Sustainability a major message of range that includes Nguni cow print

Gert-Johan Coetzee goes back to his roots with latest collection

Londiwe Dlomo Journalist

Couturier Gert-Johan Coetzee’s Spring/Summer 2020/21 range is all about his roots and becoming more sustainable.

Coetzee, who grew up on a farm in the North West, has used Nguni cow print in his latest offering, titled Kraal Couture. 

“I thought back at my time on the farm, being surrounded by all the Nguni [cattle]. And if you remember there is such a beautiful and spiritual link with the cow because the cow, the Nguni cow links the spiritual with the physical, in terms of if you remember back to our ancestors, they used to offer cows, cows used to be a symbol of wealth as well.

“So that was the first monetary exchanges and that is what I wanted to bring across, I wanted to bring across the almost nostalgia back to the farm and really dig into the meaning of the Nguni cow and then I printed that onto the fabric,” he says.  

An artist’s impression of the Nguni cow print is also printed on the tencel fabric that Coetzee uses for the collection and masks. It is smaller, and will be used for his ready-to-wear clothing. 

On Thursday night he showed virtually at the opening of SA Fashion Week. The collection features clothing with a colour palette of light blues and blacks. The clothing consists of striking voluminous ball gowns, a boisterous turquoise outfit and sleek silk Nguni print two-piece modelled strikingly with a black corset. A standout was the beaded turquoise skirt that reminds the viewer of traditional Xhosa beading. 

“This season we focused a lot on really stripping down the armour that we’ve built around us. As people going through life, we’ve all built up this protection around us and that’s why of these garments are so over the top with armour. Lockdown and Covid-19 I think stripped a lot of the armour off us, to reveal [our] softer side.”

Coetzee said a major message for his collection was sustainability. 

Some of the T-shirts are made from 96% recycled plastic and others from a sustainable fabric called 10CL.

Coetzee, who celebrates 10 years in the fashion industry this year, has designed for women from all walks of life. Mzansi A-listers such as Bonang Matheba, Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi and Somizi Mhlongo are among his many clients. He has also had women like Debra Cox and Kelly Rowland wear his designs.

When SowetanLIVE quizzed him on whether he had considered that there might be a backlash due to his use of the Nguni cow print as a white South African he said: “I think everybody has their experience or a certain memory attached to a certain thing. I am South African so embracing the beautiful culture that South Africa has along the years and really like making that one with you. It is all I know. I have always been South African, it is all I know so my frame of reference is very African and  that’s why when I always get asked something like that I always forget that I am a colour at all.

“I do feel that it is part of my heritage as well in a different way, me being on the Afrikaans side of things and getting so thrown in and like in love with the African culture. And bringing those two together makes me unique and differ as a designer because my background is different and my parents always infused so much African culture in my life, that I almost feel like it is my culture in a way.

“And working with so many traditional brides and so many traditional weddings I always know everything about all the cultures because I find it as a designer so very interesting.”

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