“I don’t really consider myself a fashion designer” explains Hakim Ngcongwane, the creative force behind the Pretoria-based CRITIC STUDIOS. Born out of a company started by him and a friend 4 years ago, he launched the brand as a solo project last year. The name comes from the designers own self-doubt. “I was scared of what people thought of my work”. With critique linked to opinions, the studios slogan is “voice your opinion”.
The studio’s first project is titled ‘Distressed’ and comes from the designer’s frustrations with following paths that weren’t of his own choosing. “For the longest time I was doing things based on what my parents were suggesting I should do. When you do it and you fail you hate the situation more because you’re failing on other people’s terms instead of on your own. You fail to understand why you’re failing and you fail to learn from those experiences because they’re not even what you wanted in the first place.” Parallel to this were personal hardships that caused stress in his life and affected him mentally, while from a political perspective he examined how economics create the positions that people like him find themselves in. “It became a research project. Not only was I designing but I was finding solutions for like-minded creatives that are going through the same issues where we have the talent but we don’t know how to monetize it.”
“I chose to use red, green and black.” explains Hakim of the colour palette in his collection. “They represent the South African flag. Red represents blood and character, black represents the history that we’re coming from and green represents vegetation and the culture as a whole aspect.” Using satin, Hakim explains that it represents luxury and purity and states that while black creatives have the talent but not the resources, regardless of them going through these issues, they do not define them, and they are coming with their own solutions. Inspired by the way parents used to dress during apartheid the clothes are reinterpreted for a modern era.
As a multi-disciplinary designer, Hakim sees a thread running through all the work that he does, with the collection referencing his artwork and making it more accessible. Similarly he is creating merchandise from his collection to make it more accessible. With this being his first collection he hopes that those that obtain his pieces understand the story of the collection. “ I’d love people to buy my clothes to feel like they were part of the struggle. That’s what this project references. Being my first project, hating the quality aspect of it cause you’re lacking funds, but knowing where you’re trying to go.“