South Africa’s 5 Underrated & Emerging Fashion Creatives

17th March 2017 BY checkoutafrica

The fashion scene in Johannesburg and South Africa (SA) as a whole is growing radically and exponentially. In fact, it’s one of the biggest contributors to the country’s economy in the retail trade sector. I bet you have noticed time and time again the same reputable brands, designers and creatives flashing down your social media timelines. I would like to move away from these guys for this piece. The aim is to showcase South Africa’s emerging fashion creatives, the ‘underrated’ guys who produce outstanding content and sincerely deserve a shoutout. Below, I select and showcase a couple of creatives you need to keep your eye on.


It’s very warranted to say that Lukhanyo Mdingi, self and brand, are a true example of impeccable South African talent. At 24 years old, his work does not say emerging nor underrated. In his lookbooks, you’ll find high fashion, high quality, luxury collections that leave you thinking “why the hell do I not know about this guy!”. His designs effortlessly capture the essence of Africa into modern contemporary looks with an approach to minimalism. With beautiful rich textiles, his collections are unisex and ready-to-wear. Lukhanyo’s passion for Fashion extends to his dedication in creating a platform for emerging fashion creatives. His principle of work is one that other young artists should consider. It’s simple…teamwork. He lives by the principle of “the power of a collective is stronger than a singular.” Soon, Lukhanyo Mdingi will be mentioned in the same breath as David Tlale, Thula Sindi and Selfi.

I had the pleasure of asking Lukhanyo about his creative process, this is what he shared,

“I am constantly inspired, by so many things and most recently through conversations and authentic story telling. Fortunately for me, I’m constantly surrounded by inspiring people and I choose to immerse myself in readings, podcasts and tutorials that will enrich me. The beauty about living in a globalised environment is the large spectrum of data that is fed to us. We have the power to choose what to take in and learn from.” – Lukhanyo

…and if you’re wondering what “keeps him keeping on”?

“Its simple, its love, passion and intention; These are the key fundamental things that have always pushed me. There’s a beauty about energies and karma – The amount of work and love that you put out is what you will get in return, that’s the golden rule of life…” – Lukhanyo

Lukhanyo Mdingi tactile south african emerging creative
Lukhanyo Mdingi tactile south african fashion
Lukhanyo Mdingi purgation collection
Lukhanyo Mdingi purgation collection











Jewelry is an aspect of fashion that need not be ignored. We see it used by cultures around the world for hundreds of years as a representation and celebration of their identities and traditions. One’s jewelry can tell quite a story. Take Eastern Cape born, Joburg based, Philisa Zibi’s brand “MA’ART Jewellery”. I was immediately impressed by the unique obscure geometric designs of her pieces, nothing I’ve seen before. What many may call weird, and be curious of the inspiration behind the art, I was drawn to what seems to be an essence of Africa with a modern edge, pieces that belong on the necks and hands of the fearless but sophisticated, and a brand that needs to be watched.

When asked about her inspiration, Philisa told me that “MA’ART is inspired by abstract geometry, it’s my way of expression”. Each of her pieces are made by hand using silver, wood, copper wire and/or plastic. They are well-made, hand-made and professionally-made. In 2017, Philisa plans to make more innovative jewellery and expand her business locally and internationally.

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Having grown up in Lesotho for a good part of my childhood, Sibusiso’s backpacks gave me a serious blast from the past which I was so excited to be my present vision. His company “Unlearn Africa”  aims to preserve heritage and celebrate the beauty of Africa through art and design. A look at his work undoubtedly showcases his passion and creativity. Unlearn Africa has a brand of backpacks made from recycled material and fabric cutoffs from parts of traditional Sotho blankets such as tjale and seanamarena. These blankets are known by young Southern Africans to be worn and used mostly by elders and those living in non-urban areas. For example, the grey blanket sections are made from recycled mashed cotton dust and are known to be worn by herders. Sibusiso’s work brings culture and tradition to futuristic millennials, preserving the iconic materials in a simply ‘cool’ and functional manner that is guaranteed to be catchy and hopefully educational to today’s youth. After centuries of these blankets being used as just blankets, Sibusiso’s work and creativity is the definition of thinking outside of the box.

Curious to know his future plans for expansion and getting these materials known on a global scale, Sibusiso said “We are already exporting to France, London and Amsterdam, the expansion plan this year is New York, Tokyo and Brazil. Our aesthetics are greatly received abroad, we are approached everyday by buyers, curators, online stores and physical stores abroad to partner and collaborate on a number of projects, so this year will be one of the greatest and defining years for us.”

And his advice to young designers “…the most important thing is to stay true to your calling, in it you will find your voice and aesthetic, that will lead to escaping the box and creating from a place of truth.”

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Sheni represents a step that is overlooked by many, textile design. Based in Johannesburg, born in Lesotho and raised in Canada, she has chosen a rather fascinating and necessary niche in Fashion and design in general. Among others, she creates prints on fabric both manually and digitally using techniques such as pigment, burnout and heat transfer. One of her most capturing work was done in collaboration with childrenswear designer Jordan Rae Epstein, where Sheni was the collection’s textile designer. As you will see below, she was inspired by “graphic art and optical illusions, in particular Carlos Cruz-Diez and his application of color and line to create movement in his artwork.” Other than this, Sheni has produced multiple textile collections such as the Flora range, inspired by nature and the outdoors; and the bright Pata Pata range, inspired by Sotho culture and street wear.

According to Sheni, this field is not all fun and games, there is quite an intricate process behind the beauty that you see. She mentioned that “When someone looks at a finished print, they may not see all of the work that went into creating it, from the hours of sketching and conceptualizing, to the time it takes to actually develop the final pattern.” She says she would absolutely recommend other young designers and creatives to pursue the textile industry, as she says “There’s a thrill in creating artwork and then seeing it applied to clothing and accessories in different apparel markets.”

sheni moshabesha emerging artist south africa


textile design sheni moshabesha
textile design sheni moshabesha










Bushkoppies is a brand founded by Ketumile Malesa and 6 other young creatives who are driven by everyday street culture and a pursuit of providing a platform for South African youth culture to get the recognition it deserves.  In Ketu’s words “Bushkoppies is a creative house, a tool which it’s members and contributors use to express themselves.” Their latest collection “Offshore” was launched in late 2016. Inspired by the beach, the team wanted to create clothing that they’d wear on a cruise ship or simply during a beach hangout. According to Ketu, Bushkoppies‘ approach is to create clothing for themselves, with the hope that people will gravitate towards it. To the average joe, the collection catches you as very laid back, comfortable, chilled but edgy…perfect for the summer time. To the artist, it’s effortless, prêt-à-porter, clean and refreshing with a striking finish from the choice of colors, bengal stripes and chevron patterns. I can’t wait to see more from these guys.

Well, that’s that for now folks. We hope you learned something new and will be keen to follow and support the above creatives and their journey. Please let us know in the comments any other emerging artists in Fashion that you believe deserve a shout out! Questions also welcome using the form below.

Click here for more of Thuli Mac’s writing.

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