I’ve always had a complicated relationship with fashion. 

My mother was interested in fashion (before she married my dad) and she qualified as a pattern maker and dress maker.  For a long time, she sewed… a lot.  Just like her mother… just like her grandmother.  All of them were really good at creating things from rolls of fabric.

I always liked the idea of designing clothes (because drawing and ideas come so easily to me)… and many-many times – I’d sketch out designs of outfits that I’d love to see become a reality.  Thing is:  I’m simultaneously hateful of anything involving measuring, precision and patience… (and apparently – one needs all 3 – if one is to design and make clothes).

Another thing that completely screwed up my early fashion interest – was my horrible, lasting-many-decades struggle with low self-esteem.  I used to hate my body.  It’s sad to say that now (because I’ve long since made peace with my body – and have grown to love it, imperfections and all)… but when I was younger – especially in my twenties and early thirties… I hated my body.  And I was very embarrassed of the way I looked.  And because of that, I wanted to hide.

So “fashion” – or any kind of self-expression through clothes… seemed like such a pointless exercise.  My idea of ‘fashion’ was anything that could help me disappear.  Anything that could help me blend in to the background and not be noticed.

Interestingly – as much as I have run from all-things-fashion for most of my life… I somehow end up embroiled in various projects and initiatives – involving fashion.

The biggest of these was my Tapestry of Dreams project (involving local and international fashion designers and 10 Role-Models from the rural communities of Kwa Zulu Natal).  I even somehow managed to get Vivienne Westwood on board (she like the tin of goodies I sent).  She shipped us wedding dresses and all kinds of lovely goodies – and I suddenly had all manner of fashion-people pounding on my door…

A year or two after Tapestry of Dreams – I ended up doing a fashion shoot in Johannesburg for a young designer called Chumani Ulana.   I find it so ironic (and somewhat amusing)… that I end up doing stuff like this.  Firstly – because I’ve never done any kind of fashion photography in my life… and secondly – because I still have all these *issues* with fashion.

Maybe I should re-think my aversion… and start designing again…

Here’s the photos of Chumani’s collection (designed and sewed by himself).  The models are his friends.

Random Factoids...

  • This was a volunteer project.  Chumani didn’t have any money to pay me… and I agreed to traverse the streets of Joburg with his model friends – simply because I thought he was a cool guy with a gift… and I hoped – really hoped – that the photos would open some doors for him.
  • Chumani is now working for an NPO – helping kids at schools.  He hasn’t found a way to break into the fashion world (in a way that’s financially viable)… so he’s busying himself with all kinds of other things.  The last I spoke to him, he told me that fashion was still his passion.  That he wasn’t planning on giving up.
  • I’ve recently sketched out a few designs of my own.  Think I might give Chumani a call and see if he can help me bring those sketches to life…