Seven local brands leading the way in sustainable, ethical fashion design

Environmentally conscious fashion was the winner at the Sustainable Fashion Awards — but so were these designers ...

29 November 2020 - 00:00 By and andrea nagel
Lara Klawikowski scooped the Innovative Design and Materials award as well as the coveted Changemaker award for her upcycled plastic dress, worn here by Nontobeko Mbuyazi.
Lara Klawikowski scooped the Innovative Design and Materials award as well as the coveted Changemaker award for her upcycled plastic dress, worn here by Nontobeko Mbuyazi.
Image: Nina Zimolong

'The fashion industry that so many of us love is harmful to the environment."

This is the opening statement on the Rewoven website, an innovative project that reimagines textile waste. Rewoven was founded in 2018 by a dynamic trio of young entrepreneurs, Esethu Cenga, Lonwabo Mgoduso and Tshepo Bhengu, to address, in some part, the dire effect that the fashion industry is having on the planet.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. An estimated $500bn (R7.6-trillion) of value is lost every year due to clothing that's barely worn and rarely recycled.

The three young entrepreneurs have joined with Twyg, a not-for-profit company inspiring and supporting a modern, eco-conscious and forward-thinking lifestyle, in hosting the second annual Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards, which took place last week at Rewoven's recycling textile warehouse in Cape Town.

Strips of discarded T-shirts hung from the ceiling of the warehouse as a reminder of the need to recycle.

The Twyg awards are about acknowledging, celebrating and appreciating designers who are working towards sustaining each other and the planet. They celebrate South African designers leading sustainable, ethical, circular and regenerative practices in the fashion industry. They also reflect that fashion can be at the forefront of positive ethical, social and environmental change.

Alexandra van Heerden's 'bunny jacket' was made from stuffed toys donated by the Hillcrest Aids Centre.
Alexandra van Heerden's 'bunny jacket' was made from stuffed toys donated by the Hillcrest Aids Centre.
Image: Zander Opperman @ Lampost

The awards were divided into seven categories, with one overall winner of the Changemaker award:

  • Mungo, a brand that makes textile products with natural fibres at a weaving mill in Plettenberg Bay, won the Retail award.
  • Avant-garde wedding dresses and wearable high-art womenswear designer Lara Klawikowski uses unusual materials and textures created by hand at her studio. She won the Innovative Design and Materials award and the overall Changemaker award.
  • The Student award was won by 22-year-old Alex van Heerden (her label is VANKLAN), a fourth-year fashion and textile design student at Durban University of Technology who created a collection using old pillowcases and other thrifted items from the Kloof & Highway SPCA.
  • The Matsidiso brand co-founded by Jinae Heyns, which creates ethically made shoes, won the Accessory award.
  • The Influencer award recognises a personality who has promoted sustainable fashion over the past 12 months and o's sparked relevant conversations. It was won by Eswatini-born model and activist Nomfundo Liyanna Basini, known as Liyanna B. She chairs the Liyanna B Foundation aimed at spreading awareness and helping survivors of gender-based violence.
  • Tshepo Mohlala, founder of Tshepo Jeans, is "committed to the development of denim, through the promotion of Africanism and localisation". He won the Trans-seasonal award.
  • The Nicholas Coutts award recognises a designer who uses artisanal craft techniques such as weaving, embroidering or botanical dyeing to make fashion that foregrounds, celebrates and values the skills of the person who makes the garment. The winner was the Seen Collective, established by designer Steph Mundy, a group of women from the Gerard Fitzpatrick House and Nursing Home in Johannesburg, who make knitwear and jumpers.

After winning the most coveted prize, the Changemaker award, which came with R100,000 in prize money, Klawikowski said: "I'm just waiting for the reality of winning such an amazing prize to sink in."

She'll spend the money on new sewing machines, she said.

The awards were sponsored in most part by Country Road, which sponsored the Changemaker award winner's R100,000 prize, and PETCO, a recycling company specialising in the recycling of PET bottles and products.

Country Road's Elouise Brink said: "All the finalists are a brilliant example of our country's best creative talent in slow fashion."

Founder and editor of Twyg Jackie May said: "It's an honour to celebrate the work of designers who take care with how they make and design the clothes we wear to ensure that fashion doesn't harm people or the planet."


subscribe