Summer Academy 2022

Students from CPUT and HsH explore “Sustainable Fashion”

CPUT meets HSH – a dream long cherished come true 

Three years ago Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and Hochschule Hannover (HsH) started planning a common summer school. And after two years of pandemic, 17 HsH-students travelled to Capetown finally to study and work with their South African fellow stundets for one week on the topic of sustainable fashion.

We’d started to plan – and then there was covid. We nearly lost hope to use all the funding sensibly we’d secured for our summer school – financial support like that usely has to be spent within a certain period of time“, Martina Glomb, professor in Fashion Design at HsH.

The idea of CPUT and HsH cooperating had been discussed for quite some time. There had been a vivid exchange of concepts and lecturers – but something like a common summer school had not come about yet. However, the plan for such a projekt emerged around the focus on sustainable fashion in 2019, and the federal government of Lower Saxony, which Hannover is the capital of, was convinced by the plan and granted financial support. „In Fashion Design, we set up a supporting projekt titled AFRICHAOS in 2019.“ AFRICHAOS was planned to work like a table tennis match with a digital exchange of students from both universities, centered on the topic „second hand clothes and sustainability in South Africa“. Yet, covid thwarted all that. Instead German fashion students faced a lack in materials amd had to develop strategies to desgn fashion nontheless. The outfits of „Africhaos“ evolved around that shortage, building on upcycling of existing fabrics. „Some students used plants. They dried gras and produced textiles out of that. And all of a sudden they realized how privileged us Germans are, because usually we’ve always got access to material“, Glomb says.  Techniques long forgotten regained importance, like knitting, crochet and sewing by hand – after all, students were not allowed on campus and couldn’t use HsH’s workshops and machinery. 

Cooperation for the future

In the beginning, a summer school had not been the cooperation’s principal aim. The two universities share very similar structures in their programmes, making them ideal partners: One instituion can easily recognize students’ results at the other and student exchanges based on the programme ERASMUS. „Apart from that, we hope to find oportunities to collaborate even beyond our universities’ cooperation. We had Fashion Council, Fashion Revolution Capetown and exciting designers visiting. We hope for exhanges in knowledge and financial support – so South African students will be able to come to Hannover for a return visit“, says Glomb, head of the centre Use-Less for sustainable design strategies. She also hopes to preserve so called „indigineous practices“ – traditional practices. In Germany, this knowledge was mostly lost long ago, so German students can learn a lot from ther South African fellows. 

The circle of clothes

„Clothes we discard in Europe make their way to Africa. And we’ve got no idea where to, how and why this material is shipped. In South Africa, there is a market for those discarded textiles – although there is no import of used clothes, officially. That’s an entriguing subject designers need to get into“. Production of fabrics and clothes is one of the greatest causes of pollution worldwide. It’s accountable for exploiting people around the world, e.g. through unfair wages. Therefore, it’s crucial designers embark on sustainable strategies in fashion – giving them the opportunity to make a difference. According to Glomb, those creatives are increasingly responsible to reduce consumption instead instead of encouraging it.

Julia Hartmann  

Summer school’s fashion project

After a long time of waiting, students of HsH and CPUT finally got together in Capetown to collaborate on sustainable fashion – and to proceed against fast fashion across borders. Within five days, they created fashion designs out of textile left overs from both South Africa and Germany – a symbol of the cooperation between the two countries. In doing so, students do not only cross borders between countries, but also barriers in language, culture and creativity. And the issues sustainability and upcycling. 

„In upcycling, you’ve got to work with anything you can lay your hands on. We use pieces of fabric we rescued from heaps of textiles as a whole – we’re working „zero waste“, meaning there mustn’t be a thread cut off. That’s our contribution to a responsible textile industry“, Isabell Garbrecht says, one of the German fashion students. „We use fabrics that would have been chucked otherwise – that’s sustainable“, fellow student Mareile Jensen adds. The students have already realized fashion industry needs to change in the future and they want to be part of that transformation.

Summer school 2022 – Success all around?

In spite of initial difficulties, student from both universities formed groups quite quickly within five days, cooperating on their projects. Language barriers were overcome using hands and feet, creative diferences were overcome on equal levels. „Everybody could voice their ideas. That evolved into a decent discussion and we all arrived at agreements. A cooperation that good is not garantued“, Jannes Trauernicht, HsH fashion student says. „If you collaborate with people sharing your passion, it doesn’t matter where you’re from. Passion unites.“

Photo: Kai Ivo Nolda

Can we go thrift shopping?

