Yanela wins with Buyel’embo designs
An innovative blend of traditional Xhosa wear and contemporary millennial design gave Yanela Mtolo the edge to be selected as one of the 50 emerging creatives at Cape Town’s career-launching Design Indaba.
The department of arts & culture’s design expo ended on Saturday at the Artscape Theatre complex in Cape Town.
It is an annual forum of cutting-edge exhibitions, masterclasses, film screenings and international speakers all celebrating innovation in fashion, jewellery, architecture, furniture and art.
“I was so excited to be chosen as the [emerging designers] ‘class of 2019’”, said KwaBhaca-born Mtolo, 24, who festooned her boxy exhibition space with her head-turning garments and accessorised with enamel teapots that signify her rural childhood.
“What a platform to be part of. I’m getting to mix with other young designers as well as creatives from all over the world who are here looking for new talent and innovations. If you are a new creative, then this is the place to be.”
Mtolo left KwaBhaca when she was seven, relocating with her family first to Komani – where she remembers making stylish paper dolls with her playmates – and then to Durban where she now lives.
“Although I no longer live in KwaBhaca, it is my ancestral home and I visit my family often. I get so much inspiration when I go there,” said the young designer who has a diploma in fashion and textile design from the Durban University of Technology.
Her Buyel’embo [return to one’s heritage] range comprises sleek long-length dresses and separates made of pale, sober canvases which dance with the joyful embellishments of multi-coloured pintucks.
Colourful and labour-intensive, these are Mtolo’s trademark and the element which pushes her traditional silhouettes into fashion forward design. Her fascination with nostalgia and the use of second-hand materials is best conceptualised in these distinctive pintucks which she calls “lines”.
“They are made of waste fabrics, cut-offs from my work as well as scraps from other designers.”
When she is on a mission to source fabric off-cuts, Mtolo scours shops and design studios for strips of colour that would otherwise be cast into landfills.
“If I can make something cool out of it, then why not? One of my dresses probably contains hundreds of pieces of fabric. It is absolutely time consuming to sew the pieces into very straight lines, but it doesn’t feel like work to me. I get lost in it. People order custom dresses and jackets from me and I make them in the evenings or over weekends.”
Her range has attracted attention at the Indaba.
“People gravitate to the pintucks because they are modern and a bit quirky,” said Mtolo, who works as a designer of women’s formal and maternity wear for a national clothing chain in Durban. “It is great to see how retail works and I have been networking at the Indaba and have attended workshops on how to grow a business.”..