"GENERATION AFRICA" was one of the most interesting moments of the last edition of Pitti. Pitti Discovery Foundation, in collaboration with ITC ETHICAL FASHION INITIATIVE, has returned to put the spotlight on Africa with this project dedicated to promoting young and talented designers from the African continent, and the creative energy that comes from one of the most interesting and innovative scenarios in fashion today. Four different moments on the catwalk, which we begin to rediscover and tell you about in greater detail. We start with Lukhanyo Mdingi x Nicholas Coutts, a special duo, two creative people who have joined their forces especially for this presence in Italy. We interviewed them and here’s what they told us. What transpires is the story of a world we don’t know so well, but that we should learn more about, full of creative energies, inspirations and culture.
Lukhanyo Mdingi: It feels as though I've always been working in fashion in one way or the other, as a child, fashion had always been the ultimate goal, so through the years I see that I've always paved a path for me to work towards it.
It was only in 2015 when I can say that I made a concrete career move towards fashion. Things are pretty much set into stone and I cannot wait to continue with this remarkable journey.
Lukhanyo Mdingi: I see all moments as important, from the successes to the failures. These have been the times that were necessary for me to become resilient and adaptable; traits that are vital to have.
L.M.: I see it as a wonderful story which two emerging South African artists embarked on together. The collection was inspired by reality and the senses. It was important for Nicholas and I to use this source as a means to explore textiles and craft techniques in creating a collection that embodied these qualities. Looking at our natural African landscape as a visual reference made it a natural process organic for us to filter those elements into wearable garments.
L.M.: I see my design style as a traditionalist, I look at different cultures and elements that I am immediately attracted to and I aim to make a cross-cultural influence to it by adding the flair of an African aesthetic.
The aim has been and will always be to use Fashion as a means to empower my country’s creative landscape. I believe that it can be seen as a spring board that will inspire others to preserve and create their own stories.
My icons are the artists of today; my fellow artistic African peers. The ones that are bringing authenticity of Arts and Culture to our continents .
I believe that we must use our talents as a way to make our country what we envision it to be; for me that is a place where the Arts and Culture are highly celebrated and are highly supported.
I am inspired to create by the environment around me. My icon is William Morris and the Arts & Crafts movement of the late 19th century. Morris derived his inspiration from the flora and fauna around him using well-proportioned simple forms and strong colours. He was particularly interested in medieval designs, as he said ‘the craftsmen of those times took pleasure in their work’. When I am designing, I hope to create a balance between technically well-constructed garments combined with beautifully handcrafted detail.
L.M.: When I think of the 'Lukhanyo Mdingi' label, I think of a communal home that has had the privilege of hosting many.
Having a collective of creative geniuses that believe in my beliefs has allowed us to create evocative collaborative stories that have a contemporary narrative of deeply rooted African heritage.
The colours we used in our ‘tactile collection’ represented Africa’s new life and growth in the base colour of various shades of green with highlights of burnt orange symbolising courage, energy and heat.
L.M.: It's all about using these platforms as a means to engage, interact and share your story. I believe that allowing the world to see your creative journey is vital for awareness. I also believe that these opportunities should lead to adding value to their countries’ economy - What I mean by this is creating employment and generating work to empower one's people.
L.M.: Action! Africa has always been a place where action and productivity have always existed. I feel that it’s only now that a scope is focused on our heritage and movement of it. The creativity has always been there, it’s only now that the international world is focusing on it.
L.M.: Oh wow! To be honest, it was a simple, quiet moment of pride that I had to myself, proud of my fellow peers, proud of myself and proud of Africa. We are continuing to pave a way like so many others had done before us, paving the path of enriching your country.
L.M.: To remain consistent and to continue to persevere. Love, Passion and Faith. A.T.I.F.Y, Africa This Is For You.
N.C.: To develop my brand, travel the world, meet with craftsmen, work at creating jobs and taking my brand to an international level.