talents for sustainable clothing design at a young age.
The Joburg-based designer’s five-piece ensemble, developed through this programme, is an excellent example of upcycling and using fabrics with minimal impact on the environment.
Since her childhood, Zovuyo Mputa has been enamoured by clothing – which proved to be an unshakeable desire when she made a couple career pivots that took her from Multimedia and Computer Science to fashion in her early adulthood.
Her call to work in the industry was only solidified when her father gifted her with a sewing machine. Now enrolled at UNISA for BConsSci Fashion Small Business, Zovuyo has found her home in the industry and seeks to make clothing that is as conscious as it is bold.
Through the programme, Zovuyo made a powerful statement with a sleek and sustainably-made suit.
Most days, Nkosazana Hlalethwa (Zaza) is an award-winning arts and culture journalist that spends her time demystifying the often elitist and complex art world through multilingual journalism and prose.
After five and on weekends, however, she is a crocheter using yarn to cope with the productivity compulsions of occupying spaces that value continuous output over sustainable, ethical, and kind production.
This slow and patience practice led to the set-up of her brand – Kabini – her crochet clothing and accessories label. Incorporating all the information she learnt through the programme and her own skills and talents, Zaza brought an ultra-modern perspective to knitwear with a stylish bomber and matching dress.
Through this programme, the mentees explored the fundamental pillars of sustainable design and received the chance to put their newly found knowledge into practice.
The True Fashion: Try on Green programme showcases the wealth of knowledge and beauty that can be discovered through engaging in meaningful conversations and activities surrounding slow fashion and conscious design.
Altogether proving that, there is nothing to be lost and everything to gain from shifting perspectives on production and design to centre more sustainable practices.
Creative Director: Lukhanyo Mdingi
Photographer: Luke Houb
Makeup Artist : Inga Hewett