Cape Wools SA, in partnership with SA Fashion Week, has launched the first ever wool competition for top South African designers.
Two designers, one ladieswear and one menswear, was selected by a panel of industry-leading judges to showcase their collections for two seasons at SA Fashion Week – presenting a Winter and Summer collection respectively.
The winners of the first Cape Wools SA prize are Jacques van der Watt of Black Coffee for ladies wear and Ephraim Malingoana of Ephymol for menswear – prominent influencers in the South African fashion industry. Louis de Beer, CEO of Cape Wools SA said, “The wool industry is extremely excited about working closely with SA Fashion Week to show the superb qualities of South African Merino Wool.”
Part of the prize is a sponsored opportunity for both winners to show their AW18 collections in October and their SS18 collections next year. In addition, they will travel to the “Making it in Textiles” Conference in Bradford, UK before the SA Fashion Week event in October next year .
“Industry collaborations of this nature are important in developing a vibrant creative fashion design industry in any country,” says Lucilla Booyzen, founder of SA Fashion Week.
“We look forward to the next three years, where each year will see different designers given an opportunity to work with Cape Wools SA in creating their collections. This will boost the winning designers and create a ripple effect that influences the whole value chain,” explains Booyzen.
Jacques van der Watt of Black Coffee showed his first collection at SAFW in 1999. Known for his architectural flair, he has carved his own path on the runway since launching in 1998. With each collection there is a great sense of loyalty to local tradition, but with the addition of modernist fundamentalism – a place where construction is king and attention to detail subtly blends into beauty and innovation. Jacques was one of the first finalists in the 1998 SAFW New Talent Search.
Ephraim Molingoane of Ephymol started a career in modelling, before re-routing into fashion design. He worked abroad extensively before returning to Johannesburg and opening the Ephymol studio. His diverse travel experience played an important role in influencing his bold and individualistic design philosophy. Ephraim has earned numerous “Best Dressed” awards, that have increased his clientele and exposure. He works with sports personalities, musicians, actors and many fashion industry leaders. Today, he is one of South Africa’s best known and respected designers. He showed his first collection at SAFW in 2003.
There will always be a demand for the bulk export of our raw wool, but we need to explore the possibility of mixing new and exciting elements into wool to create something new.
South Africa is a vast and beautiful country with a rich history of sheep and wool farming going back 220 years. This legacy has created woolgrowers with a keen appreciation of animal and environmental care. The result is an industry that has consistently generated a high quality, environmentally sound product for international markets. More than 90% of the wool is exported.
“While advances in science have seen an explosion of synthetically produced fibres, we are yet to see a fibre that can replicate the natural properties of wool,” says Louis de Beer, CEO of Cape Wools SA. “It seems as if nature does know best after all. Wool protects against sudden changes in outside temperature, resulting in a regulated body temperature and can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in moisture before feeling damp,” he explains.
The microscopic scales on wool fibres cause water to roll off, making it an effective water-repellent material. Another well-known fact is that wool doesn’t burn, and while not completely fire-proof, it will not sustain a flame or flare up when exposed to fire. As it doesn’t melt, there’s no risk of fabric sticking to skin either.
“You can’t find a greener material than wool,” says De Beer. “It’s naturally grown with minimal use of pesticides and doesn’t require chemical processes to manufacture. The main destinations for South African wool are China, Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic and India. While this is obviously great for our economy, we’d like to strike up a conversation with local end-users – the South African designer,” says De Beer.
The first Merino sheep arrived at the Cape in 1789, and the sheep and the commercial wool industry was soon established. The Cape Province remained the most important wool producing area in Southern Africa, although the sheep industry subsequently spread rapidly throughout the rest of the country. The words ‘Cape Wool’ have now become an international generic trade term for all wool produced on the sub-continent.
“The Wool Industry is presently poised for growth as consumer interest in Merino Wool continues to rise,” says De Beer.