Fashion Designers Unconstrained by Trends

We’re exploring fearlessly authentic art, the kind that can’t and won’t be contained by a frame or canvas.

From bold performances to intricate installations, conceptual video works to large-scale public pieces, this series celebrates unconventional artists who’re pushing the boundaries of their medium to create art that is uncompromising in its originality.

In this edition we’re looking at 6 fashion designers who defy trends and are boldly shaping out their own niche in the fashion industry. Unconstrained by traditional notions of gender, style, form and function, each of these designers create garments that challenge the wearer to be bold, expressive, fearless in their dress sense.


The power duo Adriaan Kuiters and Jody Paulsen have been steadily building their following with their eclectic leisurewear collections that draw reference from contemporary South African art and local landscapes. Each collection features the brands signature bold graphic prints, courtesy of graphic designer Jody, as well as the unisex lines designed for layering looks that effortless transition from day into night. Comfortably sitting between casual streetwear and designer wear, AKJP has become a staple in the wardrobes of fashion-forward urbanites.

More at or follow @akjpcollective on Instagram.

AKJP Photos by Neil Roberts

Sheila-Madge Bakker

Pretoria-based Sheila-Made Bakker presented a knock-out collection entitled Black Lips at the recent SAFW AW16. A collaboration with illustrator Andel Olivier, the collection is inspired by African mysticism, the sweaty swamps of Louisiana and voodoo folklore. The range features block-printed textiles, embroidery and beading details and chunky knits. Full of texture, bright colours and eye-catching motifs, the Black Lips collection pushes a bold and aesthetic that’s impossible not to ignore. Favouring interesting silhouettes and hand-crafted details, Sheila-Madge items are wearable works of art.

More at and follow @sheilamadgedesign on Instagram.

Black Lips | Photography by Chris Saunders, styling by Kristi Vlok

Lukhanyo Mdingi

With each new collection, menswear designer Lukhanyo Mdingi redefines and refines a contemporary African aesthetic. Unafraid of using colour (or the lack thereof) for high impact, Lukhanyo’s inaugural Iridescence range mesmerised in all-white while his evocative indigo Taintless range explored the opposite end of the spectrum with Macramé filling in the subtle tones in between. His latest collection, Purgation is a wonderfully evocative story of glamours new African masculine identities featuring pleated loose slacks, satin blouses, visors and a sumptuous palette of umbra, creams, pearlescent white and slate.

Follow his work on Instagram @lukhanyomdingi or visit his website.

Taintless | Photo by Travys Owen

Purgation | Photos by Kent Andreasen

Rich Mnisi

The golden boy of SA menswear fashion, Rich Mnisi has been steadily honing his designs with brave and innovative collections that challenge conventional masculine identities and draw inspiration from popular culture, film, music, art and nature. His SS17 collection gives a nod to bygone glam disco fever with drooping necklines, satin and sumptuous colours such as plum, gold, burnt orange and purple. Rich’s designs play with form and volume to create interesting effects. His daring gender-fluid silhouettes are for those who relish the drama of fashion.

More at or follow @rich_mnisi on Instagram.

SS17 | Photos by Aart Verrips

AW16 | Photos Paul Samuels


New-comer to the SA menswear scene, Dicker is the new gender-fluid label of modal-cum-designer Armand Dicker. Bursting onto the scene at SAFW SS earlier this year, his debut collection called The Calling featured provocative attention-grabbing slogan box tees in primary colours and surprising fabrics choices such as leather, mohair and knits. His newest collection sees the evolution of his bold style towards a monochromatic colour palette with Asian-African elements. Crop tops and extended sleeves play with convention silhouettes and result in an ultra-contemporary urban look. Let’s not forget to mention his clever fashion-forward branding tactic – the “Dicker” chokers featured prominently in all his runway shows and lookbooks.

More on Facebook and Instagram.

The Calling SS16 | Photos by Charlemagne Olivier

Sad Boys SW17 | Photos by SDR PHOTO, Simon Deiner


The brainchild of Nicola West, W35T is a playful fashion brand that mixes masculine and feminine elements in create whimsical and free-spirited one-off garments. Using natural fabrics and embracing the element of chance, Nicola hand paints graphic prints and designs onto the fabrics, making each garment a unique piece of art. Taking inspiration from the ocean, art, conceptualism and popular culture, W35T garments feature simple clean lines and bias cuts creating interesting feminine silhouettes that can be worn in any number of expressive ways.

More at or follow @nicolaw35t on Instagram.

Photo by Antonia Steyn

Spookasem | Photos by Anton du Preez

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