MFA exhibit showcases South African fashion


Jeremy Suh

The South African Fashion exhibit utilizes clothing and unique materials to represent the cultural identities of the artists.

Jeremy Suh, Staff Writer

Balancing fashion and comfort has always been a challenge, but rising South African designers have found the way.

South African fashion booms with unique designs. Their patterns and color schemes are unmatched, all the while making them cool to wear under the hot climate. Furthermore, the clothing roars with layers of culture, pride and history. These aspects were on full display in the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), in their exhibition titled “South African Art, Fashion, and Identity.”

South African clothing shows a completely new way to look at fashion. Cheap or expensive, intricate or simple, funky or chic, the designers have found ingenious ways that may pave the road for future trends. By combining traditional and modern styles, they have created something completely new. Their clothing seems to alter the definition of beauty and break traditional values. The words at the front of the exhibit describe the designers’ perspective perfectly: “I will carry our heritage in the future. And these robes celebrate who I am.”

The piece “Duality” by Nandipha Mntambo uniquely incorporates cowhide. Spread apart, it looks like angel wings. The velvet texture is impressive as well. Cow hooves are set like seashells to give the attire another dimension. The cowhide seems to be a versatile piece of clothing: one that can be draped around royalty or wrapped comfortably around a laborer. This visionary piece of clothing speaks to the importance of animals.

Another captivating exhibit was Sophie Mahlangu’s white cape. This masterpiece exhibits the weaver’s skill through a blossom of various colors. Various patterns lined on top of the white fabric. The shapes looked as though they had come from mythology. Snake-like patterns. A barrage of stripes. Boxes overlaid with a maroon gradient. To accompany this design the mannequin wore accessories that fit the cape. Multiple gold rings wrapped around the calf and neck like a shiny spring. This design spoke to pride in the African culture.

One of the most interesting aspects is the accessories. The exhibit shows how unique materials could be used in different ways. Small beads, rings, earplugs and ribbons were also common for their streetwear. Other artistic choices include feathers in the hair, leather coils and zip ties draped around the neck. This gave an exotic look and screamed boldness. It truly was a perfect example of using what they had.

Overall, the South African fashion exhibit explains how art tells a story. Clothing is an example of freedom and opposition against social boundaries. The designers seemed to communicate their own personal messages through their clothing. Some shouted for recognition, while others criticized the boxes of casual versus fancy clothing. Through their flashy attire and intelligent use of various materials, South Africans have turned clothing into memorable art.