Nguo’s Joburg Fashion Week show began with a short statement by founder Tumie Mohoasa. In it, the Botswana based designer ties the collection – and Nguo’s mandate as a fashion label – to a desire to decentre sexuality in womenswear, “freeing” women from the idea – often reinforced and perpetuated in fashion – that “sexiness” is at the centre of women’s dressing.
The familiar beat of Letta Mbulu’s “Not Yet Uhuru” then filled the room, and models began to saunter down the runway in loose-fitting pieces.
Mohoasa’s statement speaks to a greater movement of body neutrality – a growing conversation in contemporary fashion spaces. Minimalism as an aesthetic and design philosophy has frequently been revisited in such moments of cultural and intellectual renewal.
As an art movement, minimalism emerged in the late 1960’s and 70’s as a philosophical rejection of all kinds of socio-economic and class-related politics – specifically those that birthed and treasured the notion that art must follow nature and represent the physical world as it is. Minimalism sought to demonstrate a new order of social advancement and technological development.
Womenswear has long taken its cues from the pendulum swing of existing beauty standards. When women first entered the workforce and their daily routines began to shift, fashion itself had to change. The fussy frills and constricting rules of dress took a backseat to a more reductive, minimalist aesthetic that was equally dedicated to both form and function.
Nguo’s pieces were the epitome of form-meets-function. Voluminous, geometric shapes translated into a collection of relaxed, borderline amorphous silhouettes, each with its own interesting necklines and collars. The pieces were functional, promoting ease of movement.
This collection was almost humble in its refusal of ornaments and embellishments. Presenting a monochromatic collection – black, white, parmesan yellow and sky-blue – with loose-fitting elements carried throughout, Mohoasa demonstrates a rare level of design discipline and restraint.
This collection references elements of suiting, particularly in the collar. A sky-blue jumpsuit with a reversed collar took on a bottom-heavy silhouette, neutralizing the model, Thanolo Keutlwile’s natural curves. Nguo takes this unconventional silhouette even further, widening the pant-legs with a set of external pockets.
The final piece to take the stage was a shapeless white dress with a towering collar. At first glance, its sleeves would appear undefined, were it not for a large slit, held open by a cinched detail at the shoulder.
Fashion in Africa is so frequently aligned with a stereotypically busy, exuberant aesthetic that is accepted and consumed by Western markets and often indulged by local fashion practitioners. In the embrace of a minimalist design philosophy, Nguo demonstrates the broad spectrum of African creativity and innovation, contributing to a transforming vision of fashion in Africa.
You can now Shop The Runway, featuring SCALO’s looks at House of Nala by AFI, Shop U47A, Sandton City. You can also purchase the garments, online. Click here to purchase