The South African fashion industry is taking steps towards unity through multiple collaborations.  Due to the fact that we are known for UBUNTU; more brands and designers should collaborate since there is more power and influence when we work together. 

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An individual’s personal style defines their personality and makes them more original and deserving of being dubbed fashion icons. Designers like Thebe Magugu and Neo Serati, and model influencers Yannick Konan and Pivot Aurel are just a few of our local icons that stayed consistent during the pandemic. They truly kept pushing to contribute, inspire, influence, reimagine, and incorporate their individual creative concepts into fashion, film and media! Moreover, THEBE MAGUGU’s innovative collections and designs combine African Spirituality with modern day fashion and abstract art ideas.

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The designer, creative director, and stylist NEO SERATI is best known for designing gender and body inclusive clothing with his personal and local storytelling as inspiration. Neo describes how their personal life influenced their entire brand as NAO SERATI in the interview below. 

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       Getting to know Neo Serati:

 Your inclusivity as a designer is not only directed towards the gender fluid community but also to the traditional community. What message are you sending?

“I think that a fashion person is a fashion person.  Gender doesn’t exist when you are talking about fashion because it’s not just clothing but also an attitude and a vibe and an art anyone should be wearing it limitlessly.” 

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What do you know and apply now that you have found your calling and have found a path or way to turn that into your reality? 

“Lol fashion calling. I think the most important thing is just to actually do whatever it takes. If you have an idea, you have to make it happen as a designer. You have to design your reality however fantastical that reality is.”

 

Having graduated from the Stadio Fashion School formerly known as LISOF, how did your social and family life contribute to your career choice?

“I have a loving family that supported me even if they didn’t understand what I was doing, which allowed me to open many doors and try many things. With that exploration I found fashion and styling and I’m really excited to find other things and continue exploring other ways I can use as expression.”

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A lot of your designs carry out the South African interpretation and narrative of gender fluidity, art and sexual identity in society. Does that stem from your personal story or outside influences? 

“One of the reasons I chose to keep Naoserati a Namesake brand is so that it could grow and develop with me as a person and as a designer, so I find myself confident in communicating what I’m finding and thinking about in my own life through my brand. My current collection was designed while thinking about the weight of forgiving someone for being melancholic dark and eventually ending that, as well as how tough but freeing it is to go through that and still find a joy for life. I’m grateful for growth and want that to be reflected in Naoserati.”

 

Throughout your career, you have styled a wide range of commercials and films. How does the styling experience influence you as a designer?

“The great thing about styling is that I get to play and experience a lot of clothes and play with a lot of designs.  I use that to educate my own brand as well as bringing more knowledge to our collective of young designers called church where we open up to new ideas and try to solve some of the problems we have.”

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Your new collection is the first collection you’ve dropped in a while. Should we be prepared to be seeing more collections from Nao Serati?

“Yes, you can definitely expect more collections. I previously used to drop a look here and there as well as focusing on custom garments, but there is something so important about finishing an idea and wrapping that idea up as a collection… I’ll find new ways to do it, but I will definitely release more collections.”

 

What Inspires you as a designer and how do you deal with what artists describe as that “creative block”, if that’s something that influences you as a creative person?

“All the icons don’t believe in a block.  Yes, maybe you don’t want to work sometimes, but honestly as a creative professional, you must work through a creative block, even if you just release white T-shirts for a spell. You must continue to work.”

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      Getting to know Yannick Konan :

Where are you from and how did your background mould you into the person that you are today? 

“I am from Ivory Coast and have been fortunate to grow up in a big family surrounded by love. Which truly gave me confidence to do what I do today, and express myself through my craft.”

How would you describe Yannick behind the scenes on your off day?

I simply enjoy some quality time with the people I love.

What can we expect from the one and only Yannick venturing into new avenues of your self-expression and creativity?

There are quite exciting projects I am currently working, in modelling, acting and designing.  I wish I could I tell you more, but I can’t wait to share them with you soon.

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  Getting to know Pivot Aurel:

An international career consisting of more than 5 agencies and numerous international campaigns is an amazing achievement for any young person. What is the best moment you still relive in your mind when you think back at your journey from the moment you decided to give modelling a shot?

“That’s a great question! I remember one of my best moments was, when I got to London so vividly, it was snowing and it was a dream come true, as I’ve always wanted to go to there growing up.  I’ve always had pictures of London in my room, so when I got there, it was truly amazing.”

What are your top 3 favorite gigs and how was that experience?

“It’s hard to choose because all the jobs come with different experiences, but definitely all of my Calvin Klein campaigns. I have always thought the brand was sic and it was defenatly always been a favorite of mine.  I also got to be a part of the Dolce & Gabbana spring 2023 fashion show, and that was a crazy experience.  Lastly is a shoot I did in Milan.  I remember flying and staying in Milan for a few days and what a beautiful city.

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How do you manage being a full-time model and having time for your social life? Especially since this season is definitely going to be one of the busiest seasons. What coping advice do you recommend for new faces that are about to have their first busiest season?

That’s a great question. To new faces I’ll say, don’t compare yourself to others, because the people you look up to, also started from somewhere. The journey is easier when you know where you are going, and if you don’t know where that is, and you are just doing it for fun, that’s also cool, but stay focused. Most of my friends are also models, and so most of the jobs I get booked for, I get to work with them. Being able to work with friends become fun, but we still have to put in the work on set. It’s easier if it’s the right team. It feels like home. 

Where did you grow up and how did your upbringing contribute to you choosing this creative industry? 

I grew up in Burundi East Africa. I know most people don’t know the country, but it’s a beautiful country.  a Very small one too. Growing up I actually just wanted to be a soccer or basketball player. There was no exposure to modelling in Burundi.  So I didn’t know about it until I lived to Cape Town. It’s amazing that I found something that truly makes me happy.

A lot of local aspiring models have the same question,  if they should relocate to Europe, or other big fashion capitals, to get signed and work internationally.  What advice would you give to people to get inspired by your journey, especially those who are looking to be  signed internationally, since most people don’t understand that agencies cannot just place you into a model house, and pay for your expenses?

We all learn at some point. I didn’t understand a lot about the industry myself, and it’s okay to not understand. Your relationship with your agency is important, if they believe in you that’s even better. They are supposed to be your family, and it shouldn’t just be about business. Do they check up on you?  yes, because there’ll be times when you don’t get booked for jobs.  If the relationship is not good, then it gets weird. So, focus on your relationship with your agency. If they believe in you and support you, they will help where they can in times of need. Being able to work overseas is a great experience, but know what you want out of it, and you’ll find a way.”

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PHOTOGRAPHER :  KITSO KGORI   @HERO
ASSISTANT & RETOUCHER : JAY RYCO 
FASHION DIRECTOR  & ART DIRECTION :  CHRISNA DE BRUYN
INTERVIEW BY LESEDI SELEKE
COPY EDITING :  CHRISTINE BARNARD
FASHION BY THEBE MAGUGU @MERCHANTSONLONG & NEO SERATI
HAT BY SIMON & MARY 
JEWELERY BY JOYFUL JEWELS
MODELS :  YANNICK KONAN  @BOYSOFBOSS 
PIVOT AUREL @TWENTY