Deon Redman and Krisjan Rousou

Tell us about what you think are the most exciting trends happening in African fashion now?

Much of the more interesting work emerging really has very little to do with trends. Designers across the continent are developing unique identities by using their own cultures and histories, modernising an interpreting. Whether that’s a jewellery designer looking at abstracting traditional craft styles and techniques to create new work, or a fashion designer drawing on their personal experiences of growing up in a township, it makes for some interesting, personal, and unique work. It’s quite a bold and certainly varied emergence. How could it not be with such rich and diverse inspirations from across the continent.

What are some of the coolest fashion happenings on the continent now?

There are several major fashion events across the continent now. From Lagos, to Senegal, Nairobi, Tanzania, Cape Town, Johannesburg, among others. Personally, I still feel that we need a consolidated event highlighting the best of the continent. A one stop event that would make it easier for both local and international media and buyers to access the best of a curated stable of quality African design. Of all the events currently happening, none achieves this properly. It seems the designer’s most driven to push their brands internationally are now more engaged in independent events, creating dynamic look books with great art and photographic collaborators and then putting that work out there. Vogue Italy for example regularly features these designer’s work in this format. It means the brand creates and owns its distinctive identity, original and engaging, without having to be burdened by the restrictions a Fashion Week platform may impose.

What have been your favourite fashion events to direct and conceptualise over the years?

There have been many…. the Elle Rising Star Design Awards was a great competition initiative where young designer’s from across South Africa were selected by a panel of fashion experts under Elle magazine South Africa, were selected to go through a process of creating a collection and evaluated at each step of the competition. Creating the event was a pleasure since I was given complete create control over how best to present the final work. A lot of my work is informed by technology and contemporary sculpture, and I feel this event was a great example of that execution.
Another that comes to mind was working with Mille Collines, a brand originally based in Rwanda, now Cape Town. When we work with Mille Collines, we are involved from the very start of the collection, so the final concept is a great synthesis of all the elements around the collection. For this season, the collection concept was ‘Curiosity’, challenging the stereotype often held of African design being little more than curious. We designed the initial Johannesburg show and show set around this idea, then directed a second event in Cape Town in a gallery space that was an exhibition of the campaign images I directed for them as well as a live performance involving a carefully cast group of models. The entire activation for that season so beautifully coherent and powerful.

Have you ever worked with themes that are driven by activism? If so what types of issues have you addressed and do you hope to address in the future?

Certainly. We have worked for the last two seasons with Fashion Revolution – and international campaign across 100 countries aimed at promoting ethical fashion, creating awareness of the environmental and ethical impact of the people who make clothes to the people who wear them, promoting creativity, fairness, and responsibility.

How are your current favourite designers to work with on shows and why?

As I’ve alluded to, I believe the best way to work with any designer is to be able to have an open, collaborative process. I am lucky to have this with most of the designers we work with on a regular basis, which makes for the best kind of work. The list is really too long to mention, but if I were to name a few:

Mille Collines (South Africa)
Maxhosa by Laduma (South Africa)
Rich Mnisi (South Africa)
Nicholas Coutts (South Africa)
Lukhanyo Mdingi (South Africa)
Adama Paris (Senegal)
Adele Dejak (Kenya)
Craig Native (South Africa)
Laurence Airline (Cote De Voir)
Terrence Bray (South Africa)
Stefania Morland (south Africa)
Kluk CGDT (South Africa)
Makhi Oh (Nigeria)

You and Kris are both Art connoisseurs, Kris is a remarkable fine art and Fashion Photographer,  what Artists are you currently following, who inspires you both?

Again, so many to mention, locally:
Pieter Hugo
Mohau Modisakeng
Nandipha Mntambo
Jody Paulsen
Kyle Morland
Ryan Hewett
Olaf Hajek
Athi-Patra Ruga
Zanele Muholi
Kendel Geers

We also have a slight obsession with the contemporary masters, architecture, and product designers. That list would take days!

What have been your favourite travel destinations for inspiration and Why?

