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SA Design Centre Stage

Giovanni Giannoni

Beyond merely showcasing ground-breaking fashion, the recent Generation Africa show that formed part of the Pitti Uomo men's fashion fair in Florence also drew attention to the sort of youthful creative energy that sizzles in South Africa and on the African continent. The runway spectacle put the spotlight on various South African designers – Keith Henning and Jody Paulsen of AKJP (Adriaan Kuiters + Jody Paulsen) and Lukhanyo Mdingi and Nicholas Coutts of Lukhanyo Mdingi X Nicholas Coutts – and also featured the Autumn/Winter 2016 collections of two Nigerian-born labels: U.Mi-1 and Ikiré Jones.

AKJP2 The designs that AKJP featured at the Generation Africa show featured lots of layering and vivid prints inspired by lush jungle landscapes.

Ultimately, the show quite confidently proclaimed that South Africa, and Africa more broadly, are important places to look for ingenuity, artistry and originality. And this statement certainly doesn't apply only to the fashion realm. 'We want to convey a different image of the continent, one of innovation and diversity with a strong youthful energy for positive change,' says Simone Cipriani, founder of the ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, a UN-associated project that supports African designers and was instrumental in organising the Generation Africa fashion show. While AKJP's artful collection of overalls, appliqued coats and pants drew on the lush, tropical Durban landscape for inspiration, Lukhanyo Mdingi X Nicholas Coutts's apparel featured fleecy woven panels and some beadwork. So not only were the garments African-born and crafted but they also boasted a proudly local aesthetic.
LukNic2 Striped woolly panels were a dominant feature in Lukhanyo Mdingi X Nicholas Coutts’s collection.

Lately we've seen other proudly local brands go global too, including Ardmore Ceramics, which recently collaborated with prestigious French company Hermes, and Mungo, which just exhibited its homegrown textiles at international design fair Maison et Objet. We hope that this means that the time has come for our designers to start dictating overseas trends and making permanent marks beyond the borders of Africa.