The people whose heights I have always aspired to reach as a young Fashion Design graduate in South Africa include the likes of Lukhanyo Mdingi, Rich Mnisi, Laduma Ngxokolo, and Thebe Magugu. What all of these names have in common is that they are amongst the pantheon of amazing individuals who have found a home on Design Indaba’s famed Emerging Creative class in the past years. The thought that my name could be mentioned alongside all these designers I look up to, as Emerging Creative alumni, was (and still is) surreal. So you can imagine how excited I was when I got the email back in December 2019 confirming that I had indeed been accepted into the Emerging Creative Class of 2020. I had finally ticked off a personal goal that I’d set for myself back in 2015 when I found out about the programme. It was a dream come true.
Fast forward to 26 February 2020, Design Indaba commences. The hosts, Lebo Mashile and Lucas De Man open the conference and keep us thoroughly entertained throughout its entirety. In addition to the talks, we were treated to explosive performances from the likes of Sho Madjozi, Dear Ribane, as well as a tear-jerking presentation from Dutch fashion designer Bas Timmers and Bangladeshi impact-driven entrepreneur, Mazbahul Islam. The most poignant presentation though was South African theatre actor/writer Nhanhla Mahlangu’s performance, titled Chant, which took us through his childhood in 1980s Apartheid South Africa – a story that would culminate in police burning down Mahlangu’s shack family home and taking the lives of his beloved pet dog Penny (who he inherited from his granny’s old whand her offsprings). I left the theatre with watery eyes – it was that powerful.
The conference was a rollercoaster of emotions. Attendees (including myself) often left each talk inspired, jubilant, and emotional. The curation, which was primarily handled by milliner and past Emerging Creative Crystal Birch, was a refreshing change in format in comparison to past years’ exhibitions. The art gallery-style exhibition didn’t allow the Emerging Creatives to showcase too much of their work, onlookers just got the opportunity to see your absolute best work in a carefully-curated manner, instead of bombarding them with too much product without giving it enough space to breathe.
After two days, I left the conference with a bit of a headache, which I think was a result of the information overload I got from all the talks. There was just so much to take in. But what I think is the most resonant feeling I got from Design Indaba this year is a sense of urgency. The feeling that I’m not doing enough – to better the world, and to better myself. There are incredible minds out there that are making bricks out of f*cking urine and all I do is design nice clothes? And even with that, I’m not designing enough clothes. I don’t have my brand identity intact, nor is my production value of the best standard. The whole conference had me ruminating about a lot of what I may be doing wrong, which is a bit ironic because being a part of the conference alone is a result of me doing something right. I just came to a realisation that there’s still a lot that I need to prepare myself for, and without the discussions from the innovative guest speakers, as well as the forward-thinking of my peers from the Emerging Creative class of 2020, these realisations wouldn’t have come into fruition. Therefore, I am grateful for Design Indaba 2020.