Friday, September 12, 2014

#NEWS: ELLE Rising Star Design Award Africa 2014

As many of you may have heard by now the ELLE Rising Star Design Award Africa 2014 in association with Mr P and presented by AFI is in full swing. So much swing that in just over a month the final stage will be set, the collections will be ready, models scouted, lights beaming, and the bloggersphere ablaze with much speculation as to who will take the crown – so to speak.

The twist this year which turned out not to be much of a twister was the inclusion of Africa as a continent for potential next generation designers to submit their entries. Any of the countries on this mother continent could submit, and they did. It wasn’t though, as one can see with the shortlisted finalists, South Africa took all the spots with Cape Town leading in the highest-ranking number of shortlist candidates.

Candidates? Why call them candidates? Because they are going through the toughest interview of their lives. And do you know what is even worse about their interview process? We, the public, get to judge and applaud the successful designer. And with that a career would have been jump-started.

I’m not one to know much about anything but having gone through the storyboards and rationales from the shortlist, I think I have a few favourites for this year’s title and I possibly have a winner selected. Let me know waste any more of your time. Let’s get to the list of emerging talent.

Kelli Both, Cape Town – Her collection is titled, ‘The androgynousinside’. The work, in her words, ‘is a combination of masculine and feminine; big versus small silhouettes, and different texture.’

My 2c – Essentially the collection comes across as quite heavy, in my opinion. Quite suitable for the urban terrain of Johannesburg, where the winters are long, dry and cold. The oval silhouette with asymmetrical leg lengths is an interesting combo. When I try to picture a rehashed version for in-store at Mr P, I struggle. Not sure whether this collections modernity works against it or if it’s because there are very little trendy cuts presents in the collection. I should constantly keep in mind though that these collections are about the designer’s aesthetic and what they stand for. Meaning what we’re presented with might not look retail-able at a mass market level, but the creator behind it has a strong vision of how it fits in store against competitors.

Frances Pauls, Cape Town – Her collection is titled, ‘Modern Eclectic’. Inspired by the coastline and its natural graphic elements and nuances, sun-bleached and back dropped by the ocean, Frances’ collection is childhood experience in adulthood.

My 2c – We love that coral print that is there but is not. And let’s not forget that shweshwe that has been reworked. The clash of graphic prints is only muted and controlled by the colour palette of this collection. Soft, well mannered and eternal. The collection also presents a handful of key wardrobe pieces, whether used as classics or statements that will become instant sellers at any Mr P countrywide. Have you seen the high-waist with wide waistband pant with boob-tube top situations and sheer over-top? What about that rehashed shweshwe jacket in that tonal orange.  And what about that pencil skirt with black panel and its matching crop top with cut-out square – is this not an essential for young ladies working who enjoy a sundowner after work on Friday? Well, it is.

Jeandri Britz, Paarl – Her collection is titled, ‘Solid Exterior’. In Jeandri’s own words: ‘Solid Exterior represents a strong personality. The way someone will put up their guard and let others only see the idea of that person, but still give you the idea of vulnerability that can only be overcome by the suppression of their own emotions.’

My 2c – Well said lady, well said.  Let’s talk about that outerwear. That jacket, voluminous and has at least one pocket. I see that selling. Especially if a black and white version was created – then you took it to eternal in one step. And this tapered at the waistline jacket, with all its cocoon effects – very protective of the true self and very edgy in a time when we’re all about organic. And that dress, with the sleeves that look as though they are about to bloom into fresh flowers. Is this when we become vulnerable and succumb to our emotions? Solid Exterior presents a good number of retail ready silhouettes, which makes it a strong competitor in my books.

Charis Dawson, Cape Town – Her collection is titled, ‘Digital Opacity’.  Fascinated by the obsession with social media Dawson’s collection translates it into inspiration. ‘I’ve been inspired by pixels, tiny elements that in their millions allow our fixation of digital media, and for this reason the collection draws on very square and linear shapes’, explains Dawson.

My 2c – What works for me is the temporary break in transmission feel the collection has. Like full images now currently sliced into pieces, into fragments. The hashtag print is also a great design detail. As a full collection I don’t see it living harmoniously within the shop walls of Mr P. Maybe a few pieces can be reworked to fit the brand and its consumers, but it definitely belongs as an independent collection for a different market.

Tamara Cherie Dyson, Cape Town – Her collection is titled, ‘Geometrics’.  Discreet luxury. Bauhaus architectural design. Stark linear shapes. Fluid. Natural fabrics with subtle textural contrasts. Stripped back and designed with a modern edge. Control and balance.

My 2c – A winning collection. Not to be placed inside Mr P though. But definitely a winning collection. Looking at the current mood and theme international of futuristically luxurious collections that are also the epitome of easy wearing high end fashion. It’s neither now nor tomorrow but it’s completely relevant in a world where consumers seek luxury that has no outward pretentiousness. The structural fluidity is interesting and coupled with the play on textures, the collection lends itself to a localised aesthetic with international appeal. The collection could well be worked into a Mr P range, but extremely cautious and meticulous attention should be paid to the fabric choices in order to retain the structure of the designs and the integrity of the designer’s aesthetic.

Michelle van der Westhuizen, Cape Town – Her collection is titled, ‘Coast-to-Coast’. Michelle says ‘coast-to-coast is based on my love for the ocean and my hometown coastline. My inspiration is drawn from fishermen. I was inspired by their work wear comprising staple elements like aprons and parkas where I replicated the aprons used for cleaning fish in their pinafore styling.’

My 2c – Possibly one of the most promising collections in terms of winning and being easily adaptable to Mr P consumer standards. The innocence of the collection and the mixed fabrics bring an interesting story and context to the fore. It also doesn’t hurt that it contains cuts that are already popular in Mr P stores with a few upgrades here and there. The multi layers and multi outfits of some looks also mean Mr P can maximize one look into two. The aesthetic is there, but will the fabric support the collection once ready for retail.

Nadia Viljoen, Pretoria – Her collection is titled, ‘Unfortunate Art by Natsie’. “My inspiration for this collection comes from illegal art, which I refer to as unfortunate art for it doesn’t get the full appreciation, attention, exposure and understanding it deserves,” cites Viljoen about where she drew her insights for her collection.

My 2c – By far the most Mr Price store ready collection – purely on a design aesthetic basis. It’s what them buyers love at Mr P. The crazy cuts and even crazier colours. The acidic rain of fashion. That so on trend it’s last season next week. It’s also probably the most easily adaptable collection. Sheers, stretch polyesters, mixed cotton/polyester blends are a common thread at Mr P and so making execution from conceptual high end collection to retail capsule collection less risky for both Mr P and designer.

In closing, one needs to appreciate and open state that the finalists deserve their spot at this leg of the race. Who will reign supreme on the other hand, well, that all depends on final executions, some judge and public influence and a lot on each designer’s personal growth from this experience.

If I had to make a comment on who I think will win, well, I won’t. I will, however, make a comment on the top 3 I suspect.

Top 3 Collections:
Tamara Cherie Dyson
Frances Pauls
Jeandri Britz

Top 3 Collections suitable for Mr Price Adaptations:
Frances Pauls
Michelle van der Westhuizen
Nadia Viljoen

Good luck to the finalists, may the best lady win, and may the best collection become the first step to the rest of your life.

We will all be watching!



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