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Black Renaissance: Wanda Lephoto takes us back to a fashionable future

The designer's latest collection explores the impact British colonialism had on the image of South Africans

23 May 2021 - 00:00 By Thango Ntwasa
The Morena look reimagines the Zion Christian Church uniform.
The Morena look reimagines the Zion Christian Church uniform.
Image: Aart Verrips

Of late there is an inescapable abundance of nostalgic fashion items that have swarmed our stores, reminding us of past trends worth revisiting. But in the carefully crafted world of Wanda Lephoto's designs, this is a deep dive into the historic relevance of fashion and its influence on our shores.

Famed for his preppy yet streetwear-savvy approach to design, Lephoto's recent collection, Black Renaissance, explores the impact British colonialism had on the image of South Africans.

"This collection is interested in a simple presentation of the blending of two worlds to create new propositions for identity and representation," Lephoto said in an Instagram post.

This is especially the case with the King Edward VII suit, a green-striped boating blazer that echoes elements from school uniforms among other pieces inspired by cricket attire and the use of Celtic wools.

Inspired by Santu Mofokeng's The Black Photo Album.
Inspired by Santu Mofokeng's The Black Photo Album.
Image: Aart Verrips
The King Edward VII suit.
The King Edward VII suit.
Image: Aart Verrips

The Morena (God) look, featuring a khaki biker jacket paired with green trousers, re-imagines the uniform typically worn by members of the Zion Christian Church.

"Throughout SA today as well as many other Sundays, you can see many men and women dress in these British Militant Safari Suits as they make their way to Sunday's service," said Lephoto.

The late South African photographer Santu Mofokeng also inspired Lephoto's approach to capturing the collection through the style of family portraiture.

Model wears isibeshu, a hide flap worn by Zulu men.
Model wears isibeshu, a hide flap worn by Zulu men.
Image: Aart Verrips

"The Black Photo Album is of greatest significance as it documented family portraits of black families in South Africa during the 1850s to 1920s," says Lephoto, who sought to question whether the images were evidence of colonisation or challenging the image of Africans in a Western world.

The sentiment was made more heartfelt by featuring his parents, Martha Lephoto and Clement Xaba, as models in the collection.

"Tailoring forms the foundation from which most of the collection is built with our key considerations cantered and concerned with the identities of otherwise under-represented people and groups, the black identity being of particular inspiration, a space allowing people and groups to be free to negotiate the boundaries of their own identities and representation," says Lephoto.

The strong tailoring and considered approach to style by Lephoto is currently available at Black Space and at select Nordstrom stores.


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