“the thick stream of air hauled toward the summits
first the great horses of noise reared against the sky
then sluggishly the great limp octopus of smoke
a derisory spitter injecting the night with
the insolent perfume of a citronella lamp
and a wind swept down on the islands
to be riddled by the suspect violence of the locusts . . .”
“Let the wild rumpus start”—these words from Maurice Sendak’s classic masterpiece—Where the Wild Things Are (1963), are what scurry to mind when I look at the photographs captured by David Blaq Motsomotso for Siyababa Atelier’s Sibabi AW2020 collection. Surreal figurations of hybrid humans, the structural form of the clothing; a locust like exoskeleton. There is absolutely nothing meek or ‘silent’ about the clothing that make up this collection—“Siyababa Atelier wants to evoke emotions from its audience. The initial goal is to give life to garment through a design process that considers multiple disciplines. No garment shall be silence”. A threaded display of tactile surrealism, from the structure of the garments and OTT silhouettes; some in the form of mountainous shoulders, to the colours and the very choice in fabrics and textiles.“I wanted my garments to walk on their own. As a designer I wanted to move the garments from 3D to 4D, “hyper reality garments” as I like to call it”, says the designer and creative genius behind the Atelier, Siyabonga Mtshali.
While I remain unsure whether ‘hyper-reality’, is what I would use to speak of the garments and the world they exist within, they do conjure up feelings of being part and parcel of an alternate reality. They themselves creatures, perhaps, who were on their way traveling through multiverses—and upon landing on earth—decided to morph into garments that scream with exaggerated form, all threaded together under the name Sibabi AW2020. “A central theme for the collection revolves around the Femme Fatale while addressing phobias faced by people on a daily basis. As Siyabonga plays around with distortion of the human body… Sibabi A/W 2020 might be seen as a glimpse into what fashion will be in the not too distant future”. Siyabonga makes no attempt to invisibilise or veil the constructedness of the pieces that make up the collection. Whether a guiding design principle or a conscious manifesto of aesthetics, this aforementioned element of made apparent constructedness is echoed in the ‘other worldly’ quality that runs through the imagery created for the Sibabi AW2020 campaign. A sand storm of acrid colours swirling in a desolate desert like landscape, snapshots of the post-apocalyptic dystopia from the fringes of the urban sprawl; figures enshrouded in cascading caterpillar like plushness—a tactile gentleness—“a derisory spitter injecting the night with the insolent perfume of a citronella lamp”.
Designing for longevity by virtue of introducing methods of low-waste design during the production process; the small Black run business and fashion house has nothing but a sprawling future of growth ahead of it. But of course, the infancy of such a business comes with its own constraints and challenges, one such was faced by Siyabonga when completing his Sibabi collection. Asking him about the quality of almost audacious boldness that runs through the garment he had this to say, “haha my boldness wasn’t intentional if anything I was on a tight budget when creating my sibabi A/W collection that was me being minimal”. Currently within the design process of his ready to wear collection as well as a collaborative installation featuring his second avant-grade collection; what the young brazen designer hopes to elicit is a dialogue of engagement with people through the garments he creates— conceptualising and making interesting clothing outside of socially prescribed parameters. Ultimately, I believe that clothing itself is not objective, but rather, a tactile reflection of the beauty, chaos and absurdity that make us human; it requires you to take some form of position. A fact that Siyabonga is wholly attuned to which comes through when he speaks about his clothing, “I want people to resonate with my garments or be offended, never in between”.