A Sustainability Journey
From a Mohair farm in Graaff Reinet four young designers from South Africa and France embarked on a creative journey to the catwalk at Paris Fashion Week and wove a story of sustainability together.
The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) once again partnered with fashion school Casa93 in France to design and organise the second season of the True Fashion mentoring programme. This ongoing project linking sustainable fashion and inclusion was supported by the Institut Français in Paris and the City of Paris.
The programme was conceived to imagine a sustainable responses to the new world of fashion for the young talents of South Africa and France. Two French students, Isis-Christana Mbango and Freddy Lassey, were selected by Casa 93, an alternative fashion school based in Montreuil , to collaborate with the young South African designers, Khumo Morejele and Zaza Hlethetwa, who had taken part in the first season of True Fashion: Try On Green in 2021 – a joint initiative with the Goethe Institute and supported by the Franco-German Cultural Fund. Find out more about the first season here.
This new season had a new format: a multi-cultural pairing of four mentees, guided by mentors around two countries, working on two outfits and culminating in a show at Paris Fashion Week as part of Casa 93’s graduate fashion show titled CARJACK. Beginning with a trip to a mohair farm in the Karoo, followed by an immersive experience in Khayelitsha, and ending in Paris, this mentorship programme offered alternative learning opportunities by fostering new relations to histories, cultures and collaborative futures.
Part 1: The Karoo
South Africa was an exciting playground for the four mentees. The objective was to nurture an intercultural exchange around Mohair – an eco-conscious material of which 60 % of the world’s production occurs in the country.
In the small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet, as a part of the first leg of their Mohair immersion, the young designers learned about the sector’s natural, economic, and professional ecosystem. In addition to workshops, they visited a mohair production farm, developing their understanding of the origin and manufacturing process of the wool, and observe outstanding local expertise in weaving techniques
Part 2: Khayelitsha
This excursion was followed by two days in Cape Town devoted to creative work and exposure to designers living in Khayelitsha, with a programme curated by mentors Erica de Greef, co-founder of the African Fashion Research Institute, and Zuko Langeni of Khayelitsha’s Ekasi Fashion Alliance.
The mentees had the opportunity to tell their own stories and interact with the professionals in attendance. This was key to elevating the creative process and outputs over this time.
With the input of designer Ayanda Hans, and drawing inspiration form the Karoo, Isis and Khumo focused on combining knitting and weaving techniques resulting in a creation that uplifts the wool value chain.
Freddy and Zaza’s concept was a celebration of women’s empowerment. Guided by self-taught South African designer Asanda Veco, they created a mohair jacket in the shape of a shelter, as a tribute to the Capetonian women who survived slavery in the 18th century.
Find out more about their time in South Africa here:
At the end of September, to continue their training and collaboration with the two French students at CASA 93 and to finalise their creations before Paris Fashion Week, Zaza and Khumo travelled to France for the first time. Once in Paris, they were immersed for one week in Casa 93 school’s life with other French students, where they worked together on their final outfits, trying new dying techniques, learning from one another, and participating in a professional photoshoot around the city to capture their designs and bolster their portfolios.
As a part of their journey, they also explored Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Elsa Schiaparelli exhibition, the Palais Royal, and some of the Fashion Week designers’ showrooms.
They were accompanied by Nadine Gonzalez, co-creator of the programme and founder of Casa 93.
“We were invited by the French Federation of Haute Couture and Fashion to be part of Paris Fashion Week…For [the mentees] to say they have been to South Africa and France, and made outfits that mix all the different cultures, will be very useful for their portfolios, which is the goal of Casa 93 and the programme”
On October 4th, 7pm, the mohair-inspired outfits created by these four young designers were presented at the Casa93 fashion show at the Palais de Tokyo during Paris Fashion Week, alongside the school’s graduating class collection.
“This season, we wanted to focus on exchange. Between mentors and mentees and also between cultures. We wanted them to inspire each other and learn from one another” says Sophie Boulé, the cultural attachée and deputy director of IFAS.
She adds: “If you want sustainable fashion, you need sustainable projects. It takes time. It’s not a one shot. Which is why, at the French Institute of South Africa with support from the Institut Français in Paris, we are committed to establishing partnerships and creating opportunities around such projects”.