Resourceful, resilient and undoubtedly ready to absorb all he can, are just some of the attributes that come to mind when thinking of Katekani Moreku’s rise to success.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is tough, especially within a South African context where there is but a small market of fashion enthusiasts to target with your new range of designer items. It’s cut-throat. It’s demand intensive and often, it’s utterly thankless. Taking all of this into consideration, getting any foothold in the industry is hard enough, even with a firm base in the Johannesburg or Cape Town scenes.
Katekani, grew up in the small village of Welverdiend situated in Mpumalanga. Although Welverdiend is far removed from the catwalk of South African Fashion Week, it is a continuous source of inspiration to his design ethos. His work is deeply rooted in the resourcefulness shown particularly by the women of the SePulana community as he explains the use of plastics, work cloths and the saturated colour palette we have come to associate with his work.
“Women in old Bushbuckridge couldn’t go to the city to get jobs and make their own money. They couldn’t afford to buy fancy attire for special days. So, they then collected scraps of fabrics, sweets wraps, maize meal and other food packaging to incorporate them in their basic attire that is made out of bright and bold wrap-cloths. The use of plastic material by MaPulana (the people of SePulana) is a reaction to circumstances, it is a result of women being cornered into an unfavourable situation and finding a way out peacefully.”
Although Katekani’s contribution to sustainable fashion is already a commendable achievement, taking into consideration that the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters globally, there is far more to Katekani. Sustainability and the immense negative impact caused by the fast fashion industry is just one of themes Katekani wants to address in his work. “Besides sustainability, I would really like to find a way to address inequality, racism, capitalism, gender neutralization, sexuality and more. I basically would like to address every issue that I come across through my work. I wouldn’t enjoy doing work that doesn’t allow me to voice my feelings about at least one major issue. It is my responsibility.”
Although Katekani has previously named a handful of designers he has looked towards for inspiration, he finds himself within a mindset now where he is actively avoiding paying too much attention to his contemporaries. Not out of ego or disdain for his fellow designers but rather to stay true to his own vision as a designer. “…because I wouldn’t want their work to influence mine, it happens to some designers without them even realizing. I am looking through all the fashion weeks and appreciate the amazing work that designers are putting out, I just refrain from analysing collections to that extent. What I will say is South African designers are currently my favourite designers in the world.”
Katekani’s star is one that is continuously on the rise and with him showcasing next at the Cape Town Resort Collections at the Norval Museum on the 23rd November, I for one sit in anticipation for a collection he states will be “a different chapter of the story of SePulana.”