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The sophomore edition of the annual South African event takes on the industry’s most pressing issue and celebrates those making an impact.


By Lindsay Samson

Nov 30, 2020

By now, many of us understand, 92 million tons of waste is generated by the fashion industry each year), makes up about 10% of humanity's carbon emissions, and is often responsible for the systemic marginalisation of workers. But over the past few years, the term ‘sustainability’ has gone from being something of a niche idea, to a mainstream one—and not just in the fashion industry. Vegan options that take into account the effect of the meat industry's practices on the environment are now the norm in supermarkets and restaurants; solar power and other clean energy methods are becoming increasingly popular; and within the fashion world, more and more designers, brands, and consumers are recognising the environmental and long-term economic effects of turning toward more environmentally and socially conscious methods of production and materials.

But there’s more than these virtuous concerns at play; ‘sustainability’ has also become something of a marketing tactic, the term “greenwashing” being used to describe the actions of brands whose concern for the environment is largely PR driven. Many consumers do little investigating into their purchases beyond a probe for the word itself, nor do all brands provide sufficient transparency into their production practices, often embracing the idea as part of their narratives in superficial ways.

The recent Future of Fashion conference held by Rewoven (a South African company, founded by 3 young entrepreneurs named Esethu Cenga, Tshepo Bhengu, and Lonwabo Mgoduso, that diverts textile offcuts into quality fabrics) aims to mitigate the lingering apathy toward the subject and prove the true value of the idea of sustainability. Hosted in partnership with the Swedish Institute, Embassy of Sweden, Twyg, and African Fashion Research Institute, it was established in 2019 as a means to spark conversation around conscious creation within the South African designer and fashion community, and provide a space for design talent and brand owners to give voice to issues of sustainability. At last year’s event, South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi spoke of the aforementioned “greenwashing” trap that many designers today can find themselves in, saying, “It's easy to fall into this movement… and use it as a trend as opposed to something which is real, so remaining consistent with what you are being sustainable with is vital.”

For their 2020 edition of Future of Fashion, they put together a series of master classes, and a designer exhibition in the form of a short fashion film, as well as playing host to the annual Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards—a ceremony that honors designers and creatives who, through their work, express a focus on ethical methods and material choices, and fair labor practices. This year’s event theme was 'African Sustainability – Our Way of Being', a subject that encouraged attendees to take lessons from the indigenous groups of the continent who have been living in harmony with the environment for centuries, providing designers with a model for learning about time honored sustainability and circularity practices. Read on for our breakdown of some of this year’s highlights, and shop our sustainability collection here.

DESIGNER EXHIBITION

An artistic showcase of some of the South African designers choosing to integrate sustainable and ethically-minded production methods into their brands, this year’s designer exhibition came in the form of an expertly shot short film. Produced in the South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape, Kinshasa, and Jokkmokk, and featuring local brands and designers like Asha: Eleven, Crystal Birch, FIELDS, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Lusee, nuun, Omvli, and Pichulik, the four and a half minute video directed by Simbi Seam Nkula places each of these designers’ creations against the vivid natural beauty of the country. A troupe of models deftly embody the designer’s garments—which include sharply tailored blazers, sculptural hats, and oversized matching sets—with bold presence and poise. With nondescript, but visibly African-inspired patterns painted on their faces, they presented each designer's sustainable and ethically-minded pieces with a solemnity that speaks to the gravitas that is the subject of wastefulness and sustainability, delivering a visual narrative that celebrates South Africa’s local and conscious talent.

Twyg Sustainable Fashion Award Winners


Lara Klawikowski

Without a doubt the occasion’s biggest winner and a standout example of a brand strongly led by principles of sustainability and ethics, South African designer Lara Klawikowski walked away with both Twyg’s Innovative Design and Materials Award, and the Changemaker Award. It’s a deserved honor for a designer who has admirably committed to using sustainable and recycled fabrics, and who, since debuting her eponymous brand in 2010, has consistently taken the avant-garde, and made it accessible. And for Klawikowski, it all begins with the material. She’s a obvious lover of delicate cloth, and soft textures, something evident in the bridal collection (called “Strange Flowers”) for which she was honored. A collection of bespoke designs that embraces up-cycled and biodegradable materials, the range is a fine example of graceful restraint. Boasting a floral aesthetic that’s inspired by unusual, organic textures and shapes found in nature, each of her garments were precisely constructed inside her Cape Town studio, where she actively accepted (and downright conquered) the challenge of prioritising environmentally-minded practices through her use of plastic refuse bags—both pre or post-consumer—never once allowing the material to dull the garment’s elegance. Klawikowski also sought to minimise textile waste through innovative pattern cutting practices and utilising cut-offs wherever possible, her application of unusual draping and exceptional tailoring lending the material an unmistakable element of polish.

