The New Vanguard: South Africa’s New Star in Fashion

Posted on

The fashion scene in South Africa is bustling with a swarm of young designers eager to push the envelope. With Thebe Magugu having been a winner of the LVMH Prize and Lukhango Mdingi being one of last year’s finalists, it’s evident that South African fashion is here to stay.


OkayAfrica spoke with three rising South African designers who are making their mark in the industry: Onesimo Bam, SUHU ORIGINAL, and Dorcas Mutombo. We talked about their rise to the stage, their different perspectives, their challenges as new designers, and their hopes for a future in fashion.

​Onesimo Bam: The New Minimalist

Onesimo Bam,

Onesimo Bam, founder and designer of Oneiam, is redefining what minimalism is with its big builds, sharp lines, and neutral tones.

Photo Credit: Onesimo Bam

Cape Town-based Onesimo Bam, founder and designer of Oneiam, is redefining what minimalism is with its big builds, sharp lines and neutral tones.

Founded in 2018, the Oneiam brand gained popularity during its debut at SA Menswear Week with its Japanese-inspired collections. “I studied textiles but from the start I knew I wanted to create my own label,” says Bam. “I really wanted to collaborate. I met Jason from Unknown Union who is also collaborating and we just clicked. Spent a few months coming up with a collaboration idea with a close friend. We created a very conceptual but wearable kimono that tells each artist’s story. [We] shot great pictures of them with the help of Kassie Naidoo and Lambost, SA Menswear Week took it and the rest is what you see today.”

With a new line of designers carving their own path and not interested in polished perfection, Bam has certainly followed his extraordinary point of view on fashion.

“I am a minimalist and very simple person. I like routine and structure. So I guess the same practicality that I need in my day-to-day life is what affects my work,” said Bam. “A lot of the clothes I make I will consider uniform. I wanted to try and make clothes you could wear anywhere. I like to push the silhouette to create more room for pockets and other useful details.”

This can be seen from the spaces that Bam looks to for inspiration, given the intellectual motives he incorporates into his work.

“I’m usually inspired in spaces that aren’t usually associated with art or fashion.” said Bam.

Like every other industry, the fashion industry was hit hard during the COVID-19 lockdown that left many brands struggling, some facing bankruptcy and even closing. Young designers are not excluded, as they are the most vulnerable during the crisis.

When asked about how the pandemic is affecting him, Bam said: “Business-wise, I’m struggling. COVID-19 comes at a time when I feel really positive about the brand and when I really think the brand is going to be more successful and actually earn enough money to keep the business.”

The designer saw a silver lining. “I’m working on multidisciplinary projects and more on film.” said Bam.

​ORIGINAL TEMPERATURES: Uniforms Redefined

Brothers Silo and Sethu Kondleka,

Founded by brothers, Silo and Sethu Kondleka, SUHU ORIGINAL has gained popularity among the hip crowd in South Africa.

Photo Credit: ORIGINAL TEMPERATURE

The coronavirus pandemic is creating a catastrophic whirlwind in the creative space and designers must find innovative ways to adapt to the new normal. The ORIGINAL SUHU brand that stood in the middle of the pandemic did just that.

Founded by brothers, Silo and Sethu Kondleka, the brand has gained popularity among the hip crowd in South Africa. Actor Sicelo Buthelezi and acclaimed DJ Oscar Mbo have embraced the brand’s laid-back aesthetic.

“We built the brand in the early moments of the pandemic when the country was in complete lockdown. You can’t travel, you can’t even go on a coffee date. We wanted to create the right cut when we reclaim that moment, an outfit you can wear in Durban or Bali,” the Kondleka brothers said in a statement.

The relaxed aesthetic takes influence from work wear, polished two-piece overalls, clinical T-shirt with excellent stitching and finish.

“Initially, the whole idea was to make clothes for ourselves but we thought: ‘What if someone out there might be looking for a similar style and with our retail experience we think we can actually sell it?’ This helps take a lot of pressure off because we don’t follow trends and drive sales. The pandemic just gave us time to work on every detail and what we wanted the brand to represent,” they said.

ORIGINAL TEMPERATURE Shirt

“Initially, the whole idea was to make clothes for ourselves, but we thought: ‘What if someone out there might be looking for a similar style and with our retail experience we think we can actually sell it?'”

ORIGINAL TEMPERATURE

The clean lines in their silhouettes show how dedicated the brand is to impeccable craftsmanship and knowledge of well-designed pieces. Their latest collection titled “Date Night” illustrates that with muted tones and simple forms.

“With the Date Night Collection, we wanted to create one look for multiple occasions, date night with your stylish partner in loafers, or an epic night out at the club in sneakers. Most importantly, we want to make a work that stands out,” said the two.

The future of minimalism or the new uniform? “The future of minimalism is limitless. More often than not people grow into it (as they get older, maybe) than out of it. ‘ said the brothers.

Starting a fashion brand in the midst of a pandemic comes with heavy risks. But these designers have made it work.

Dorcas Mutombo: The Future of Fashion

Clothing brand Dorcas Mutombo

God gave me amazing eyes when it comes to color matching and I love that gift,” said designer Dorcas Mutombo.

Photo Credit: Sally Hateswing

Some people are born with a burning fire for a love of fashion, while some find it as they grow over the years. With Dorcas Mutombo, it’s a first. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mutombo impressed the fashion press with his label, Emelia Dorcas, by creating incredible coats using 1066 handmade fabric flowers that positioned him as a young designer to watch.

“My love for fashion was ingrained in me from birth when my parents decided to name me after Dorcas, who was a tailor in the Bible,” said Mutombo. “I’ve never had to think or choose a career, it’s always been fashion from a young age.”

With his latest collection, Mutombo focuses on knitwear, pieces that will challenge him as a designer. She also dedicated it to the men in her family.

“This collection was inspired by the men in my family. I want to celebrate because they have done a lot for me to be where I am today,” said Mutombo. “I’m up to six generations and when I see their individual performances in the world, I want to celebrate. I also realized that everything they do works because of the great women they have.”

Matching red sweater

With his latest collection, Mutombo focuses on knitwear, pieces that will challenge him as a designer. She also dedicated it to the men in her family.

Photo Credit: Mikhailia Petersen

The recurring thread seems to show not only in his inspiration from his family, but also in his Congolese heritage.

“I am a very nostalgic young woman and this played a part in my designs. My love for my home country, our rich history and culture has always inspired me to tell those stories and share them with the world,” said Mutombo. “In simple words, the storytelling and my use and love of color. And I’m so grateful for that because it seems like God gave me amazing eyes when it comes to color matching and I love that gift.”

From Your Site Articles

Related Articles Around the Web

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.