The Rise of Mmathabo Silika: Semi-finalist of the South African Fashion Week New Talent Search
By Lindelwa Masuku
The South African Fashion Week New Talent Search is a platform that showcases the best emerging talent in the South African fashion industry.
The competition is a crucial stepping stone for young designers looking to establish their brand and make a name for themselves in the industry.
This year's theme, ‘Show Us Your Print’, is a celebration of the print revolution that has taken the fashion world by storm.
Mmathabo Silika, one of the semi-finalists of the 2023 New Talent Search, is a talented young designer with a passion for creating unique and eye-catching prints.
Her designs are a reflection of her cultural heritage, combined with modern shapes and styles. In this exclusive interview, we delve into Mmathabo's design philosophy, her experience of participating in the competition, and what she hopes to achieve in the future.
Can you tell us about your background and how you got into fashion design?
As a little girl in primary I would make a booklet by stapling papers together to create a sketch pad. I would draw princess dresses in that sketch pad. At the time I did not know what fashion was but I enjoyed sketching designs.
The women in my family inspired me to love fashion even more because they are not afraid to express themselves boldly through fashion and they appreciate the art of fashion. My late great grandmother was a seamstress who made wedding dresses.
Because of the lack of opportunities she was unable to make her dreams come true, that’s why it’s important to me to become one of the best international designers to honour her.
What inspires your designs and creative process?
I am inspired by the African continent, African tribes and stories. My goal is to create African inspired clothing that can be worn in your everyday life, and not only on occasions because being African is not a costume. It is important to me to keep these African tribes and stories alive through fashion.
Can you tell us a little bit about your style and aesthetic as a designer?
Going down memory lane, and using vintage silhouette and styles by putting a modern twist to the designs .Every collection I make must be African inspired. That means my designs will have prints on the fabrics or added texture with embellishments and Layering of garments.
Can you walk us through your experience as a semi-finalist in the South African Fashion Week New Talent Search 2023?
I enjoyed every minute of sketching the designs. The most exciting part was creating the print. I also got a history lesson about the African tribe that inspired the collection, which I found very interesting.
Can you share a memorable moment from your journey as a designer so far?
My memorable moment has to be when I showcased my third year collection at the LISOF Fashion Show. It was my first collection and that made all the long hours and hard work worth it. The feeling of seeing my designs from paper to 3D was very fulfilling.
Can you tell us about a project or collection you are particularly proud of?
The Redbat Posse competition. When I designed an outfit taking inspiration from the Botswana Metalheads. Although I didn’t win that competition I am impressed by what I created.
How do you stay current with fashion trends and incorporate them into your work?
I look at what people are wearing in the streets, music videos and festivals.
How do you approach sustainability in your designs and production process?
Off cuts of previous garments are used to make mock ups for current garments, and zero- waste designs are implemented. The majority of the fabrics used are friendly to the environment and the customer care does not require a lot of energy.
Silika believes in slow fashion, taking the time to create quality garments that are classics that will become investments, and the garments are durable and will live the test of time. Creating quality garments reduces the possibility of the garments being discarded.
Can you share your plans for the future of your brand and career as a designer?
I want my brand Silika to be an international brand. I want to also diversify my brand by not only providing appealing items. Lastly, the main purpose of my brand is to always strive to preserve African stories.
How do you plan to make an impact and stand out in the industry?
To stay authentic to myself and to be consistent with my brand image.
What can we expect from you on the runway finale?
A collection inspired by a Namibian tribe. Expect bold colours and silhouettes.
Competitions like the New Talent Search are important for young emerging talent as they offer a wealth of opportunities and benefits. The prize money and support provided to the winner helps in the critical early years of starting a business.
The free stand at the trade show allows designers to do market research and sell their designs to boutiques, departmental stores, and online stores. Additionally, the exposure and recognition that come with being a finalist or a winner can help young designers in making the most of their creative potential.
The fashion industry is one of the most disrupted by the digital printing revolution, and designers who embrace this change will be at the forefront of the industry.
The print revolution has allowed designers to create unique and imaginative designs that stand out from the crowd. This competition is a testament to the importance of print in fashion design and a celebration of the creativity and innovation of South Africa's young designers.
The South African Fashion Week New Talent Search is a significant event in the fashion calendar, and we are proud to be a part of it.
We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Mmathabo Silika and the other semi-finalists, and we wish them all the best of luck in the competition.