SA Fashion Week has never hesitated to be a strong base of design talent in the country.
Its runways are adorned with the vibrant colors of Rich Mnisi, the expert storytelling of Thebe Magugu, and the deeply cultural work of Loxion Kulca.
Each season, SA Fashion Week opens up space on the runway for new talent in menswear and womenswear. It was the Scouting Menswear leg that opened the door for design duo Refuse, the latest star of the season. Malcolm Mokgope and Minenhle Memela launched his brand in 2016 and have spent the last six years building a brand that captures the essence of urban youth. Taking it to the runway, their collection sought to reflect the issues and trends that concern men and women in these environments.
And what about the title? While rejecting contemporary trends and concentrating on how fabrics are put together, the multi-layered “Refuse” refers to the waste that has accumulated in the fashion industry and built the foundations of brands.
“Everybody has come to like the whole global fashion language about sustainability, but not us. I wondered if I could do it,” says Memela.
“In IsiZulu, we say udothi. [refuse] People see frugality as Udoti, and have created luxury brands around the stigma that society attaches to bad things and all the bad connotations. ”
SA is known for its long-lasting, sustainably-produced cotton, which runs throughout its collections. Additionally, this design duo avoids toxic fabrics that not only last long in your closet, but also detract from how harmful they are to the environment when discarded.
Both have had thrilling journeys in the fashion world, but it is Mok Go Bae who shares that he has always been a global fanatic. Therefore, he often pressured his mother to buy the latest clothes.
“I don’t know when it started, but I feel like fashion chose me. [boots], but my mom bought me a pair of Bronx shoes—the ones that look like Timberlands. Her mother bought it for her because she did well in school. She thought it was time for my mother to make my dream come true.
As the brains behind the operation, Memela’s role is to conceptualize the collections behind the brand. This is also a reflection of Mokgope’s work. This is similar to previous collections that explored how “Durban men dress in comfort with little focus on style.” The collection has brought many award winners to Mokugope and it is no surprise that Durban has been the inspiration for their most recent award winning collection.
Titled Uhambo, this collection samples Zulu culture. This includes sportswear like the one seen in the latest version of the Amazul FC jersey, the infamous leopard print sported in a pullover, and even monochrome photographs of the former Zulu king creating his shirt designs.
“We titled the collection ‘Uhambo’. This means going on a journey, and this is where our journey begins. This is a step away from the comfort zone we grew up in. — Sowetan.