No. 018 SLOW FASHION BY KATEKANI MOREKU
Theme: Sustainable Design
“Previously loved clothing” plays a big role in fashion designer Katekani Moreku’s eponymous label. The recent Durban University of Technology graduate finds his materials in thrift stores, at car-boot sales and from people selling fabric off-cuts and discarded textiles. He’s also used the packaging of mielie meal products. “I want to help slow down fast fashion,” says the designer who will soon relocate back to Mbombela, in the Mpumalanga province where he grew up, to launch his brand.
It is fitting that he will be making his one-off pieces of clothing from this part of the country where his mother’s sePulana culture first piqued his taste for up-cycled fashion. Living next door to a sePulana school of initiation in the village of Welverdiend, he would see women from this sePedi subculture dressed in brightly coloured wrap-around garments that they would make from scraps of fabric and mielie-meal packets, decorated with mismatched buttons, bottle caps and sweet wrappers. He himself has always been an avid thrift-store shopper. “I was trying to live sustainably without even being aware of it,” he says of his life before fashion studies. “Now that I am aware of it, I’m thinking about what change I can bring.”
Part of the change is to create gender-neutral clothing that allows men to also inhabit this colourful sphere usually reserved for sePulana women. “It always looked like men didn’t embrace their heritage,” Moreku says of the way in which the men he saw growing up never wore anything similar to the vibrantly clad women. His range now dresses men in knee-length pleated skirts, button-up dresses and wrap-around trousers, in bright orange, blue and pink. “I’m using the female aesthetic and bringing it into the male part of the culture, in clothes that can be shared by men and women,” he says.
Part sustainable fashion part heritage expression, Moreku’s first range, Nascent, which debuted at South African Fashion Week 2019, has already got stylistas oohing and aahing. Last year he walked away with Twyg’s Sustainable Fashion Student Award and the KZN Fashion Council MEC Recognition Award for Eco-Friendly Fashion. As for the SePulana people being celebrated in the collection, Moreku says they are excited to see a modern take on their culture. “They’re helping me with ideas, and the elders are giving me information because it’s not so easy to find. But they’re happy someone is taking their culture out there, and they’re able to look at themselves through me now.”
100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.