Cut out to win in ma­te­rial world

Eight fash­ion de­sign­ers are com­pet­ing for the Elle Ris­ing Star De­sign prize

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODDESIGNERS - WENDYL MARTIN

THEY are cut­ting, stitch­ing and sew­ing their way to a chance at fash­ion star­dom. Their her­itage and roots are far-reach­ing, re­flected in their de­signs and plans.

Eight young­sters are pre­par­ing fash­ion ranges for the Elle Ris­ing Star De­sign Award, which could cat­a­pult them into ca­reers in the tight fash­ion in­dus­try.

On Novem­ber 14, one of them will walk away with the fol­low­ing: re­design­ing a pre­de­ter­mined range with Mr Price, R25 000 cash, a twoweek in­tern­ship at Mr Price’s of­fices in Dur­ban, per­sonal coach­ing from the Gor­don In­sti­tute of Busi­ness Sci­ence, and two weeks at Elle mag­a­zine’s Cape Town of­fices with ed­i­tor Jackie Burger.

Con­tes­tants re­acted dif­fer­ently to their first fit­ting last week. It was the first time most of them had seen their clothes on mod­els, giv­ing some of them a bit of a fright.

Nick Coutts, a third-year stu­dent at the De­sign Academy of Fash­ion, said he was find­ing the time to en­ter the con­test and bal­ance his fi­nal-year stud­ies be­cause “this is my pas­sion and I en­joy do­ing this”.

“When I was 14 years old, I was look­ing through an old Elle and I knew I wanted to en­ter then.”

The theme of Coutts’s range is “strength ver­sus fragility”.

“It’s about mas­culin­ity ver­sus fem­i­nin­ity. There are tex­tures that are op­po­site to each other and sur­faces that clash.”

For ex­am­ple, Coutts uses leather with woven fab­ric. “When I started con­cep­tu­al­is­ing, I started in­ves­ti­gat­ing tex­tures. I draw my in­spi­ra­tion from tan­gi­ble things. It’s women’s wear with tai­lor­ing. It’s un­tra­di­tional but clas­sic. Some of the pieces are an­drog­y­nous.”

Ju­lia M’Poko, who was born to Con­golese and Amer­i­can par­ents in Brus­sels, has had a lit­tle more time on her hands.

She lives in Cape Town, where she grad­u­ated from the Cape Town Col­lege of Fash­ion De­sign last year

“I’ve been busy with ran­dom lit­tle projects,” she says.

Ear­lier this year, she was an in­tern with the trendy Mer­chants on Long owned by busi­ness­woman Han­neli Ru­pert.

M’Poko calls her brand Juli­enne, a fam­ily name.

On a visit to her fa­ther, he told her sto­ries about the Congo, which in­spired her to cre­ate African im­ages for her prints. Th­ese in­clude im­ages of a vil­lage with a sun­set and an im­age of a man fish­ing.

M’Poko’s fash­ion wear is “mostly dresses made mostly with silks”.

“This was hard for me as I’m used to work­ing with struc­tured fab­rics. This will feel great on the skin.” The stress of the fit­ting did wear her a lit­tle. “When I put it on the mod­els, it did not look like how I thought it would.”

One of M’Poko’s pieces in­cludes a green jump­suit dress, which she ac­knowl­edges is in­spired in part by the on­sie craze.

With the prize she would aim to start pro­duc­ing clothes – and to find a good seam­stress. ”I don’t want to sew in my life again,” she jokes.

One of the most colour­ful char­ac­ters at this year’s com­pe­ti­tion is Valerie Britz.

“I’m from Val in Mpumalanga, like my name Valerie,” she says. Val has a pop­u­la­tion of 28. The bright and breezy Britz left the one-street town of five houses and a ho­tel to study at the De­sign Academy of Fash­ion in this big city, where she fin­ished last year.

She has since been work­ing free­lance and mak­ing wed­ding dresses.

She de­scribes her range as dreamy, fem­i­nine and ro­man­tic. “I’ve cre­ated a fan­tasy world for a girl. The print is a com­bi­na­tion of pho­tos of clouds I took. The colours are soft pink, dusty pink, warm greys and a hint of pur­ple. I used a silky fab­ric. I cre­ated sim­ple sil­hou­ettes as my de­tails are busy. I’m keep­ing my gar­ments sim­ple, flowy and dreamy.”

Britz has no in­ten­tion of join­ing a cor­po­rate. She would rather have her own busi­ness or free­lance. “If I did launch my own la­bel, it would be a small col­lec­tion at first, a cap­sule col­lec­tion.”

● The win­ner of this year’s Elle Ris­ing Star De­sign Award will be named at a cer­e­mony at the Westin Ho­tel later this month. wendyl.martin@inl.co.za Twit­ter: @WendylMartin

NIP AND TUCK: De­signer Ju­lia M’Poko fits a dress from her African print range in prepa­ra­tion for the com­pe­ti­tion.

PIC­TURES: LEON LESTRADE

FO­CUSED: Nick Coutts has dreamed of en­ter­ing for the Elle Ris­ing Star Award since he was 14.

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