Meet one of this year’s most promising Emerging Creatives at Design Indaba

Zane Ngwenya shone brightly among this year’s crop of Emerging Creatives at Design Indaba. The annual programme supports young South African designers through mentorship and a chance to present their work at the prestigious Cape Town conference with previous alumnus including Laduma Ngxokolo of Maxhosa and Katherine-Mary Pichulik. Ngwenya will surely follow in their footsteps. The 22-year-old fashion designer was born and raised in Durban and last year presented her graduate collection as part of Durban University’s show at South African Fashion Week. At Design Indaba she debuted her forth year Bachelor of Technology collection, Neo-Pantsula.

“I was researching the African renaissance that is happening among young people in South Africa and the way they style themselves to create a new identity,” Ngwenya explains. “A lot of young people are coming together as collectives based on lifestyle choices and pulling references from the past. One of those references is the Pantsula. It is mostly known now as a dance genre but in the past they were a sub culture among young black males in the townships. So I wanted to create a range of clothes around that.”

“I want to keep moving Neo-Pantsula forward. It is relevant and resonates with a lot of young people right now”

Her take on this “fluid neo tribe” takes visual references from the townships and turns them into textile prints, such as hand painted barbershop signs, the checks of the ubiquitous PVC bags used by migrants to carry their worldly belongings (known to Zulus as umhlaba ungehlule ‘the world has broken me’) and the Sasko sliced bread logo. “Bread is a main staple of our diets, so I wanted to play with the idea of ‘our daily bread’. We wake up every morning, eat this bread and then go out to work to earn money, which is also our daily bread,” she says.

These prints add warmth and texture to her capsule collection of simple men’s t-shirts, jumpsuits and denim jackets. Each piece has a raw, upcycled appeal and is the designer’s way of creating contemporary, urban artefacts. Or to put it another way, the ultimate swag. “I want to keep moving Neo-Pantsula forward. It is relevant and resonates with a lot of young people right now. It’s about finding new ways to communicate South Africa away from the stereotypes that are always presented.”

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Published on 17/03/2019