Luke Ruiters advocates gender fluidity through dress. From the age of six he’s been obsessed with style and knew he’d follow a career in fashion. After job shadowing Leila Petersen at Marie Claire in 2011, he says he had a “true Anne-Hathaway-Devil-Wears-Prada moment” and has been working towards his career goal ever since.
His graceful and elegant graduate collection explores feminism and self-expression without adhering to the constraints of traditional gendered garments. We had a quick chat with him to find out about his future aspirations, the lessons he’s learnt as a student and what excites him about the local industry.
What did you study and where?
I studied Fashion Design at Design Academy of Fashion, in Woodstock.
Please tell us about some of the themes and ideas you’ve been exploring with your student work.
Gender, self-expression and feminism have been a constant inspiration throughout my design process. I was designing for a gender-less society; a society who is not afraid to express its true self by embracing individuality and accepting that being different is cool.
“South Africa is rich in heritage and culture, and we are colourful. Being a creative in South Africa right now is such a thrilling feeling, we have so much inspiration right on our door steps that we can draw from and create work with our proudly South African identity.”
How did this feed into your final project? What was the concept and how did you execute it?
The title of my range is Agenderflux meaning “when you identify as a gender but have fluctuations where you feel masculine and feminine but not male or female.”
Gender and sexuality have always been topics of conversation/debate surrounding my personal life since a young age, and during my design process, I felt moved and empowered to be an advocate for the gender fluid movement. My collection is not only about the beautiful pieces in the range but the strong message that I am conveying through the clothes. As mentioned before, two of my main themes for my range were self-expression and feminism; celebrating your individuality and embracing the freedom to be who you are.
I designed my collection with all these themes in mind. At first glance, I wanted people to receive my message through the clothes immediately, and I feel I executed that perfectly.
What has your experience as a student been like? What valuable lessons did you learn along the way?
Being a fashion student right now in South Africa is really exciting. The industry is growing more and more and a whole lot of opportunities are opening up. The last three years at Design Academy of Fashion has been amazing. I was part of a fashion family. I quickly learned that not every day of fashion school is glamorous; there is real hard work involved. One of my lecturers always reminded me that “fashion design is not only about drawing pretty pictures”, pattern making and garment construction is involved – all these elements of learning makes a great designer. Everything being taught is valuable. I absorbed as much information as I could and I’m sure I’ll use it to my advantage later in life.
What excites you most about the South African creative industry?
Literally EVERYTHING excites me. South Africa is rich in heritage and culture, and we are colourful. Being a creative in South Africa right now is such a thrilling feeling, we have so much inspiration right on our door steps that we can draw from and create work with our proudly South African identity.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Working as a fashion editor.
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