Cut out to win in material world
Eight fashion designers are competing for the Elle Rising Star Design prize
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. firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @WendylMartin
NIP AND TUCK: Designer Julia M’Poko fits a dress from her African print range in preparation for the competition.
FOCUSED: Nick Coutts has dreamed of entering for the Elle Rising Star Award since he was 14.