Average read time: 5 minutes.

In July this year, with great excitement, the Embassy of Italy in Pretoria, in close partnership with the internationally renowned Italian fashion school Polimoda in Florence and the National Chamber of Italian Fashion (Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana CNMI) with the direct involvement of South African Fashion Week (SAFW), the support of Italian Trade Agency (ITA), Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana and Nelson Mandela Forum Firenze, launched Fashion Bridges – I Ponti Della Moda. 

Polimoda Fashion School, situated in the beautiful Villa Favard in Florence, with the support of Camera Nazionale Della Moda Italiana, is driving a unique, innovative, and inclusive mentoring programme. Together with South African Fashion Week, it paired four couples of talented Italian and South African designers to produce joint capsule collections, officially presented recently to the public at the Fashion Hub in Milan, during Milan Fashion Week (21st to 27th September 2021) and again soon at South African Fashion Week in Johannesburg from 28th to 30th October 2021. 

The participating South African designers who recently returned from Italy are Jacques BamFikile Zamagcingo SokhuluSipho Mbuto, and Michael Peter Reid, owner of Xavier Sadan. Their Italian counterparts are Ilaria BellomoAlessia DoveroJulian Cerro and Domenico Orefice 

The four extraordinary collections comprise of:  

Syrrogism (Jacques Bam and Julian Cerro) is a conceptual collection designed as an ode to motherhood and childhood. The changing body, giving birth, cravings, toys, and deeply personal memories from both designers’ childhoods tell a deeply personal story. One of fantasy, exploration, and visual communication. Collaborating with many artisans across borders, the collection investigates the natural process of pregnancy alongside the synthetic advances we use in modern society.

Fikile Sokhulu and Ilaria Bellomo
Mutual Threads, Fikile Sokhulu and Ilaria Bellomo

Mutual Threads (Fikile Sokhulu and Ilaria Bellomo) is an exploration of different textile and yarn manipulations and the creation of timeless artisanal garments, with a strong relationship to planet Earth, through the re-use of fabric leftovers. An idea of deep connections between human beings, in an undefined time somewhere between reality and an oneiric world, characterised by an irrational and romantic feeling and a balance between a more controlled and rawer approach to the textiles.

Social Sculpture (Sipho Mbutu and Alessia Dovero) examines the feeling of memory with two different perspectives: an ancestral memory, that no word can aptly describe; and a tactical memory, the surface of things changing and shaping something new. The collection unites two different cultures, from Siphos Zulu heritage to Alessias research into shaping surfaces and volumes, exploring the strength of traditional craftmanship, artisanal creation, and sustainable way of producing clothes.

Present Human in an Absent World (Michael Peter Reid and Domenico Orefice) tackles the idea of migration, in the past and present. The collection imagines travelers wearing their culture and their home on their back as they move. Through forced migration, they are robbed of their individualism, and their absence becomes their presence. The print illustrates a traditional African motif, explored in a modern context. Loose, oversized silhouettes hint at the perfect collaboration between South Africa and Italy.

This project also aims at generating business opportunities for South African and Italian companies in the fashion industry. At the end of October, the Embassy of Italy and the Italian Trade Agency will organise a match-making event in Johannesburg, for Italian and South African producers and buyers of raw materials, fabrics, leather, and textile machinery.

The sponsors of the projects, such as Mantero, Dinamo, Cotonificio AlbiniLamintess, LineapelleFratelli Piacenza, Clerici Tessuto, Cafissi, Filpucci, and Il Borgo Cashmere, on the Italian side, and Cotton SA, Wool and Mohair SA for South Africa, will be invited to participate with many other companies to meet Italian counterparts and explore the possibility of trade and joint ventures. 

The goal is to facilitate the exchange of skills and strengthen relevant supply chains in both countries, with a focus on quality, sustainability, craftsmanship, and technology. All defining elements of Italian excellence in fashion. 

ASA asked the participating SA designers what the highlight of this experience had been. With a resounding, unanimous chorus they replied: “Finally getting the opportunity to work with our partners in person, after months of working virtually over a computer screen. It was like meeting family. Once we were together in person, we worked in such amazing synchronicity. It was truly a special project. That, and a new-found sense of self-belief and pride in our cultural identity.” And we at ASA are equally proud of you. Bravo! 

More information on the Fashion Bridges Programme can be found on SomeOtherLabel: https://www.someotherlabel.com/fashion-bridges 

Don’t miss the Fashion Bridges exhibition at SAFW Collections from 28th -30th October 2021 at the Mall of Africa.  


Writer | Neil Doveton @NeilDoveton
Editor | Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin
Images | Courtesy of Fashion Bridges