19 Feb Grad Guide 2020: Caitlin Rogerson
Having recently completed an undergraduate degree in fashion design at Joburg’s Vega School, Caitlin Rogerson’s focus has been on establishing a contemporary, ready-to-wear women’s fashion brand under the name Urth. The label weaves sustainability into its core business values and practices, aiming to bring sustainability to the forefront of the fashion industry. Rogerson’s decision to take this route was influenced by becoming more aware of the impact fashion design has on the environment during her years as a student. We learn more about this in a Q&A for our graduate showcase series.
Where and what did you study? What was your experience like?
I studied fashion design at Vega School for three years. My experience was extremely humbling and exciting. I had never sewn as much as a single seam before I began my studies and it was absolutely terrifying. I certainly was not the best at first, but everyone has to start somewhere. I definitely had a glamourized idea about the fashion industry, but then again I think everyone does. My first year of studies was a huge eye opener, it was all about learning through mistakes and establishing the basics. My second and third year was all about refining who I wanted to be as a designer and challenging myself. I was very determined to succeed and produce work I was proud of. It was not until I completed my studies that my respect and understanding grew for the industry, you could have all the natural talent in the world but you still have to work extremely hard to make it.
What inspired you to pursue a path in fashion?
I grew up with my mom always sewing, she even had her own brand for children and was always making us clothes. I remember for my one birthday party, it was a mermaid themed party, and she had made me a little bra top and mermaid tail skirt out of this silver sequin fabric with purple metallic trims, I was in absolute awe that my mom had made this and I wanted everyone at my party to notice firstly, how cool my outfit was and secondly, how good I looked in it. Being so inspired by my mom I had then attempted to make a dress out of bright blue taffeta with a turquoise organza frill at the bottom, back then I thought making a dress was just cutting a square out of fabric and getting my mom to sew the seam at the back. Needless to say it didn’t really work. I always had an appreciation for design and an eye for what looked appealing. My interests shifted between fashion and interior design but I couldn’t ignore of the itch to pursue a career in fashion. I’ve always loved the idea of creating clothes that others felt such joy in and used it as a means to express who they are. My mom had definitely brought that out in me.
Tell us about your graduate collection in terms of inspiration, style, concept and construction.
The collection ‘In Contrast’ was inspired by contemporary South African art such as David Brits ‘Snake Abstract Print’. The collection then grew further to become my own interpretation of the South Africa we live in today. It is an intense portrayal of how the differences we’ve created amongst our fellow compatriots come together under one unique theme. The collection is all about contrast. Contrasting colour, contrasting shape and contrasting movement. The collection features hand painted prints, a rolled hem finishing and binding to achieve a strong sense of line. Only organic biodegradable fabrics were used and locally sourced. The garments are full of volume, structured and give off a dramatic look and feel. The designs are eccentric, exuding artistic elegance with an edgy feel. Overall the collection creates a bold statement.
How would you describe your approach or philosophy as a fashion designer?
When I began studying fashion design I had no idea about the impact it has on the environment, and it was a complete game changer in terms of my design philosophy. We as designers have a responsibility to ensure that what we design should maintain ecological balance as well as social justice. I do not mean to say that all designers should be completely sustainable in what they produce – that is very difficult, if not almost impossible, to achieve. However, we should have such an understanding of the importance of practicing sustainability and the methods to which this can be achieved. That is why when I was creating my brand Urth, the inspiration was sustainability. A brand that is innovative, trendy and appeals to its consumers while remaining sustainable at its core.
Who would you most like to collaborate with in the local fashion industry?
Definitely Rich Mnisi. His designs are a fresh perspective on South African design, which I love. The cultural referencing in his work is subtle but someone can still look at his designs and identify a sense of traditional influence. I mean his collections are absolutely breath taking, his most recent collection, Hiya Kaya ’21, is one of my favourites. My favourite South African designer and a great source of inspiration.
What are your plans for 2021?
I plan to continue and expand my brand, I would like to explore children’s wear too. I have so many ideas and I’m constantly inspired so my creativity never really gives me a break! However, I feel like I still don’t know a lot about the industry, and the only way to find out is through experience which I think is very important. I would love to work a bit in the industry this year, as experience would only be beneficial for me to succeed with my brand in the future.
Grad Guide is an annual series from Between 10and5, profiling some of South Africa’s most exciting creative graduates across the fields of fashion, art, photography and design. Find the full 2020 Grad Guide here.