04 Aug NOT x Chris Saunders | Dennis Chuene of Vernac
‘NOT x Chris Saunders‘ is an incredible cross-continent/cross-cultural collaboration begun by New York based fashion designer Jenny Lai and South African photographer/filmmaker Chris Saunders, and grown to include co-creators from across South Africa.
Inspired by Chris’s images of style collective The Smarteez, and Pantsula dance crews in costume that she came across online, Jenny contacted him to work together on a project that could incorporate both of their crafts and showcase the exciting people, places and processes that make South African fashion unique. The result is ‘NOT x Chris Saunders‘. The project saw Jenny working with South African creatives Dennis Chuene of Vernac, Jean Rene Onyagunga aka Dr Pachanga, Floyd Avenue of The Smarteez and costume designer/puppeteer Macdonald Mfolo to each rework one of her signature designs using their trademark process or materials. The completed garments were then modelled by dancer Manthe Ribane and photographed by Chris. Both the end product garments and the accompanying photographs will be exhibited at Wallplay in New York City from the 11th of September 2014.
In the lead up, we’ll be introducing you to each designer and how they tackled Jenny’s challenge.
First up is Dennis Chuene, designer of Vernac bags in Bellville, Cape Town. Vernac was the only Cape Town collaboration of the project and the city played backdrop to an intensive week of finding materials to finish the creation. Dennis takes apart the ubiquitous China bags and remakes them into stylish and functional backpacks. Although the China bag is deeply imprinted into the African landscape, it actually comes from a mélange of cultures. The traditional tartan print is from Scotland while the nylon bags are mass-produced in China. Even in its final form, it is attributed to several different cultures, such as “Ghana must go ” bags in Nigeria, “Chinatown totes” in the United States, “Bangladeshi bags” in the United Kingdom, and “Turkish suitcases” in Germany. After deconstructing the China Bags, Jenny and Dennis recreated a garment based on Jenny’s Interlock Coat design, with respect to the details of the original bag.
Of the photographs, Chris says, “With Vernac the final images were very much inspired by what the bag is used for and where it can normally be found. The bag is mostly used by people who commute. With this in mind we chose to shoot the shot in Johannesburg’s main transport hub, Noord Taxi Rank. Here, thousands of taxis connect people from all over the city and outskirts. It is the equivalent of Grand Central in New York or Kings Cross in London. With regard to the action, we chose to show the metamorphosis of the bag from a relatively invaluable object which can be bought for very little on the side of the street into a once-off hand-made outfit with value. A true transformation.”
Follow the project here on 10and5 or over at notxcs.tumblr.com.