A newgen South African fashion brand you should know.

Uniform Fashionhandbook South Africa

Project 4 sprouts into form

Founder and creative director of label UNI FORM, Luke Radloff, presents an understated, utiliterian-esque offering in the form of Project 4 that’s more than meets the eye. 

Recognisable by the neutrality of colour, usage of mostly natural fibres and an ultra-contemporary aesthetic, UNI FORM is a luxury, ready to wear  garment focused brand that explores special projects and varied collaborations rooted in construction and quality. 

Radloff’s greatest motivation at the moment is to create pieces of value that will last and by doing so, contribute to a more sustainable future. In fact, his mission, as he explains “is to contribute to making Africa a hub of luxury production.” 

I want the rest of the world to know that their luxury clothing doesn’t only have to come from Italy.

How it started. 

After graduating with the accolade of best collection from design school Stadio in Johannesburg, he got his start in fashion by working in the local industry for fashion brand Blackcoffee. A short stint freelancing in costumes for film and television projects preceded his international move to London where he garnered more experience in mainly luxury retail over the next  5 years.

But his love for fashion comes from using drama and art as a way to connect with others (and himself). 

Growing up in East London, a small town in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa, Radloff says, “I was a shy, non-sporty child that didn’t easily fit in with most people around me. I was first captivated by intricate and surreal fashion illustrations I saw at art school and that led me to study fashion.”

You can see a similar pattern playing out in his creative process in the way he draws on the familiar, referencing his immediate location and environment by documenting all the inspiring things in his surrounds.

His creative vision for each offering is simply driven by  an instinctive feeling, something that he says, “feels rather primal to me and something I can’t ignore.” The brand tells a story that use’s the contemporary, combined with the familiar, to offer elevated classics that are filtered through the lens of a new South Africa. The end result is contemporary garments with luxury at their core. “I want the rest of the world to know that their luxury clothing doesn’t only have to come from Italy.”

How it’s going

 For his latest project this season he is most excited about the collaborations with Barrydale Hand weavers , a modern producer of exceptionally crafted hand woven products based in the tiny Karoo town called Barrydale and the Wren design who reimagine paper differently through sourcing, design and fair trade. 

These specific collaborative pieces are not only unique, innovative and experimental, they also ‘lean in’ to the idea of clothing that has sustainability at its core. 

For example, the hand woven dress made from Barrydale’s signature weave textile with variegated stripes woven into it . This textile is created on looms which require no electricity. The raw fibres are sourced from the continent. Design and garment production happens in a Johannesburg studio, made to order with little to no waste.  

The ‘Tinfoil’ jacket and skirt suit focuses on the experimental use of paper. Substituting textile with Wren design’s responsibly sourced and specially engineered paper, these experimental pieces become more art than product, fuelling a deeper engagement with the ideas and practises of sustainable fashion.  

The way Radloff sees it-it’s about the end goal and long term fixes. About taking small steps toward that (sustainability) goal over time, about incorporating best practices where you can, as often as you can, until you can do that 100% of the time, for 100% of the production cycle.

If indeed more purchases are to be influenced by sustainability in the years ahead, companies,  particularly bigger players, will need to move beyond performative marketing around sustainable fashion. 

“There is a huge responsibility put on smaller and emerging brands, which sometimes can barely afford to exist, to be sustainable” Radloff opined. Whereas much more needs to be done to hold bigger companies accountable in the drive to a more sustainable future.

Even so, I sense an underlying tenacity topped off with a quiet optimism from Radloff that gives him the ability to see the upside of being a smaller brand in the fashion industry operating from what he deems to be the most exciting emerging designer market in the world right now. “There has never been a more exciting time to be a part of the industry. Thanks to technology and social media your work can have a much bigger impact than it ever possibly could before.”

South Africa is the most exciting emerging designer market in the world. There is so much opportunity that you just don’t get everywhere else. I would never have been able to achieve what I have with UNI FORM in London for example.

 

Only time will tell, but Uni Form may be preparing the ground for a post-2020 movement with a new kind of sartorial code . May I suggest that you put this small independent brand on your fashion radar right now.

 

Project 4 credits:

Photographer : @uglybruv
Creative Direction : @bee_diamondhead & Luke Radloff
Assistant Creative Direction : @styledbylthiiz
Beauty : @artfortammi
Assistant Beauty : @nataliepaneng_
Hair : @missmoloto
Muse @lulamawolf & @faith__johnson

 

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