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Back in 2012, I had the honour of judging the inaugural ELLE Rising Star Designer Awards (don’t get any ideas, I’m young). It was quite a ride. There were so many talented young designers, all vying for the prize. I’m pretty sure you can imagine what it’s like having to pick one. Think of it this way: you only have R20, or however much a Magnum costs these days, but you can only pick one. Just one, even though you want all dem flavours. Okay… Maybe that example doesn’t even make any sense, I’m just day dreaming about ice-cream, but anyway: there were several talented designers and I was one of the people standing between each of them and their aspirations. What to do? Will the ones that don’t win give up on their dreams, will it make them stronger and inspire them to chase their dreams even more aggressively? I haven’t done a great job of following up on the rest of that year’s entrants but I’ve been a keen observer of Tamara Cherie Dyson’s progress. At the time, I think she was the youngest of the seven finalists we had in the competition, but her talent was undeniable. She re-entered the competition last year and won. Today, she launches her range with Mr Price and I got to catch up with her about the range, being an emerging designer in South Africa today and her plans for her eponymous brand.

Tell us about your range with Mr P.

My keen interest in architectural lines and structure consistently inform and influence my designs in various ways and means.  I decided to keep with the same concept of ‘geometrics’ from my 2014 Elle Rising Star Design Award winning collection, but re-envisioned it in a completely new direction, concentrating on merging my brand’s core aesthetic values with MRP’s focus on offering fun, on-trend fashionable designs. I took into consideration who the MRP customer is, and how my design style could speak to them. The range features a collection of structured separates and dresses in spring’s must-have hues. My love for classic and neutral colours comes across in the collection through the use of white, grey and navy, with dusty pink, mustard and rose gold metallic accents, bringing a soft, but fun edge to the range. Geometric and linear influences flow throughout the designs by means of print graphics, fabric textures, and cut lines.

How long have you been working on the range and what was the best part of working on it?

I spent two weeks at MRP’s Head Office at the end of January, designing and developing the limited-edition capsule collection. I moved around between the different in-house departments, from design and product development to marketing and PR, learning about the many different facets that make up such a well-run fashion retail company. I also spent time at a local manufacturer and started developing samples for some of the designs. From leaving the internship until the launch of the collection, I’ve been in constant contact with MRP, getting involved in all areas of the process, from approving fit samples and fabric swatches to photoshoot ideas and press-kit packaging. I loved being challenged to work within certain constraints and parameters of a specific retail model, and really surprised myself with what I could achieve. I really feel a strong, beautiful collaboration was achieved.

It is obviously different working on a range for a retailer than it is working on your independent label. Briefly, what are the differences in the process?

The beginning processes are all the same – range inspiration and trend research, developmental sketches, and fabric sample sourcing. The difference comes in next when working with such a large established retailer with numerous different departments in place, dealing with the many facets that go into producing a collection.  Their pace and turnaround time is far quicker and runs a lot smoother as they have their tried and tested systems all in place. The biggest difference I encountered was how incredibly important it is in retail to make quick, definite decisions and to stick with them, otherwise you risk causing huge disruptions in the production cycle.

What’s the next step for your brand?

We are currently getting our summer 2016 collection ready to launch. We also just introduced our first leather handbag line, allowing us to be able to support and work one-on-one with incredibly talented local artisans. I have been exceptionally lucky over the past months, having being inundated with many various opportunities as a designer, but I remain focused on my core goal of slowly and consciously establishing a solid foundation and structure for my luxury womenswear brand.

Young designers seem to have amped it up in South Africa lately. What excites you most about being a designer in this kind of environment and which of your peers do you find most inspiring?

I feel it is the perfect time to be a young emerging designer in South Africa right now.  We are brimming with fresh talent of a global aesthetic, outlook and standard.  It is incredibly motivating and inspiring to be surrounded by creatives that are pushing through the stumbling blocks that our industry presents us with, thinking outside the box to find opportunities and solutions to make their brands a reality.  The current possibilities for South African designers, both locally and internationally, are endless and extremely exciting. I am inspired in various ways by designers Katherine-Mary Pichulik, Laduma Ngxokolo, and Lukhanyo Mdingi.

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By Sandiso Ngubane

Images supplied by Mr Price

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