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IFA LETHU FASHION (article first published : 2007-06-27)

The Ifa Lethu Foundation, established in 2005 by the South African Minister of Arts and Culture Dr Z. Pallo Jordan to repatriate South Africa’s ‘struggle era’ heritage such as art, art objects, film, music, and archival documents, will launch a fashion line for the 16–24 age group within the next 12 months.

Local designers were invited to submit their designs for the range and a total of four lines were chosen by a panel of fashion experts consisting of Vibeka Meehan, Vanashree Singh, and Greg Wallis. Designers who chose to submit storyboards of their designs are: Black Pepper, Karen Monk Klijnstra/Steve Mandy, Bonga Bhengu, Gugu Msimang, Zion, Vino, Nguni Shades, Kathrin Kidger, Life By Andre Martin.

Ifa Lethu CEO Narissa Ramdhani said; “The main focus of this venture between Ifa Lethu and MTN Durban Fashion week is to attract the youth of country through fashion to create a sense of pride in both their heritage and South African products. Young people relate very well to fashion and trends and thus create awareness in our work and our heritage as a whole. In other countries, especially the USA and in Europe, there are strong links between fashion, heritage and art - something we are trying to apply in South Africa.”

Greg Wallis, the appointed fashion consultant for the project, says Ifa Lethu is looking for designers that will create a range to be showcased at Fashion Week. “We have looked for designs that focus on attracting youth, mostly between 16 and 24, and have a hint of ethnicity while being street smart. We are expecting a sports range representing South Africa, its heritage and including a “Hip Hop” feel. We have allowed the designers quite a wide creative space within the brief.”

Wallis went on to say that the continuity of this range will depend on quality as well as design, guaranteed production, price and availability. There is every reason to expect exports to Africa in the future. Ifa Lethu is already well known in the USA, UK, Germany, Holland, Australia, India, Spain and Canada and the final range may well go abroad, but will in all likelihood be well received on the rest of the African continent.

The successful designers are Karen Monk Klijnstra/Steve Mandy, Bonga Bhengu, Vino Moodley and Gugu Msimang.

Ms Ramdhani said; “This is the next phase of our work. We have repatriated over 200 heritage works so far – from paintings to sculptures, to documents. This year we will take the works to schools across the country in the Goodyear Ifa Lethu Mobile Gallery and we are launching a children’s book – Walking Tall, Without Fear. The goal of the Foundation is to define the universe of South African heritage falling within its scope, identify their locations and repatriate representative collections from across the globe and house them in suitable repositories and institutions. The heritage work of the Foundation comprises one element of the larger continental process of African restoration.”

“We are making excellent progress with this, but educating the youth is a primary focus for 2007. A fashion line will elevate awareness that the recovered artworks are the country’s rare, tangible heritage which reflects the socio-political situation of South Africa during apartheid,” said Ramdhani. “They are our link to the past - a link that allows us to develop pride in young South Africans in what belongs to them. After all youth will be the stewards of such heritage as they are the future of South Africa.”

Visit www.ifalethu.org.za for more information




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