Exclusive: Nataal reveals Lezanne Viviers’ debut campaign and talks to the designer about her artful label
Found nestled on a leafy hill of Joburg stands Lotus House, Lezanne Viviers’ home, studio and concept store. As I approach this secluded mid-century gem, it’s pink external walls and zesty cactus garden catch my eye and quicken my step. Once inside the double glass-fronted building, room after richly hued room filled with gladsome contemporary artworks and objects reveal themselves. A Lady Skollie banana painting on this wall, a Nico Krijno photograph on that wall; a cabinet brimming with fish-shaped ceramics over there, a jet-black cat slinking nonchalantly by over here.
Heading downstairs, I find the showroom and atelier where Viviers’ gloriously textured garments come to life. A mermaid-y maxi skirt made from diaphanous, iridescent layers speaks to me, as does a pair of wide-legged, silky silver trousers, an oversized blazer that resembles an exotic yellow flower, a cropped wool lamé jacket and an elegant rap-around dress made from a patchwork of antique cottons and linens edged with tartan. Each one an artwork in itself, they are paired with an array of bespoke bonnets (by Studio Lennie) that twist, fold and fly into marvellously happy shapes. Welcome to where your sartorial flights of fancy can come true.
“This conceptual space, which doubles as both a gallery for South African art and a commune for kindred spirits who bask in their joyous nature, could mean many things to many people,” my host tells me as we settle down for homemade fruitcake (laced with plenty of brandy) and cups tea. “It’s here where I see and manifest my future and where I feel free to explore my purpose.”
The designer moved to Joburg in 2011 and cut her teeth first with Tiaan Nagel and then with the legendary Marianne Fassler, where she became creative director. She left that position late last year to develop her own line and Viviers launched this April. “After gaining wonderful experience in a luxury environment and exploring the language of another brand, I felt it was the right time to be introspective and explore my own vision,” Viviers says. “It is more than clothing; it is a community that challenges the norms by answering questions that perhaps still need to be asked… The brand bridges gaps by creating a manifesto where narratives meet in the raw form of the arts.”
“It is more than clothing; it is a community that challenges the norms”
Her debut AW19 collection, Unfold, is available as numbered limited editions and can also be made to measure. In keeping with her dedication to ethically made, handcrafted fashion, the artisans who work on her pieces at Lotus House sign their names on the garments, ensuring each piece is as unique as its maker and its wearer. She finds her “rare and unusual” fabrics all over the world and revels in combining and constructing them into “seamlessly imperfect garments” that transgress rules of gender, occasion and age. These are clothes anyone can wear simply anywhere, as long as you’re unruly enough.
Having firmly set off on this beautiful and spiritual new path, she now reveals her first campaign shoot, shot by Nico Krijno, who's multidisciplinary, cut up and reshape, photo collage style makes sweet music with Viviers’ two elegant muses. Here Nataal debuts five images from the new series.
So where next for Viviers? “I can only dream of collaborating with more like-minded people who are not afraid to take chances, who are inclusive, kind, and thought provoking, and are considered in what they do and how they do it.”