Fashion and textile designer Nicholas Coutts creates unique highly textured, handwoven pieces, blending traditional craft with a fresh contemporary aesthetic.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

Why do you think ‘Africa is Now’?

Creatives in Africa are breaking the mould and the talent is enormous. The dynamic style and vibrancy of Africa rings through all fields of the creative arts, reshaping traditional heritage. It’s driven by young designers who take risks to create a diverse and dynamic aesthetic.

What inspired your men’s collection?

My Cape Flora Kingdom collection was inspired by the natural vegetation that occurs in South Africa, particularly the protea and the disa. Florals and bright colours exude a fresh and optimistic outlook when combined with fabrics and textures that are modern yet used in a traditional way through the use of knits and weaves.

How many skilled staff do you employ and how do you promote growth in your company?

All my work is outsourced. I employ a skilled weaver on an ad hoc basis. I taught her to weave and have always had a vision of employing and teaching more people and forming a cottage industry. I have a pattern maker and a seamstress who have given me amazing support. Hopefully in the future I will become a full-time employer.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine
Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

Who has been integral to your fabrications and business?

My mother! She taught me to weave in my graduate year at fashion design school and has been there ever since to offer advice and support. She is creative and has good business sense.

What advice was pivotal to your personal or business growth?

Keep going! It’s hard out there, but if you stick to your design philosophy and stay focused, the rewards are there.

What skill set do you require for your business and what advice would you give those seeking to work with you? Do you prefer that they have a singular skill or are a budding young local talent?

Must be able to multi task! There are so many different facets to running a business. I find that I am pulled in all directions some days. Budding local talent is great but one needs more than talent to run a business.

How do you support the local industry?

I try wherever possible to use materials, whether they be yarns for weaving and knitting or fabrics that are locally made, but the variety is limited.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

We love the metallic lurex thread in your knits and weaves, your print-on-print and colour palette too. Tell us more about your creative process.

My handwoven and knitted pieces form the basis of my collections so my creative process usually begins with selecting the yarns, colours and textures. I try to tell a story and each garment has its own character. They speak for themselves.

‘Being able to create new fabrics as one weaves is a truly beautiful thing.’

What, for you, is the beauty of weaving?

In the beginning, I did all the weaving myself and it was very time consuming, but the solitude during the weaving process gave me time to think and plan the rest of my collection. Being able to create new fabrics as one weaves is a truly beautiful thing.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

What’s the difference between weaving and knitting?

For knitting one uses knitting needles or a knitting machine. A weaving loom is very different. One has to warp up a loom, the warp is the string-like yarn that forms the basis of the weave and then the weft is pulled through the warp which is lifted up and down by the heddle. This in a nutshell is how one weaves.

We love how you have taken the industry of weaving from granny-style arts and crafts to a fresh design-oriented approach. Do you utilise local artisans from the home industry?

Yes, definitely. I discovered the Cape Town Society for the Blind in Salt River some time ago and have an ongoing relationship with some of the weavers there. I also send tapestry weaving to Philani in Khayelitsha and I have several knitters who work from home. They all work from my specifications and patterns, and I supply the yarns and check on developments on a daily basis.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

Is the yarn from local farming? Have you ventured to those farms and inspected the living conditions of the farm stock/sheep supplying you with the wool?

I haven’t been to many wool-producing farms as mostly the wool is sent to a co-operative where its sorted and sold in bulk. I have visited an alpaca farm which was an incredible experience as we arrived just as a cria (a newborn alpaca) made its way into this life.

Who are your favourite local designers?

Rich Mnisi and Lukhanyo Mdingi.

What is your pet hate in local fashion design?

Lack of retail support. There are so few places in South Africa that stock luxury goods.

Who do you love to see wearing your clothes?

The sophisticated man who loves texture and wants to stand out. He is adventurous with fashion and has a mature confidence in what he wears.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine

Where do you sell your luxury brand?

I sell it online at The Folklore and directly from my studio as well.

What is the price range from scarves to coats?

Prices range from R500 to upwards of R10 000.

Where would you like to see yourself in the future?

As an international fashion and textile designer.

Nicholas Coutts - Africa Is Now Magazine