How did you become involved in fashion?
I come from a creative family who influenced my interest in art and fashion from an early age. I was lucky to attend Frank Joubert Art Centre during my high school years where passionate lecturers help to feed my creativity. I studied fashion design at the Design Academy of Fashion in Woodstock, and in my graduate year I entered the Elle rising star designer competition which I  won and this catapulted me into the fashion and design world.

Who has been your inspiration and in what way?
My greatest inspiration and continual thread through my collections of garments, accessories and fabrics has always been the arts & crafts movement. The philosophy of combining handcrafted detail with simple, bold silhouettes is always a part of my work. My mother taught me to weave and I started to create fabrics that were highly textured and unique to my brand.

Who has influenced your current approach to fashion and why?
Henri Matisse for his expressive use of colour and bold, simple cut outs and textile artist Kaffe Fasset for his detailed craft work and adventures in colour and design.

Tell us about the special people who have mentored you along the way. Who is your favourite international designer and what truly excites you about their work?
South African style icon and former editor of Elle magazine, Jackie Burger, for her continual support and sound fashion advice, Miliner, Crystal Birch for her guidance and direction from the start and fellow designer and friend, Lukhanyo Mdingi who I admire and respect and that is always there for me.

My favourite international designer is J.W. Anderson, creative director at Loewe. His bold, graphic designs and his belief that garments are an art form inspire my work.

Are there ways you are re-inventing, prototyping your products by way of print design, branding, re-purposing? What have been your biggest breakthroughs in this area?

My biggest breakthrough in this area has been the printing of my handwoven designs onto fabric. The process is long winded but the results are very satisfying for me as a designer. These artisinal fabric designs were shown for the first time in my latest woman’s  wear collection at Afi Fashion Week in march this year.

Have you collaborated with other artists? How did these collaborations come about? What are the benifits? have you created your own independent artwork for an exhibition? Tell us about the experience and how has it influenced your design practice.

I collaborated with a fellow South African fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi on the Mdingi/Coutts ‘tactile’ a/w16 collection which we showed as part of Generation Africa at Pitti Uomo in Florence and then again at SA Menswear Week in Cape Town in 2016. This resulted in a short documentary by Noir Tribe Media called ‘Ethetics’ eps 2 which had collected several awards. I have collaborated with Miliner, Crystal Birch and Macrame Artist House of Grace with accessories for runway shows and I have an ongoing collaboration with the Southern Guild Gallery. Last year I collaborated with interior designer Liam Mooney with bespoke upholstered items. My collaborative work is on display at the southern guild shop in the v & a waterfront but I have not otherwise as yet had my artwork exhibited independently. I find that interacting with other creatives to be highly beneficial to my work.

Do you feel your range, label, product conveys a message? what ideological thread do you feel you are exploring whether political, environmental, around identity and cultural hybridity, sustainability, skills development etc? do you feel you are capturing “what it is to be of this time and space”?

The message that I aspire to convey is hope. My inspiration comes mostly from nature and the people around me. My interpretation of the ‘landscape’ in South Africa at present combines the natural elements with the cultural diversity which results in an “Afropolitan” aesthetic. i think that my work is capturing this and what it is to be in this time and space in South Africa!

How does the space in which you make your garments/products influence their design and authenticity? do you have a unique manufacturing philosophy? are there members of your production team that have grown with you over time? Tell us a bit about their unique skills and how they have contributed to your brands evolution.

I have a very small production team which includes a pattern maker and seamstress who both help me to develop my products. Working with the weavers at the blind society has been a huge inspiration to my work.

Do you have any favorite sa artists and designers? what are your favorite places or spaces to visit in cape town? what restuarants, markets or foods in ct would you recommend to visitors?

My favourite South African artists include Athi-Patra Ruga, Isghaan Adams and Atang Tshikare. My favorite place to visit in cape town is the Southern Guild Ggallery, and the best restaurant at present is orchard on long for it’s vegetarian food.

Nicholas Coutts
Nicholas Coutts

 

Nicholas Coutts
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