Lukhanyo Mdingi mentors young designers on sustainable fashion – TimesLIVE

As part of a global culture that’s becoming more aware of the impact it has on the environment, fashion brands are developing sustainable systems that encourage circular production and ecologically conscious design.
True Fashion: Try on Green is a mentorship programme developed by the French Institute of SA and the Goethe-Institut SA — with  support from the Franco-German Cultural Fund — that focuses on this conversation and gives talented young designers the tools to transform global thinking on the aesthetic and practical capacity of sustainable design.
Four mentors — LVMH award-winner Lukhanyo Mdingi; the founder of the eponymous slow fashion label Buki Akomolafe; Nadine Gonzalez, the founder and director of the first and only fashion school in a favela in Brazil, duplicated in France, near Paris;  and Olga Pham, a multi-talented artist, fashion designer and alternative activist  — took five emerging designers under their wing as part of the immersive True Fashion: Try on Green programme.
True Fashion took place over three months from August to October this year, offering over 40 hours of mentorship and workshops, conversations with eight experts on sustainable design, four masterclasses in Cape Town and Johannesburg, as well as direct guidance from their mentors. At the end, the participants presented a complete look that integrated what they’d learnt together with their own perspectives and visual languages. The looks were then assembled for a photoshoot in the Mother City under the creative direction of Mdingi.
Xola Maxoba’s journey with sustainable design started in her grandmother’s home where she watched her granny weave bags from recycled clothing and carpets from dried grass.  Now Xola experiments with vegetable dying methods on linens and raw silks. Through the programme she designed and produced a turmeric dyed dress with beaded trims from linens and raw silks.
• 5 mentees selected from 60 applicants.
• 4 professional fashion mentors (French, German and South African).
• 8 experts on sustainable fashion who lead dialogues with the mentees.
• 40+ hours of technical workshops and group mentoring.
• 4 masterclasses in Cape Town and Johannesburg
Burton Miles is completing the second year of his fashion design degree at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. Burton’s nonconformist gender-bending designs for the programme include an elegant kimono and dress, inspired by South Korean culture, and made from recycled material and dyed using vegetable extracts.
Inspired by his family, friends and community, the self-taught Khumo Morojele realised his talent for sustainable clothing design at a young age. The Joburg-based designer’s five-piece ensemble, developed through the programme, is an excellent example of  upcycling and using fabrics with minimal impact on the environment.
Since childhood Zovuyo Mputa has been fascinated by clothing — which proved to be  unshakeable when she made a couple of career pivots that took her from multimedia and computer science to fashion in her early adulthood.
Her call to work in the industry was solidified when her father gave her a sewing machine. Now enrolled at Unisa for a B Cons Sci degree in fashion small business, Zovuyo has found her home in the industry and wants to make clothing that’s as conscious as it is bold. Through the programme, Zovuyo made a powerful statement with a sleek and sustainably-made suit.
Most days, Nkosazana Hlalethwa (Zaza) is an award-winning arts and culture journalist who spends her time demystifying the often elitist and complex art world through multilingual journalism and prose. After 5pm and on weekends, however, she’s a crocheter using yarn to produce artefacts through sustainable, ethical, and kind methods. This slow and patient practice led to the set up of her brand, Kabini, a crochet clothing and accessories label.
• 5 final full looks designed.
• 1 photoshoot in Cape Town.
• 1 partnership with Casa 93, an alternative fashion school in Paris
Incorporating everything she learnt through the programme, plus her own skills and talents, Zaza brought an ultra-modern perspective to knitwear with a stylish bomber and matching dress.
Through the programme, the mentees explored the fundamental pillars of sustainable design and got the chance to put their knowledge into practice. The True Fashion: Try on Green programme showcases the wealth of knowledge and beauty that can be discovered through engaging in meaningful conversations and activities surrounding slow fashion and conscious design.
The programme proves there’s nothing to be lost and everything to gain from shifting perspectives on production and design to focus on more sustainable practices.
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