This season is inspired by Victorian novelist Sir H Rider Haggard, with particular reference to his ‘lost world’ novel “King Solomon’s Mines”. With origins in Durban, moving inland and then to a ‘lost world’ type civilization loosely based on the Zulu Kingdom. Whilst the collection is not solely based on the novel, the descriptions and impressions of the book by Victorian society in 1885 is what captured my attention. The impressions of African cultures and the perceptions of London society at that time were triggers for this collection. Whilst not devoid of racism in anyway the book was seemingly less racist then many books of this genre to follow it. One thing that was evident is that he portrayed the African characters as having pride in their culture and even went as far as elaborating on the beauty and allure of the African female characters in the novel.
So with this in mind my collection is inspired by a singular theme ‘African pride’. I wanted to design a collection that showed various elements used in traditional cultural dress but with a new take to it. The collection is based on fluid fabrics which really are an antithesis to the often rigid fabrics used in traditional dress or the animal hides that form part of it. Soft silks with hand painted detail done in freehand and animal prints lend a strong African/Tribal element but hopefully not in a trite way. Mother of pearl buttons, cowrie shells and other elements are used as embellishment but in combination with modern Swarovski components. Bronze finished chain mail, Chantilly lace, silk chiffon and
This season the focus on the collection is evening dresses that are simplistic in silhouette but are embellished richly. I wanted the collection to not look like traditional garments but more couture and delicate. I wanted this to be a wearable collection which had great aspects of craftsmanship to it and artistic merit. The end result was collaboration with a great African accessory designer based in Paris, Mikael Kra. Mikael listened to what I wanted and interpreted some of my crazy sketches into beautiful pieces together with designing some special pieces for the collection. Mikael has designed collections for luminaries such as Azzedina Alaia in Paris and I have for the last ten years waited for an opportunity to work together. I am thankful for his time and the effort he took to get inside my head to understand what I wanted!
I would be amiss in not mentioning a South African fashion luminary, Dicky Longhurst (one of the reasons I am a designer today) who painstakingly hand painted silk taffeta inspired by the rich cultural mix of Durban.
This season is about colour for me. Africa is not always about disease, poverty, dictatorships or crime……….its about celebrating the cultural diversity and the pride we share despite whatever adversity we have. This is what I wanted to show in Paris this season……….we are capable of so much more. ‘Eau Sauvage’ was perhaps a cheeky title for the collection but it was a really jab back at those who often think so little of what comes out of our continent and those on it who think that anything not out of Africa has to be better!
Special thanks go to Catherine Le Sueur of the Bead Merchants for her assistance and unconditional support in contributing to this collection with her wealth of expertise and amazing selection of beads from all over Africa. I look forward to great collaborations with you!
Photographer: Simon Deiner