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South African Fashion Week

The week-long fashion frenzy in Johannesburg came to an end with Clive Rundle's autumn winter collection

This year’s run of SA Fashion Week’s Winter Collections drew to a close in Johannesburg with a display of complex embroidery, pleated tulles, PVC, elegant cottons and velvety textures on tops, shorts and leggings. This came courtesy of Clive Rundle, arguably South Africa’s foremost coutourist whose shows have - over the years - become SA Fashion Week’s biggest draw. Whereas some of the shows had empty seats, ushers struggled to place stand-by ticketholders on seats for this particular show. The complexities of Rundle’s designs were probably most prominently exemplified by one garment that featured clips with threads of fabric crisscrossing in-between, aligning the spinal chord and stretching right down to the ankles of what resembles a cat-suit. Models came out with white silk-like tussles fringing over their faces, maybe as symbolic of the name of the collection ('Braille') as the intricate embroidery was. They strut down the runway to a live band’s violin and haunting voice of Freshly ground’s Zolani Mahola.

Dazed Digital: How did the collection come about?
Clive Rundle: Media always ask for a singular word to describe the collections and without knowing we just said “Braille”.

DD: Did it evolve from there?
Clive Rundle: Yes. The reason we said Braille is that we had a sense that the embroidery we were doing was Braille-like.

DD: How do the textures and textile inform that vision of “Braille”?
Clive Rundle: The textiles are very highly worked. The Braille, I think is quite a complex process. All the textiles are not in their original state. They’re either pleated or drawn. We actually used very simple things. We used black PVC, which is pleated, also the tulle. All these things; unknown things happened to them in the process. Some got burnt, the tulle got ashes. All of that we decide to just move with whatever happened.

DD: Do you place a distinction between art and fashion?
Clive Rundle: I think where there is an expression of any sort there is an artist. Even with fashion. I’m not painting or abstracting, but fashion has become a global language.

DD: Do you ever feel the pressure to reflect whatever “African” is as an African designer?
Clive Rundle: Everything is informed by what I see everyday around me. It informs my collections. I’m not in Paris where people can afford things, people wear “funny” things. We prefer fashion to be a little awkward because I think Africa is still an awkward place. We’re in a global market, been around forever, but we’re still finding our feet.

DD: Are you an artist or are you happy calling yourself a “fashion designer”?
Clive Rundle: I think fashion has become a lot more academic. Academia has a lot more interest in fashion. We, ourselves, are beginning to understand things about fashion that we didn’t understand. When we talk about construction and reconstruction; we’re starting to read about it in books. The academic world is writing about it. 

DD: Does that then throw the concept of “non-conformity” out the window?
Clive Rundle: I think academia always wants to pin things down. They want to teach about what you do but they can’t quite find it. People across the globe write about fashion; some agree, others disagree. I don’t really care about it. I don’t care about buyers. I really just focus strongly on my vision and my collections.