South African designer Clive Rundle brought a touch of the “reuse, recycle” part of the greenie mantra to the catwalk at the Sanlam Fashion Week in Johannesburg at the end of last month. But he says his garments - which he calls the the “recycled collection” - are not an attempt to be eco-friendly.
He told Mary Corrigall of the Sunday Independent in an interview that for clothing designers to be green in South Africa is “a joke” because it’s unbelievably difficult to achieve. His recycled clothing is not attempting to be green, but it is expressing something quintessentially African, he said.
“We recycle naturally. We have always done that. Some of the top-end fabrics we use are left over from the old Armani collection. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these second-hand jackets [used in his collection] came from bales that came for the poor Maputo flood victims,” he told Corrigal. In Africa, recycling is motivated by survival, not by a social conscience, he added.
In cities all over Africa, there’s a bustling trade in used clothes that have been sent in bales to the continent from developed countries.
So, inspired by Africans’ natural ability to recycle, Rundle used garish checked mens’ jackets from the late 1970s and 1980s and cast-offs from previous couture collections and turned them into what Corrigall describes as “a curious assortment of hybrid garments that bear obvious traces of their origins, yet simultaneously appear to be contemporary high-fashion women’s trousers, corsets or jackets”.
Rundle’s mission was to retain as much of the original garment as possible. “We applied a strictness to it, we weren’t just using the fabric of the jacket, but the features of the jacket itself. So we would take the collar of the jacket and turn it into a pocket on the trousers,” said Rundle.
“I want them to be surprised. I want them to be wondering why I have used such odd checks in my garments and then to only later find out that it was made from recycled clothing.”