It’s difficult to choose why one place would take precedence over another. Having travelled to over 40 cities now, I can’t compare the history and culture of Paris for example to the palpable fizzle of the energy on the streets of Lagos, to the idyllic vistas of the Mauritian beaches. It would be easier to simply say that I’ve never been to a single place that didn’t inspire me. Once you immerse yourself in any place, it reveals it’s magic.

What,  food – stores – galleries, would you recommend to visitors to Cape Town and why?

Food – We’re lucky to be spoilt for choice here. I’d say:
Test Kitchen (Woodstock) – make sure you book well I advance. The tasting menu is an indulgent experience with flavours I’ve never tasted anywhere. It’s no wonder it was number 1 in the Top 10 Restaurant listing for the last few years.
Le Petite Colomb (Franschhoek) – a perfect lunch spot with great fresh food and flavours, beautifully presented.
Skinny Legs (De Waterkant) – my favourite pop-in for tasty, organic food, perfect for a quick lunch bite.

Stores – For fashion I’d recommend:
AJKP (Kloof Street) – great collection of emerging local clothing and accessory brands
Kluk CGDT – A local favourite for the perfect party dress
Maison Mara (De Waterkant) – beautifully curated collection of international brands in a heritage house – beats the ‘luxury walk’ in the big generic malls
Now Showing (De Waterkant) – a permanent collection of some established local brands, as well as a changing upstairs area filled with pop-ups of younger, edgier brands and a huge collection of collectable curiosities. It’s my go-to for gift shopping!

For design:
Southern Guild (Silo District) – bespoke pieces from some of the country and the continent’s most noteworthy product designers and makers.
Africa Nova (De Waterkant) – A great, curated collection of local craft.
Stable (Loop Street) – an emporium of local furniture and product designers from a range of contemporary local designers.
OKHA (Gardens) – a collection of high-end luxury furniture designed and produced locally

There are so many galleries in Cape Town, it really depends where your interest lies…
Zeitz Mocca (Silo District) – I’d suggest a visit. While I find the collection a little lacking, the building is an impressive architectural achievement and it is worth exploring the multiple galleries across the 6 stories.
National Iziko Museum (Company Gardens) – sometimes overlooked, it houses the city’s vast collection of classic and contemporary work.
Salon 91 (Kloof Street), Blank (Woodstock) & Smith Studio (Shortmarket Street) – accessible, interesting work
Momo (Bo-Kaap), SMAC (Woostock), Stevenson (Woodstock) – strong collections and shows from some of the rising local stars
Everard Read & Circa (Waterfront and Franschhoek) – long established local gallery with a variety of work from established artists through to acclaimed emerging artists.

You and Kris are currently restoring a historic De Waterkant property that will later this year open its doors as a design and art gallery. Tell us a little about the buildings history, the historic area, and the concepts behind your dynamic store?

De Waterkant is a small area (6 streets) on the western edge of the city centre. It was historically where the original shoreline met the land (therefore De Waterkant translated as the water edge) and originally hosted tradesmen, stores, small guesthouses, amongst other uses. The buildings on the original street boundaries are all listed, so the area has maintained its original charm, with residents having carefully restored the buildings. Once inside though, many have been updated into luxury homes, apartments, and guesthouses. Architecturally, you’ll find Georgian, Victorian, and Dutch influenced buildings. Our own building is a rare example of Georgian architecture with Islamic decorative detailing – completed in 1901 by the then owner, Mrs Wilkson, a local general store keeper who ran her store from the building. It dates to 1866. It’s currently being renovated – a sensitive and timely process as these building was built with clay and rocks cut from the quarry across Strand Street in the Bo-Kaap. Once complete, in addition to our home and Kris’ studio, the front half of the building on Dixon Street will serve as an intimate new gallery/concept space, Deepest Darkest. It will host not only Kris’ work, but a collection of works across various disciplines by emerging local artists and a curated collection of objects, revolving every second month. We wanted to create a unique, accessible space outside of the contemporary art market sometimes obsessed with conceptual art on the imposing white walls of the traditional gallery. A place where people are welcome to discover things they can fall in love with.

Deon Redman
Deon Redman


Krisjan Rousou


Krisjan Rousou

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Interview Writen by Tamlyn Martin.

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