“I’m gonna pop some tags. Only got twenty dollars in my pocket. I, I, I’m hunting, looking for a come-up. This is fucking awesome”, Macklemore raps back in 2012 and everyone sings along. Unlike many other rappers, Macklemore praises thrift shops and saving money. By doing so he hit a nerve that was relevant for this time.

Ten years later, thrift shops are mostly found not in the big shopping streets but in the hearts of many sustainable fashion lovers. This is also the case in Cape Town on Lower Main Road in Observatory. 

“In South Africa Secondhand Shopping hasn’t been a big thing for quite a long time”, says Kayleen in Nevernew Thrift Shop. “For our generation and younger kids, it’s becoming a big thing and so it’s been picking up about the last three or four years.” 

Especially on weekends, many groups of students bustle about on Lower Main Road and stroll from one thrift shop to the next. “They come in full flash, and they thrift like it’s bad, it’s busy”, says Kayleen laughing. Apparently, it’s a bit quieter on Sundays, when mothers come with their children from the northern parts of Cape Town.

“It’s amazing clothes for very cheap. It’s a lot of different type of clothes, that you don’t find in supermarkets, because they go by these fashion standards”, one customer describes her passion for thrift shopping. “Here are secondhand things from the 70s or 80s. That has become my fashion style because of these Thrift Shops.” In large shopping malls, she often feels the pressure of having to buy something. In second-hand shops, on the other hand, it feels more laid back. There you can look around for an hour without feeling bad.

Not only students and mothers go thrift shopping to get cheap and sustainable fashion, but it’s also a place for dating. “I tend to go on thrift shopping dates. It’s just like a nice thing, because you can talk about the clothes”, the customer continues. “It’s a general queer vibe like a lot of lesbians go thrifting. When I’m matching with girls, they ask me to go thrifting and so that’s what’s happening.” It’s always an advantage to get a second opinion and dress each other up.

In festival season many people overrun the Bangbang Vintage market, employee Mwajuma says. “The festival goers are our best customers. And sometimes even the older generation comes for some funky stuff.”

Having so many different shoppers requires a big variety in store. “We are an alternative store, so we care for all sorts of people like goths or queers, festival goers and students. So we have a variety in this shop, which is divided in sections.” The Bangbang Vintage market gets the clothes that they sell from different suppliers. “We get the Doc Martens from a guy from Mozambique”, Mwajuma says. “Once a week, usually on a Monday we stock up for the week.” 

Felicia Holtkamp

The Nevernew on the other hand is getting new secondhand clothes every single day. Once or twice a week they even get a big package of 40 kg of clothing. “We have suppliers in South Africa, who usually bring clothes via ships from overseas like the US in big bails. Then that goes to a warehouse, where it gets sorted”, Kayleen explains. The bags are full of different clothes from jackets to pants. “Or we have people coming in, selling their own clothing. We get people every day selling stuff to us. Depending on what they bring we can give them a price suggestion.”

Kayleen herself is a big fan of thrifting. That’s why she always looks out for the nice things when they get new stuff. “We really do try to let the public have all the good stuff. But there are too many good things, so you can’t have everything you want.” To do a successful thrifting she suggests to really study the items. Often there are clothes of specific brands, which cost much more when bought brand new than in secondhand shops.

“I believe thrift shopping is only starting to grow from now on. More and more people start to care about sustainability and want to look out for the earth.” 

CPUT X HOCHSCHULE HANNOVER: What the heck is an exchange program?

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Hochschule Hannover University of Applied Sciences and Arts embarked on a week-short exchange programme between the universities’ Media and Fashion respective faculties in the month of September 2022.

An exchange programme is a bilateral or multilateral educational agreement that involves two or more universities from different countries. Exchanges are most common between countries that speak different languages. Exchanges allow international students to learn at foreign universities and give foreign universities the opportunity to teach at home. Some programmes are short-term and others are long-term. Exchanges can be a very effective way for universities to build relationships with each other.

These programs are an integral part of a student’s life. They’re a convenient way for students to make friends and learn new things and also make it easier for universities to transfer information between institutions. Both sides gain from the transfer of skills, teaching methods, research, and other academic activities. This allows them to focus on particular areas of interest while spreading their resources thinly in many different areas. Joint research projects lead to new discoveries which can lead to economic growth for both countries at some point. Exchange programs also provide an excellent platform for governments and educators to promote their country’s culture abroad through teaching methods, artwork, and music.

The most obvious benefit of an exchange programme is making friends. I have made a best friend in a week! This provides a platform for international interaction and creates bonds between students from different countries. Students who participate in exchanges gain valuable language skills that help with future job prospects. Not only does this benefit them socially, but it also helps them academically by improving their speaking abilities.

