Photography by Bevan Davis

Gabrielle Kannemeyer – inspiring innovation in art and fashion

Gabrielle Kannemeyer is a Cape Town based art director and stylist who dabbles in every component of the projects she works on. Establishing herself as an unforgettable and irreplaceable brand in the creative industry she has collaborated with Rharha Nembhard, Petite Noir, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Orange Culture, Rich Mnisi, Nicholas Coutts, Wilton Dawson, 2Bop, Bevan Davis and Travys Owen in the past. Coming from a Fine Arts background, Kannemeyer’s work can be distinguished easily by means of her styling that comes to the foreground in images. In her work she celebrates and documents South African landscapes and people in a way that can only be deemed the Kannemeyer way. In my interview with the influential creative she tells me more about her background, method and shares some tips for young creatives

Kannemeyer studied Fine Arts at Michaelis in Cape Town and was introduced to various forms of expression such as painting, print making, sculpture, photography, film making, digital art, animation, typography and drawing. She specialized in photography during her studies but enjoys utilizing a variety of creative expressions to get her concepts across.

She states that working as a creative director in various mediums, she finds herself taking photographs, producing, styling, casting and art directing. The projects that she works on are at times realized with the input of many other creative minds by combining resources and strengths to create work. Kannemeyer feels that it is important to experiment with various forms of expression and avoids sticking to one medium simply because she is good at it or because it comes naturally to her. She continuously challenges herself and builds on her skill set all with the aim to become better at what she does.

“I enjoy how what I do allows me to see a world that is visibly in a state of constant flux. There is no facade of monotony. When things grow stagnant, they shift / I shift as an immediate reaction. I enjoy working with my hands. I enjoy working with people. I enjoy the challenges. I enjoy seeing ideas from my mind’s eye manifest into work. I enjoy helping young creators find their thing, that thing they fucking love doing… that feeling is a revelation for all parties involved. There’s this light that shoots through them and then it’s over…the universe makes moves for them. There are so many things I enjoy about what I do right now.”

Kannemeyer tells me that her creations are informed by what she sees in her surroundings. Perhaps it is a conversation that pulls her mind into a visual plane or perhaps a landscape that stimulates her visual senses as she drives by. She finds enjoyment in driving around the countryside for hours on end, people and landscape watching. Sauntering through Fabric City sometimes ignites her inspiration. Kannemeyer states that her ideas come from anywhere and everywhere.

In her first year at university Kannemeyer came across a book that excited her by artist Billie Zangewa, an artist who mainly works in embroidery and textiles. At the time, Kannemeyer felt lured by the thought of using textiles in her work, a material she was already familiar with as she altered and sold clothing to support her studies and exhibitions. Kannemeyer chose to make use of it in a more welcoming and forgiving environment. “Fabric has the most wonderful ability to disrupt and transport one somewhere else entirely due to how symbolic it is.”

Reflecting on her process, Gabrielle explains that from the instant a personal project, campaign or lookbook is conceptualized, she centres her thinking around how the cast/collaborators, landscapes and styling could be used to amplify the narrative behind the project. She expresses that for her it means bringing styling to the foreground. She achieves these results by simplifying the landscapes that appear behind her subjects.

Kannemeyer is currently running a co-creation studio with Imraan Christian (co-creative director), Raees Saiet (space manager), John Second (studio manager) and Keenan Oliver (assistant producer). The team of creatives developed a collaborative mentorship program operating from 103 Bree Street, Cape Town. Kannemeyer continues to explain that young creators from a variety of backgrounds are invited to enter the space and work closely with them in order to develop their skills and learn how to tell their stories. The co-creation studio has worked with young aspiring  creatives including filmmakers, stylists, creative directors and photographers. The mentorships ask of the participants to build their own teams, mood boards and shot lists. Guidance is provided to them through every step of the process. The participants’ work is published onto on to the CPT ‘17 tab. The images or content is then theirs to keep and the co-creation studio’s to share.

“Our idea for the co-creation studio was prompted by many things: the inaccessibility of Cape Town’s creative industry and the skills and tools needed to pursue creative careers within the industry, the need for fair representation within communities, the demand for a collaborative creative community within the city and the need for catalyzed inclusive growth of a new creative industry. We want to level the playing field as best we can.”

Kannemeyer has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the industry and expresses that she would still like to work with many more, such as Tsepo Tsotetsi, Angel-ho, Cary Fagan, Jody Brand, Princess Nokia,  and Nao Serati to name a few.

Kannemeyer has stirred change in the industry as a creative director and stylist and hopes to inspire young creatives with her work. Her message for young creatives is the following: “If you have questions, ask them. Everyone’s just a DM away. For real, Carpe DM.”

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