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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

INSPIRATIONS (article first published : 2002-10-7)

“We are all a composite of different memories and experiences, a collage of the millions of images, feelings, scents and sounds that we have been exposed to in our lifetimes.” So says designer Amanda Laird-Cherry of her latest range which she describes as “a collection of these influences that I have distilled and interpreted to represent my own vision.”

“My initial inspiration was iShwe Shwe fabrics. These fabrics were brought to South Africa by missionaries in the 19th century. Just as we see the Scottish using different tartans to identify clans, certain tribes around the country took on different iShwe Shwe patterns as their own. Women over the years have adapted interesting layered dresses with frills and pintucks. They developed quirky methods of reflecting their unique lifestyle; for example the number of tucks on the hemline of their dresses represents the number of children they have.

“One of the most interesting things about these fabrics is the branding which is printed on the wrong side of the cloth. This creates an added dimension of soul to the inside of your garment. There are different sets of prints that are given names like 3 Cats and 3 Leopards. In places I have used the inside as the right side of the garments, showing the circular icons of labelling.

“The style of these dresses fuses romanticism and local elements along with other adornments, to reflect my view of South African culture. The 'wraps' around the waist/hip area are a reminder of the short skirts that the Zulu maidens wear.

“The other long term interest I have had and researched is the patched mblaselo pants that were popularised by the migrant workers. I have included mblaselo in the range tying into the colour spectrum; showing the fringing they did on the original traditional garments.

“I find the adornments of our country very inspirational. A collaboration with jewellery designer, Nicky Savage, incorporating pieces from Chris De Beer, has resulted in an eclectic range of accessories. The body belts are made from rubber, pewter, bottletops, aids badges, beaded Zulu love letters, reflectors and the tyre strips similar to those of the traditional mbatatha sandals.

“The bracelets are made from a mix of materials including tyre strips and number plates.

“Marlene Laird, Colleen Price, Trilby Virtue and Tanya Van Heerden embroidered the inspiring illustrations of our natural flora, Proteas and Aloes, by Claire Clark, into the garments. Bits of suede represent the skins that are worn in traditional dancing.

“The concept of wrapping the garments emulates the Lesotho mountain peoples' use of blankets. The range is in essence, a potpourri of dreams and ideas born out of a deep love for the culture and colour of my homeland. “

This month’s D’ARTS magazine features one of these latest designs on the front cover. Contact csmart@iafrica.com




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