In the wake of South Africa's pandemic spike, local fashion designers tell us how they're rediscovering their creative pace

“Time does not exist,” Lezanne Viviers, founder of the Johannesburg brand Viviers, comments. “Our minds adapted to a belief that a clock is always ticking, there is always something urgent, something that is pending, another deadline, rush hour.”

Caroline Mackintosh’s latest fashion portfolio with stylist Gavin Mikey Collins focuses on this theme of time—the long, empty stretches of it we faced during the pandemic. But rather than dwell on the boredom and fear, she highlights the restorative value of being forced to just stop moving. Viviers is among the local designers featured in the story, shot in South Africa. As she and others including Daniel Sher of Cape Town brand Good Good Good attest, this pause was a reprieve that allowed for reflection, for a break from output in order to find, once more, the rhythm of inspiration. For designer Lukhanyo Mdingi, the pandemic underscored what they already knew about their brand’s mission: “The intention behind what we do is always driven by a certain kind of consideration, steadiness, and purpose.” With this fashion portfolio, Mackintosh pauses the ticking clock to honor the slow burn of creativity, craft, and care.

Left: Richard wears shirt by Rich Mnisi. Cebile wears bodysuit and skirt by Rich Mnisi. Right: Dress and top by Lara Klawikowski.

Lara Klawikowski, founder and designer of Lara Klawikowski

“I live in Cape Town. This city has a special energy. Everything about it is diverse: the nature, people, fashion. It’s eclectic in every way.

“The pandemic gave me more time than ever to slow down, to absorb everything and be inspired without the demand of producing something immediately. There was time to incubate ideas and it’s led to some of my strongest creative work. I learned I create my best work on my own—I don’t really need a team!”

Left: Cebile wears dress and scarves by Lukhanyo Mdingi. Jeremy wears top and sweater by Lukhanyo Mdingi. Pants by Viviers. Right: Jeremy wears top and dress by Lara Klawikowski.

Lukhanyo Mdingi, founder and designer of Lukhanyo Mdingi

“Our label is based here in Cape Town. The city is a sublime hybrid of lush mountainous peaks and endless shorelines together with robust and rustic cityscapes. The juxtaposed sensibilities of the two are evidently seen within our work—a continuous contrast of the opposites.

“The pandemic didn’t change the way we work. The intention behind what we do is always driven by a certain kind of consideration, steadiness, and purpose. The pandemic highlighted that we’re steadily on a trajectory that we’ve always envisioned for ourselves.”

Left: Pants by Viviers. Socks by Cotton On. Boots by Camper. Right: Richard wears pants by Viviers. Cebile wears dress by Viviers. Earrings by Missibaba.

Lezanne Viviers, founder and designer of Viviers

“Johannesburg is a melting pot of cultures. It exists because ambitious individuals from all over the continent were magnetically pulled here to literally find their treasure of gold. That is how Johannesburg came into existence; gold-digging! My city is a city of hopes, dreams, and optimism, as nothing here is taken for granted, nor is anything impossible. We are a people of hustlers.

“Johannesburg, as a community, is and has always been deeply rooted in political protests to fight for fairness and humanity, not to mention equality and oneness of all. The spirit of the city is animalistically imbued in every breath we take, every move we make, and every encounter we have. Creatively we are surrounded by so much color, so much gold, such incredible history, people, and architecture, that any artist we collaborate or have an exchange with cannot but breathe the spirit of Johannesburg.

“Lockdown has been a beautiful analogy of metamorphosis: the process of constant change. Initially, lockdown allowed me to catch up on much-needed sleep and rest. It has been a year since we launched Viviers and a new business is like birthing a newborn, as enthralling as it is challenging, at least so I hear.

“I remembered that I am responsible for determining my own pace; I can choose how I prefer to go about things; we as a team are the fuel and the speedometer of the driving force that embodies the Viviers brand. I had time to reset and to recalibrate to slow things down and to let go of self-inflicted stress and worry that used to go with the system we chose to adhere to. That has changed.”

Richard wears jacket and shorts by Good Good Good. Boots by Converse. Jeremy wears shirt and pants by Good Good Good.

Daniel Sher, founder and designer of Good Good Good

“I live in the inner-city of Cape Town, South Africa but I grew up in Johannesburg. Cape Town is a city surrounded by nature at the foot of Table Mountain and looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean. There’s a lot of diverse fauna and flora that are a great source of inspiration, and I spend a lot of my time hiking around various Southern African nature reserves. I am also deeply inspired by the people around me, their stories, and their life philosophies.

“The pandemic and South Africa’s initial lockdown rules forced us to stop production, which gave me much-needed space to rest, reflect, and assess the way I have worked in the past. Comfort and boxy silhouettes have always been part of the Good Good Good identity, but the pandemic definitely highlighted the importance of comfortable clothing that can be trans-seasonal, joyful, and worn on almost any occasion. The pandemic re-emphasized the importance of community, which brought us to support organizations and projects for social change through the brand’s creative projects.”

Left: Pants by Kente Gentleman. Necklaces by Pichulik. Right: Richard wears shirt, sweater, and pants by Chulaap. Jeremy wears top and pants by Chulaap.

Churlarp Suwannapha, founder and designer of Chulaap

“I am Thai-born and based in Cape Town, South Africa. Chulaap as a brand is all about celebrating Africa. It is inspired by art and culture [and influenced by] South African street style. It is contemporary, bold and fun, with attitude. Every print tells a story. My brand is produced in South Africa. Sustainability is who we are, creating local jobs and recycling fabrics are our aims at the moment.”

Models Cebile Zikalala at My Friend Ned; Jeremy Pelser and Richard Awuni at Boss Models. Art Direction Christian Ruess. Hair & Make-up Alet Viljoen. Production Baker & Co.

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