Celeb designer on what Somhale's wedding outfits say about them

Designer Gert-Johan Coetzee dishes on the most talked about outfits from Somizi Mhlongo and Mohale Motaung's traditional and white wedding days

24 February 2020 - 00:00 By Toni Jaye Singer
A closer look at the crown-like headpieces Mohale Motaung and Somizi Mhlongo wore on their traditional wedding day.
A closer look at the crown-like headpieces Mohale Motaung and Somizi Mhlongo wore on their traditional wedding day.
Image: Austin Malema via Showmax

Here come the grooms, all dressed in ... Gert-Johan Coetzee.

Coetzee, the preferred fashion designer of SA's biggest stars, was the sartorial wizard behind the most talked about looks from Somizi Mhlongo and Mohale Motaung's African-themed traditional wedding in September last year.

He also dressed the lovebirds the second time they said “I do”, creating fantastically romantic outfits for their white wedding last month.

Designer Gert-Johan Coetzee has dressed A-listers like Oprah and Bonang Matheba.
Designer Gert-Johan Coetzee has dressed A-listers like Oprah and Bonang Matheba.
Image: Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Fans of the newlyweds, known collectively as Somhale, will get an inside look at these events when a four-part Showmax special about their union premieres on February 24.

They’ll also get another chance to admire the ensembles Coetzee dreamed up for the couple.

We asked him to tell us more about these designs and about working with the A-list grooms:

Somizi and Mohale have commissioned you to make them new outfits. Do they leave the vision completely up to you, or do you brainstorm ideas together?

I always collaborate with my clients. So Somizi and Mohale will come to me with an idea and I just take it further by feeding off their personalities. 

What do you admire most about Somizi's fashion sense?

I admire that he has always been able to express himself through fashion; he is never afraid to be experimental.

Grooms Mohale Motaung and Somizi Mhlongo in the Egyptian-inspired looks designer Gert-Johan Coetzee created for their traditional wedding in September 2019.
Grooms Mohale Motaung and Somizi Mhlongo in the Egyptian-inspired looks designer Gert-Johan Coetzee created for their traditional wedding in September 2019.
Image: Austin Malema via Showmax

Somizi said on Instagram that you took the couple to Egypt for their African-themed traditional wedding. Tell us more about inspiration behind the outfits and crown-like headpieces you designed for them.

I wanted them to look regal, yet distinctly African. In my mind if Africa had to be a colour it would be gold [hence the colour of Somizi's outfit]. We gave his outfit a modern twist by exchanging the traditional African beads for gold crystal ones. 

How would you say these different looks sum up the differences in the couple's personal styles?

Somizi is always game for anything different; his personality is over the top. Mohale, on the other hand, is more classical and demure, both in terms of style and personality. 

For their traditional wedding, you created individualistic looks for the couple. For their white wedding, they twinned in lace and brocade suits. Why did you decide to make them match?

As a continuation of their traditional wedding [looks], we decided to go with gold again, but this time mixing it with softer colours such as ivory and cream. 

For the white wedding, I wanted to create a more romantic feel. We achieved this through using gentler colours and by matching the outfits, while still keeping the two's unique personalities in mind.

Tell us more about the dramatic cape Somizi wore on his white wedding day.

Somizi is a big personality and he loves to express himself through fashion, so what better way to create drama on the most special day of his life than with a cape? Over 200m of tulle was used to make the cape; we also used thousands of pearls mixed with Swarovski crystals. 

Like actor Billy Porter — who Somizi has said is one of his style icons — he's worn outfits that blur the boundaries between suit and ball gown. Did you consider the idea of doing a more gender-fluid gown for his Big Day?

Definitely, I am a big supporter of the idea to be who you are without following the masses or what the societal structure dictates. No one should be allowed to tell us what or what not to wear. 

What was the most challenging aspect of making the couple's wedding looks?

I like every creation I make to be challenging, because then I know that we are trying something new and different.

Both looks were very complex and time-consuming to make — it takes well over a month with 30 people being involved to make garments of this stature. Making garments with such minute details and making them perfect is challenging, as everything has to be done by hand.