Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week 2014 took place at the Sandton Convention Centre last week and I was in attendance of coarse. One of the shows i was excited about is the African Fashion International (AFI) Fastrack runway show. AFI Fastrack is an annual fashion designer development programme that curates South Africas most promising new talent and helps launch the fashion careers. The programme develops young designers by building their capabilities and profiling them at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week platforms. At the end one winner walks away with the AFI Young Designer Of The Year and a cash price, which is essential for a young designer trying to build a name for him/herself in the fashion industry.
Ten finalists showcased their collections at last week's show with the hopes of making it into the top three finalists, who will be showing casing at the finale in October. This year for the first time four finalists were chosen instead of three, this was said to be done because there was just far more talent and this made the judges task difficult I suppose.
Indeed the talent was amazing this year however one collection stood out for me, a collection called "Lé Sports Chic" by Tuelo Nguyuza. His collection was very original, innovative and highly relevant. When his collection came done the runway, after his third look I already knew he would make it into the top four. Sporty chic is so on trend currently, out of all 10 finalists he was one of only two designers that went that route and his execution was impeccable.
Soooo.... On Tuesday I set down with him for lunch... Yes!.... Because I know people in high places hahahaha.... He is such a humble being, he arrived an hour early for our meeting, he waited patiently for me and when I arrived we chatted away like we were old friends from varsity.
Check out my exclusive interview with him below....
Melody: Who is Tuelo Nguyuza?
Tuelo: I am a Pretoria based fashion designer. I love life, I fear God and most importantly I enjoy laughing.
Melody: Have you always known that you wanted to be a designer or is it something that happened by total accident?
Tuelo: Ive always known that I wanted to be a designer. The idea of creating garments intrigued me from an early age and once I got my hands on a pair of scissors there was really no stopping me. Seeing my designs come to life from just a stretch to someone wearing the final product to an event or special occasion brings me a lot of joy.
Melody: You have been chosen as one of four finalists for AFI Fastrack 14 competition, take me through the journey…
Tuelo: The journey for me has been very surreal, when I was told that I made the top 10 a few months ago, I could not believe, it the finally dawned on me that I was a step closer to realising my dream of formally establishing my career as a designer. And that feels so good, because nothing makes me happier than the idea of doing exactly what I love and actually making a good living out it. It makes all the sweat and sleepless nights worth it.
Melody: I was pleasantly surprised to see your collection come down the runway, out of all the shows I had seen at MBFW 14 you are the only designer that did sporty chic. Very on trend. What inspired that?
Tuelo: The lè Sports Chic collection is inspired by the everyday women, I am about creating wardrobe solution for women with morden lifestyle thus I wanted to introduce an out of the box concept of sports wear clothing that could also translate to day-to-day wear by not conforming to using typical sports wear fabrics and silhouettes.
Melody: How would you describe your personal style and does it in anyway influence the clothes that you design?
Tuelo: My personal style is constantly evolving; my look is almost always determined by how I feel at that particular moment. I do not wear anything that I don’t feel comfortable in it and that perhaps transaltes in my design esthetic.
Melody: I was seated in the row right in front of your family and friends and when they announced your name as one of the contestants to advance through to the next phase, your entire family jumped up and cheered you on. How important is their support to you?
Tuelo: I think I am probably one of a few artists who can confidently say I have full support from my family. I consider myself very blessed in that regard because their support is of great importance to me. Not only are they my cheer leaders but they are also my best and worst critics. They tell me the truth regardless and I respect that.
Melody: You mentioned to me that you never thought you would make it through to the next phase, why is that?
Tuelo: Hahaha… Well ... I am not an overly confident person and I do not take well to loosing therefore I reserved a bit room for disappoiment just incase things do not go my way. So although I wanted to make through to the next phase so much, in my heart I was praying I make but my mind was telling me not to “jump the gun”.
Melody: When designing this collection, did you ever worry about how the public would receive it? Whether or not they would understand your garments.
Tuelo: I think as a designer you need to worry about such because we are certainly not making these garments for ourselves but for the public, therefore if your collection is not well received by the public who then are you going to sell it to?
Melody: Who is the one person in the world that your dream to see your clothes on?
Tuelo: Former editor of Harper’s Bazaar (Russia), Miroslava Duma. She epitomises my ideal woman, she takes fashion from the runway and make it work for her own style. Her style is unique to her and I love that.
Melody: Besides the AFI Fast Track finals in October, what is next for Tuelo Nguyuza? What should we look for?
Tuelo: I love making clothes hence I am already in production, creating a 6-look-collection that will take from the previous collection that I showcased at MBFWJ14. This new collection will serve to futher elaborate my design perspective and continue telling my story through the art of making clothing.
I don't doubt that whether he wins AFI Fastrack 2014 or not, Tuelo will be a very successful fashion designer. I certainly wish all the best with all his future ventures... Follow Tuelo on Instagram and Twitter: @Tuelo_Nguyuza
Yours In Fashion