Duo brings the 'babam'
The studio behind the Loin Cloth and Ashes boutique in the hipster paradise of Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg is too small to contain the personalities of owner, Anisa Mapungwe and face of the brand, celebrity Anele Mdoda.
The two have joined their considerable forces to create a range for Loin Cloth and Ashes that will be shown at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa at the end of the month. They're in the studio on a scorching Sunday morning to go over the designs before cutting, pinning and sewing the garments for the runway.
I'm sworn to secrecy as Mapungwe starts pulling fabric like treasure out of a bag. Mdoda squeals and does those ridiculous little jumps that our gender is guilty of.
I can't reveal too much, but there is a white translucent chiffon that holds sequins like moonlight on water. There's large black and white graphic fabric and luminous turquoise and cobalt coloured material stuck to the drawing board. It's a big collection and the pair have clearly got their work cut out for them.
Mapungwe and Mdoda have been friends for years.
''Ever since varsity," they say in unison.
''It was an obvious choice to have Anele as the face of my label. I chose her because I want my clothes to be for the everyday, for women of all sizes, clothes you can dress up or down depending on the time of day," says Mapungwe.
''Yes, and now that I represent Loin Cloth and Ashes, Anisa doesn't like me to wear anything off the rack," Mdoda chimes in.
''She makes special items for me that will be on my body before anyone else sees them.
"So, if I get an idea of something I like, I take it to Anisa and she makes it a hundred times better. That's how the collaboration started. We thought, we make such beautiful things together. Why not make 30 of them, for others to enjoy?"
The collection is a reflection of how the two relate - it's whimsical, glamorous, fun, free and, most importantly, comfortable. It is their friendship signified in clothes.
''I'm all about comfort. If it's not comfortable I'm simply not going to put it on," says Mdoda.
In fact, Mdoda convinced the designer to create a jumpsuit for her in this collection.
''I wasn't going to do it," says Mapungwe, ''but you can't say 'no' to this woman."
''The way I judge every outfit is by asking: 'Would Michelle Obama wear this'?" says Mdoda, opening a file of magazine cuttings she's collected, documenting the American first lady's dress sense.
''She's my style icon - she always looks comfortable and pulled together, but not like she's spent America's deficit on her wardrobe."
Although she has international style icons, Mdoda clearly loves local design. She's wearing a loose-fitting, flattering Suzaan Heyns dress that the designer picked out for her at a trunk sale the previous week. She loves local, but her heart beats for Loin Cloth and Ashes, she says.
''When I wear something else I feel like I'm cheating," says Mdoda, winking at her friend.
''Yes, then I have to pull the friend card, as in 'friend, how could you'?"
Mapungwe is well-acquainted with that "friend card".
''Anele pulls it out when she wants an outfit created overnight. That's when she looks great on the red carpet while I have black rings under my eyes."
The two agree that designers should reserve the spotlight for their clothes and not hog it with superfluous media appetite.
''I love Michael Kors' attitude," says Mdoda.
''He has no time to be 'babam' - he saves that accolade for his clothes. Designers shouldn't be in the snakeskin they killed that morning. No, the clothes must be the 'babam'."
Loin Cloth and Ashes has been getting a lot of media attention lately. Solange Knowles wore the label for a local fashion shoot, the band Little Dragon left the country with Mapungwe's designs, and Mdoda does a lot to promote the label.
''She has such high energy, she astounds me," says Mapungwe about her friend.
''She's so brilliant in front of people, impressing with her razor-sharp wit, something I'll never be able to do."
''That's part of what makes the collaboration work," says Mdoda.
"I'm the sneaky media bitch, with the confidence to do what I do because I look so damn hot in Anisa's clothes."
- The collection will be called Anele for Loin Cloth and Ashes with shoes by Aldo, jewellery by Tanzanite and headgear by Babatunde. It will show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa 2012 at the end of this month