True Fashion Lab kicks off with research, exchange and continental community building

Arts and Creative Industries

True Fashion is a mentoring programme that was designed to imagine sustainable responses to fashion.  For the last three years, the French Institute of South Africa and Casa93 have worked together to facilitate a continent-crossing exchange where young fashion designers went through a thorough programme offering them insight that developed the way they approached community, communication, materials, entrepreneurship, collaboration, craft and design. From being mentored by Lukhanyo Mdingi to joining the Casa93 class of 2022 in their Paris Fashion Week showcase, the programme has taken the young designers to new heights.  

READ MORE: True Fashion, Try on Green 

For its final season designers Khumo Morejele (South Africa) and Isis Christana Mbango (France) are once again crossing paths to bring learnings together for a final showcase.

True Fashion Lab mentees, Khumo Morojele and Isis Christina Mbanog share family archives to build the premise of their collection (Images by Twofolds)

Supported by mentors Sakhile Cebekhulu of Sash and Nadine Gonzalez, founding director of Paris-based fashion school Casa93, the designers have begun working together to make an eight-piece capsule collection governed by the pillars of upcycling and collaboration. 

A contemporary South African multidisciplinary brand based in Johannesburg, SASH is passionate about telling sartorial stories with an emphasis on authenticity and quality. In making ready-to-wear clothing, the brand prioritises care. Following SASH, Cebekhulu partnered with Khotso Mohlokoane to establish Unknwn Projects. An experimental research project actualised with designers Nina and Kabelo, Unknwn Projects explores sustainability and upcycling in the South African context by reimagining archived garments. 

After meeting in Season 2 to work on their Paris Fashion Week debut, True Fashion Lab mentees, Khumo Morojele and Isis Christina Mbanog have been working together for the last year (Images by Twofolds)

The founder and director of Casa Geraçao, Gonzalez set up the first and only fashion school in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas. Established in 2013, the school was accessible to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. In 2017, the school’s development saw them grow into Casa93: a school of creative living based on equal opportunity.  It offers free training with no diploma requirements, aimed at young talents with a flair for fashion. Casa93 is reinventing fashion education by proposing a pedagogical, social, human and urban innovation methodology based on the collective.

READ MORE: True Fashion Season 2 spans from the Karoo to Paris Fashion Week

 A self-taught designer and creative director, Morojele’s journey began right after high school when he bought a sewing machine. Incited and inspired by his mother’s navigation of fashion in Johannesburg, his practice centres around subverting the unwanted into something desired while ensuring community building, skill sharing and upcycling. Currently working based in Amsterdam and working at Nike, Mbango is a Casa93 alumnus who describes her creative universe as one that is informed by music, contemporary African art and textile making. From the Congolese rhythms that her parents made her listen to all the way to amapiano immersions, Mbango translates the sounds, vibrations and heat that music emits into garments that celebrate movement and the silhouette of the body. 

True Fashion Lab, Season 3 mentor, Sakhile Cebekhulu (Image by Twofolds)

In the first week of True Fashion Lab Season 3, Morojele and Mbango engaged leading South African fashion designers including SASH, Unknwn Projects, Maxhosa, VIVIERS and Wanda Lephoto. Local designers with international footprints, collectively their work has been showcased across the world including demonstrations in Paris, Italy, and New York. Visiting their studios and speaking to their teams, the mentees gained first-hand experience of what it takes to establish, maintain, and grow a brand with international resonance. An opportunity to put their learnings and ideations into practice, the second week involved finalising the concept of their collection, as well as the business model that would best suit Morojele and Mbango as collaborators. 


A mentor for the last three years, Nadine Gonzalez has walked the True Fashion journey with the mentees. (Image by Twofolds)

A project where South African and French sensibilities come together, True Fashion Lab promotes longterm partnership and collaboration between the two regions. (Image by Twofolds)

Reflecting on the first two weeks, the designers were most impacted by having access and proximity to the processes that make leading luxury designers in South Africa a possibility. “It makes me want to take that leap of faith and create my own structure around my ethos and narrative,” says Morojele. Agreeing with this, Mbango adds how “In my previous training, I had much more of a creative focus. Seeing all these factors gives a clearer vision of the value of a garment and all the skills and people that contribute to its creation.” A highlight that came with a lesson, the series of encounters helped Morojele realise the difference that community makes. “You need people. You can’t do it alone and if you are doing it with people, you need to learn to listen, learn to accommodate but be confident with communicating what you need and want.”

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