Photo: Lara Klawikowski at FFC. Courtesy of Lara Klawikowski

Photo: Lara Klawikowski at FFC. Courtesy of Lara Klawikowski

Photo: Lara Klawikowski at FFC. Courtesy of Lara Klawikowski

Matsidiso

The recipient of this year’s Accessory Award—which honors brands that embrace ethical labour practices, and sustainable materials—footwear and accessory brand Matsidiso has become something of a fixture on the feet of many a local since it was founded by the American Jinae Heyns and her husband Christian. From brogues and mules, to slides and block heels, their range puts bright, jovial colors in the spotlight, employing leathers that are either a bi-product of the meat industry, or come from local farms that operate within restrictions and utilise best practice regulations. Comfort is also key for the Heyns’, and though each shoe they produce is easy-going enough to don for a casual daytime engagement, there’s an irrefutable quality of refinement to many of them that shines just as bright after hours. Deriving the brand’s name Matsidiso from the Sotho—one of South Africa’s eleven official languages—word which refers to the peace that comes after difficulty, they’re on a mission not just to create beautiful, thoroughly-wearable shoes (since the brand’s inception, they’ve also begun producing bags and earrings) but to confront the destructive mass production cycle through the creation of a label that pushes the message of sustainability as far as possible. Termed by their creators as ‘Shoes For The Liberated’, the phrase is reflective of the kind of liberation they seek to impart to the trust of women in Cape Town who construct their shoes. Empowering their team with the tools they need to gain their own financial freedom and grow into greater roles is of vital importance to the Heyns’, as is evident in their continuous offering of up-skilling opportunities to team members, as well as the provision of pension plans, and educational funds for their family members.

Photo: Matsidiso at FFC. Courtesy of Matsidiso

Photo: Matsidiso at FFC. Courtesy of Matsidiso

Photo: Matsidiso at FFC. Courtesy of Matsidiso

The Seen Collective

The Seen Collective is a knitted jumper brand founded when London-to-South Africa transplant Steph Mundy was stumped by a fruitless search for the perfect jumper. She ultimately decided to have one made based on her own design, a decision that spurred the establishment of The Seen Collective. Taking home Twyg’s Nicholas Coutts Award (named for the late South African designer and awarded to someone whose work is led by weaving, embroidering or botanical dyeing), she’s aided by the talents of a group of women living at the Gerard Fitzpatrick House and Nursing Home in Johannesburg, who collaborate with her on the designs, and hand-knit each of the made-to-order pieces. She and her team use only South African fibres that are sourced from cruelty free producers, as well as locally sourced kid mohair and merino wool blends. Much of their yarn comes from the dusty Karoo area of the Western Cape, which is then hand-spun and hand-dyed by an all-women rural-based business in the Eastern Cape. The Seen Collective’s offerings overflow with effortless, versatile basics, their colors reflective of the bountiful and diverse shades of South Africa’s landscape, sunsets, and sunrises. Rendered in oversized shapes, they’re a luxe wardrobe staple that’ll go with everything, but looks particularly tasteful when paired with items that are slightly more fitted, the juxtaposition of forms delivering a smart and contemporary aesthetic. Through their work, each member of The Seen Collective has rediscovered a sense of purpose according to Mundy, solidifying the designer’s belief that purchasing one of The Seen Collective’s jumpers is an investment in something greater than simply another item of clothing; it’s an investment in the empowerment of women and community, and an active choice to make the world a better place.

Photo: The Seen Collective at FFC. Courtesy of The Seen Collective

Photo: The Seen Collective at FFC. Courtesy of The Seen Collective

Photo: The Seen Collective at FFC. Courtesy of The Seen Collective

Shop the sustainability edit

Asali Dress
Asali Dress
Asali Dress
Asali Dress
Asali Dress

Doreen Mashika

Asali Dress

$200
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress
Knot-a-lot Dress

NKWO

Knot-a-lot Dress

$348
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt
Ifunanya Draped White Shirt

Orange Culture

Ifunanya Draped White Shirt

$200
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress
Pleated Coat Dress

Lisa Folawiyo

Pleated Coat Dress

$1,080
Sindi Circle Bag in Sandstone
Sindi Circle Bag in Sandstone
Sindi Circle Bag in Sandstone

Khokho Collection

Sindi Circle Bag in Sandstone

$385
Nikki Messenger Bag
Nikki Messenger Bag
Nikki Messenger Bag
Nikki Messenger Bag
Nikki Messenger Bag

Thalia Strates

Nikki Messenger Bag

$400
Hawa Rainbow Bag
Hawa Rainbow Bag
Hawa Rainbow Bag
Hawa Rainbow Bag
Hawa Rainbow Bag

AAKS

Hawa Rainbow Bag

$235
Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange
Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange
Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange
Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange
Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange

Reform Studio

Rebel Tote Bag in Pink and Orange

$170
Sea Urchin Wire Cuff with Blue Topaz
Sea Urchin Wire Cuff with Blue Topaz
Sea Urchin Wire Cuff with Blue Topaz

Patrick Mavros

Sea Urchin Wire Cuff with Blue Topaz

$290
Margaret Bangle
Margaret Bangle
Margaret Bangle
Margaret Bangle

Adele Dejak

Margaret Bangle

$160
Form Earrings
Form Earrings
Form Earrings
Form Earrings
Form Earrings

Ami Doshi Shah

Form Earrings

$285
Egun Moss Necklace
Egun Moss Necklace
Egun Moss Necklace

Pichulik

Egun Moss Necklace

$160
Clear Fah Regal Sandals
Clear Fah Regal Sandals
Clear Fah Regal Sandals

Loza Maleombho

Clear Fah Regal Sandals

$110
Koh Sandals
Koh Sandals
Koh Sandals

Loza Maleombho

Koh Sandals

$135
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule
Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule

Shekudo

Green Stripe Kakawa Toe Mule

$210
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule
Agbo Mule

Shekudo

Agbo Mule

$210