Designer goes viral for fashioning chic outfit from Woolworths shopping bags

26 September 2021 - 00:01 By Jackie May
Young designer and professional ballet dancer Bhungane Mehlomakhulu models the outfit he fashioned from Woolworths shopping bags.
Young designer and professional ballet dancer Bhungane Mehlomakhulu models the outfit he fashioned from Woolworths shopping bags.
Image: Instagram/@daveydex

Originally from Sebokeng zone 14 in Gauteng, 23-year-old Bhungane Mehlomakhulu is both a fashion designer and a professional ballet dancer - he dances by day and sews by night.

“I'm like Hannah Montana,” says Mehlomakhulu.

We spoke to him after his long day of rehearsing for Cape Town City Ballet's upcoming performance of Carmen to find out more about the man and about his viral post featuring an outfit upcycled from black Woolworths shopping bags.

How did your recycled outfit come about?

People buy these black reusable bags and then forget them at home, and buy more. My friends have so many of them in the house. I thought I need to use these bags. So instead of buying new fabric to prototype my patterns I used the bags.

It was intended as a prototype for a denim outfit, but it worked so well that I asked my friend to shoot me in the outfit on Sunday.

I posted it a few hours later and went off to watch something on television. When I looked at my social media a few hours later, it had gone viral.

What inspires you to upcycle?

I decided to recycle because I wanted to use what I had instead of buying new fabric. I use old newspaper to make garments. I love using unusual materials to make them more wearable. I love using things in the house. Instead of throwing things away, I like to use them again. I don't feel I have to recycle - I love doing it.

Tell us about you.

I get inspired so quickly. I appreciate the little things around me and I like to push my creativity. At school in the Vaal I did contemporary dance, and got into the National School of the Arts in Braamfontein were I matriculated.

I auditioned for the The Cape Academy of Performing Arts, and I got in. But then I was stuck ... it was going to be very expensive. I had to come up with a plan. In my free time I'd been teaching myself to sew using YouTube. (YouTube is my bestie.)

Tell us more.

During my school years, I had made 15 garments. I decided to host a fashion show. I asked all the tall girls to be my models. A lot of people supported me. We had an empty pool at school which artists had painted and this is where we hosted the fashion show.

I sold tickets and Afternoon Express came to film it. With the money raised, I could go to Cape Town and take up my studies at The Cape Academy of Performing Arts, in West Lake.

After I graduated in 2019, I auditioned to join the Cape Town City Ballet.

How did you become interested in fashion?

As a child, I drew a lot. I also watched a lot of Fashion TV. Fashion One (DStv Channel 178) was my religion. My cousins and friends would get so annoyed when they came to visit and I was watching YouTube and Fashion TV.

Why is your clothes label called Bhumehl?

It's a combination of the first three letters of my first name and the four letters of my surname.

Who are your favourite designers?

Artistic director Daniel Roseberry of Maison Schiaperelli. He's so camp, and so very skilled. I love his use of accessories. And I'm also obsessed with Alexander McQueen's Sarah Burton.

Locally, I admire Thebe Magugu and Rich Mnisi. Their backgrounds are so similar to mine.
I really related to Thebe's story about sleeping on friends' couches. Rich is also inspiring.


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