THE KENTSE CON­NEC­TION

Kentse Masilo, the first win­ner of Project Run­way SA, comes from a small town in North West Prov­ince. How­ever, she’s about to take her fu­tur­is­tic fash­ion to Paris – and be­yond

Elle (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

the first win­ner of Project Run­way SA

‘While I was stand­ing there wait­ing for the an­nounce­ment, I was think­ing about how long I’d waited for this and why it was so im­por­tant to fight with ev­ery­thing I had to suc­ceed. When my name was an­nounced, I knew in­stantly that my dream had turned into re­al­ity,’ says 26-year-old Kentse as she re­flects on the mo­ment she was named the win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion. Along with thou­sands of rands in gifts and op­por­tu­ni­ties, the re­ward will see her jet­ting off to show­case her work in Paris and visit New York Fash­ion Week. Not bad for

a small-town de­signer from Bethanie in North West Prov­ince. The re­al­ity show was a gru­elling 12-week process which saw con­tes­tants bat­tle it out in weekly fash­ion de­sign chal­lenges and present a fi­nal range of 12 pieces to the judges, who in­cluded Noni Gasa, Rahim Raw­jee and Khanyi Dhlomo. Gert-Jo­han Coet­zee, de­signer to the stars, men­tored the 12 con­tes­tants through the process. But Kentse stood out from the start, win­ning the first two chal­lenges off the bat and go­ing on to win two more. She im­pressed the judges so much, in fact, that Twit­ter fans started call­ing it The Kentse Show. Here she shares about her fu­tur­is­tic ap­proach to fash­ion, de­sign­ing for women in her com­mu­nity and the fu­ture of her fash­ion busi­ness. Con­grat­u­la­tions, Kentse! Thank you. I’m still try­ing to fig­ure out the right words to ex­plain what hap­pened to me up there. But I was filled with grat­i­tude, be­cause stand­ing in front of four in­spir­ing in­di­vid­u­als, as they ba­si­cally told me they be­lieve in me, felt in­cred­i­ble. Tell us about the range you cre­ated for the fi­nale. As a fu­tur­is­tic de­signer, my aim is to bring the ex­pe­ri­ences of to­mor­row to the present. I de­cided to take Africa’s most val­ued art form – the African mask – through a dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion us­ing hand em­broi­dery and over­form to em­brace an­cient tra­di­tions, while pro­vid­ing a mod­ern per­spec­tive through shapes and pat­terns, cre­at­ing a ce­les­tial be­ing. This range sug­gests a new ap­proach to­wards tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion and mod­ern de­sign prac­tice. You had a few weeks to put to­gether your 12 fi­nal looks. What’s your de­sign process? With ev­ery range I cre­ate, I de­cide on the de­sign mo­tif and ex­plore fab­ric choices be­fore sketch­ing my cre­ations. I find it dif­fi­cult to de­sign with­out telling a story, which is why I usu­ally ref­er­ence Africa. It’s an at­tempt to pre­serve our his­tory and pro­vide a dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a pro­gres­sive fu­ture. How did the Project Run­way SA jour­ney dif­fer from what you imag­ined it would be? The re­veal of our judges and hosts was a pleas­ant sur­prise and, hon­estly, even when I got bad crit­i­cism, I still went to bed very grate­ful. Run­way days were sur­real for me; I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea of be­ing part of the same show I’d of­ten watched at home, with dreams of mak­ing it. One thing I didn’t an­tic­i­pate was the level of ex­haus­tion I’d feel dur­ing chal­lenges. Things be­came in­tense when there were just six con­tes­tants left. Tell us about the most chal­leng­ing part of the show. The one-day chal­lenge which left me shaken was when we had less than 24 hours to de­sign, buy fab­ric, shop and con­struct our gar­ments. The fun­ni­est part of it was when I looked into my com­peti­tors’ eyes for val­i­da­tion, only to re­alise that we were all see­ing flames! I wouldn’t trade that for any­thing. I still laugh when I think about all the crazy scenes that weren’t cap­tured on cam­era. What was your high point? Win­ning the team chal­lenge with Stephan and hear­ing Khanyi Dhlomo, CEO of Ndalo Me­dia, say she’d wear my shirt. I was speech­less! What about the bonds formed in the Project Run­way SA house? I got to know [fel­low con­tes­tant] Gift and loved ev­ery­thing about him. He knows his truth and isn’t apolo­getic about who he is. I find that very re­fresh­ing. Sandile is also some­one I’ve grown to ap­pre­ci­ate; he has a strong per­son­al­ity and is very car­ing… at least, to those he likes. That’s Sandile for you: he doesn’t bother with pre­tence. What did you feel about the judges’ cri­tiques? I think the judges ex­pected a cer­tain stan­dard from us. How­ever, if we thought some­one’s gar­ment was the best, when we got to the run­way, it wasn’t the case. That made the com­pe­ti­tion dif­fi­cult. Who was your favourite guest judge? Lad­uma. His brand, MaXhosa by Lad­uma, is one of the lead­ing brands in Africa. The qual­ity he pro­duces is of an in­ter­na­tional stan­dard and I love the brand’s DNA, which he stressed was cru­cial for a brand’s iden­tity. What did you learn from Gert-Jo­han’s men­tor­ship? Gert-Jo­han taught me many things, in­clud­ing how to ma­nip­u­late pat­terns. The big­gest les­son I learnt from him was to push bound­aries with­out doubt­ing my cre­ative abil­ity. For a long time I’ve been seek­ing a men­tor who not only un­der­stands busi­ness, but is some­one I can re­late to. Gert’s jour­ney in fash­ion in­spires me and he’s very sup­port­ive. He en­cour­aged me to be great. What did your fam­ily and friends feel about the show? When I moved back home af­ter grad­u­at­ing, my fam­ily thought that was that – I was now a seam­stress. When my friends asked me: ‘Why Bethanie?’, I al­ways replied: ‘If I can’t dress the peo­ple in my vil­lage, how am I ever go­ing to dress the peo­ple in Paris?’ That’s some­thing I learnt from Coco Chanel; be­fore she be­came the great­est de­signer who’s ever lived, she dressed the women around her. That was how she rev­o­lu­tionised fash­ion and it’s al­ways been my drive. You can imag­ine how the women in my com­mu­nity feel now that I get to pop up in Paris! What ad­vice would you of­fer de­sign­ers want­ing to en­ter Sea­son 2 of the con­test? Don’t wait un­til en­tries open to pre­pare your­self – start now so that when it’s time to sub­mit your port­fo­lio, you’re ready. Be brave enough to say that you want it and don’t let other peo­ple’s in­se­cu­ri­ties dis­tract you from do­ing what you need to do. Your dream will come true – you just need to work for it. Are you the next big de­signer? En­ter Project Run­way SA Sea­son 2 now. Visit: www.pro­jec­trun­waysa.com Project Run­way SA is pre­sented by Ndalo Pic­tures and Mzansi Magic in as­so­ci­a­tion with 4th Street Wine, Edgars, TRE­Semmé, Lexus and the Men­lyn Shop­ping Cen­tre.

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