Incredible lockdown collabs: creatives come together while staying apart

Think you've got to be in the same room to collaborate? These artworks by local fashion designers, artists and other creatives are proof that you don't

30 August 2020 - 00:00 By Sharon Armstrong and Thango Ntwasa
Styling by Louw Kotze, applique by Lezanne Viviers, illustration by Marlene Steyn, clothing by Viviers Studio and embroidery by Janine Karros.
Styling by Louw Kotze, applique by Lezanne Viviers, illustration by Marlene Steyn, clothing by Viviers Studio and embroidery by Janine Karros.
Image: Creatives collab

"It's good to see faces with mouths," says visual artist Marlene Steyn as we connect via Zoom.

Wearing masks, being housebound and having virtual everything is what life under Covid-19 has been reduced to so, as an illustrator known for her dreamy and colourful artwork, the lockdown has been gloomy for Steyn. It's been a world in which smiles are hidden behind masks.

To dispel this dreary notion of the world, Steyn accepted the call to join forces with other local creatives and create a striking artwork that shows off their skills in different disciplines.

As Steyn puts it: "This is a time of utter frustration and feeling stuck. [It's better to] take that and channel it into creating something rather than becoming a hermit and going deeper under the blanket. In turbulent times some of the most interesting creations happen."

Steyn's collaborators for this project include fashion stylist Louw Kotze, Janine Pretorius, managing director at Kaross embroidery, fashion designer Lezanne Viviers of Viviers Studio, as well as the studio's creative director, Sithasolwazi Kentane.

Holding hands is a universal symbol of unity and love, but current restrictions strongly advise against it. So here, using different mediums, each creative metaphorically held hands with the others, turning months of isolation into a protracted moment of connectivity through art.

First Viviers designed fashion for each collaborator to wear. The pieces, which were virtually styled by Kotze, were sent to each person in the team to be photographed.

These photos were turned into artworks by Pretorius and Steyn. Following which they were digitally imposed on cloth and, together with clothing offcuts, were used to create an applique — patches of fabric sewn onto a larger piece of fabric — and create the final artwork seen here, which features embroidery by Kaross.

The ripple effect of one creative's input on another became a chain linking their efforts together.

"This is a great example of collective creativity, which we managed to achieve without seeing each other," says Kotze. "We've inspired each other and kept each other motivated."

"This project has shown us that you don't have to be in the same space to collaborate," agrees Kentane. "We've created a beautiful piece using the ancient art of embroidery and modern technology to communicate."

Hannah for Sindiso.
Hannah for Sindiso.
Image: Hannah Hughes


Lockdown has limited how we conduct our lives. Many fashion designers and artists have struggled to find innovative ways to reach their audiences and customers. For many, the answer has been to embark on exciting collaborations such as the ones featured here. 

We asked the creatives behind these collaborations to tell us what they find inspiring about each other's work, and share their thoughts on the ever-evolving fashion industry:


Hannah Hughes, artist: "Sindiso's design is heavenly." 

Sindiso Khumalo, fashion and textile designer: "I always think illustrators are quite similar to textile designers in the sense that anything is your medium. I always say I'm a fashion and textile designer because textiles, like illustration, tap into so many different things."

Lunetta for Ella.
Lunetta for Ella.
Image: Lunetta Bartz
Richard for Floyd.
Richard for Floyd.
Image: Richard Becker


Fashion designer Ella Buter of Superella: "Fashion is fleeting but personal style is sustainable." 

Lunetta Bartz, interior designer and traditional bookbinder: "In my work I investigate the combinations of different shapes to make 'new' shapes. Every day I work with space and paper, exploring these relationships. Wearing Ella's exquisitely crafted garments has added a super dimension." 


Fashion designer Floyd Manotoana of Floyd Avenue: "Ukuzikhuphula is township slang for thinking, and the actual meaning of the word in isiZulu is to uplift yourself. That's what I think should be happening in the fashion industry. People need to be thinking about what they're doing and trying to uplift each other and their communities." 

Richard Becker, illustrator and designer: "Floyd's design is kind of next level; it's like 3D design. It's a whole extra dimension that I struggle to get my head around. I've played a little bit with 3D but I have big respect for being able to design in three dimensions because all I do, really, is two dimensions." 

Tatum (pictured) for David.
Tatum (pictured) for David.
Image: Warren Wheatley
Bee (pictured) for Luke.
Bee (pictured) for Luke.
Image: Aart Verrips/Lampost


Bee Diamondhead, creative director: "I felt like myself, I felt like a woman, I felt powerful - I felt strong [wearing one of Luke's designs for n this shoot]. It was just a match made in heaven. I understand the price point [of Uniform] now. It's luxury! Pay for luxury. Now I'm going to save my coins and start a piggy bank and buy something." 

Fashion designer Luke Radloff of Uniform: "The thing about Uniform and the clothes that I make is that I would rather work on something beautifully made than something that looks now or trendy or something that just looks amazing on the outside. I couldn't do that. I'd rather focus my time on making something that is a little bit more understated or impeccably made."


Tatum Keshwar, model and business woman: "David is quintessentially authentic to the core. I mean that David is the same now as he was the day that I met him."

David Tlale, fashion designer: "From day one when we [Tatum and I] met she had that presence — she was like, 'I'm here and I'm here to do this' and from that moment it was love at first sight." 

Liz for Clive.
Liz for Clive.
Image: Liz van der Merwe
Bradley for Jacques.
Bradley for Jacques.
Image: Bradley Kirshenbaum


Jacques van der Watt, fashion designer: "People are feeling more confident, especially independent South African brands. That's because the 'support local' message has gotten out. A lot of people have gotten behind that because it makes you start thinking about all these people paying their bills and paying their staff and wanting them to still be around."

Bradley Kirshenbaum, graphic designer: "Jacques and I are polar opposites; he'll zoom into one project from the moment he gets briefed. That's what he does. My creative process is different. I like working on 10 different things at once — it's contained chaos." 


Clive Rundle, fashion designer: "Our approach to clothing is via the architectural building model, not the fashion illustration that now just makes pretty pictures. We'd rather build a building with all its architectural problems and resolve issues like weight bearing and so on — that's how we approach it. Even with that kind of language. We try to get to grips with the fundamentals of converting flat cardboard into a three-dimensional sculpture that a body wears." 

Liz van der Merwe, make-up artist: "Working alongside Clive is a feast of inspiration and imagination, also a great honour."