Photo: Kai Ivo Nolda

Exchanges are an excellent way for students to connect with others on campus and gain international experience. Since they are open to everyone, these programs provide a convenient way for students with different backgrounds and interests to participate.

JB Mohlala

Everything can be pretty: The art of utilizing resources       

Whoever you are, whatever you wear, it can be pretty with you as the inspiration.” These were the words of Logan Daniels Marlon, one of the designers behind ‘everything can be pretty’, a South African and German fashion collaboration at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town.

As six students were provided with upcycling textiles and were asked to generate innovative garments out of them, they were able to look beyond their cultural differences and focus on their enthusiasm for creating aesthetically pleasing designs out of waste materials.

The project’s scope

The design embodies three separate pieces, a wrap skirt, a Kimono, and a purse. Some of the pieces have a reversible mechanism, hence they can be used for multiple purposes (a pillow case, a yoga mat, and a backpack).

The most pivotal component of the project is to demonstrate that beauty can be created from nothingness. “As a child growing up, I wanted to fit into society, with its standards that have been placed to us as pretty.” Stated Marlon.

Concept and inspiration

Pupils were driven by their passion to create beauty out of ‘seemingly useless’ materials. With that being said, the process of combining Standards from both cultures facilitated the growth of the idea of making pieces of clothing that can have multiple purposes and functions, which is the prominent theme of this group.

Sustainability was another keystone focused upon by the students. “The number one thing for designers is to come up with a solution to a problem, the problem is sustainability.” said Marlon. For designers, it is crucial to stress assiduously upon utilizing resources and minimizing cloth detritus.

Techniques used

Despite the fact that the chosen South African and German fabrics were homogeneous, students faced the challenge of producing a patchwork out of them. To begin with, the procedure they followed consisted of a technique of sewing small pieces of fabrics that come in various shapes and sizes to establish a larger geometric design. Furthermore, since the textile used is non-stretched synthetic, cotton, and wool, students had to flock to unravel it, in order to reveal a smoother surface. The final stages are composed of adding eyelets to help lace up the design and put it together.

Obstacles and challenges

“We’d assure to prioritize tasks requiring sewing machines before load-shedding at 14:00, and then we would be occupied with hand stitching.” stated Minh-Trang Laong when asked about the impediments which were faced by her team.

Not to mention that the time factor was not on the students’ side, as the entire project had to be finalized in six days. “To be able to produce a distinctive outcome we needed enough time. So, we find it impressive that we had the capacity to place our fears of falling behind aside, and make the finishing product our focal point”, added Laong.

Photo: Kai Ivo Nolda

Reem Ahmed

Maids of Honour: Older More Better 

I have not been able to get over that feeling of ‘vintage cosiness’ that oozed out of Maids of Honour; as I passed through its doors, with one of its owners, Mister Sibondah Wood welcoming me with humble joy. Located in Lower Main Rd, Observatory, his thrifting store could have been straight out of the bustling streets of olden-day London, except that it is placed distinctively in the streets of Cape Town.

Mr Woods explained that Maids of Honour is the second-oldest thrifting store in Observatory.

“As we got inspired to set up the business in 2017, my partner Najla and I had always admired the fashion from the medieval era and wanted to dedicate a platform to display vintage pieces in a modern world.” 

He also mentioned that since both of them are fashion designers, they found it convenient to blend their  passion for creating original antique garments, as well as provide the space to display thrifted pieces.

What distinguishes the pieces you display?

“It is needless to say the majority of the displayed items are custom-made,” he said. 

“Some were designed for festivals, while others were crafted as props for stage uses. Each piece is given extensive attention to detail and care, and is put through testing of quality and evaluated to see to which extent it matches our narrative.”

He added that, here at Maids of Honour, “we highly value local designers and do our utmost to give them a platform to express themselves.”

Would you spend a fortune on a piece, or – rather – a penny on many? 

“Each of the fashion items exhibited in the store holds a story behind it,” he said. “What people do not realise is that it is so easy to create a fashion piece that is both affordable and appealing, yet could be easily duplicated.” 

“And since we live in a world where everyone is encouraged to develop and express their unique sense of fashion, and – as we all know – that custom-made items cost a fortune in South Africa.” 

He said that people should invest in items that do not only hold value, but are crafted with materials that are vibrant, expressive, and can endure the harsh uses of life.

I asked him which tips he could recommend so that people could have the most rewarding thrifting experience. 

He emphasised being patient. And added, “I cannot stress enough how needed that is in order to have a rich and fruitful experience.”

“Some people get easily put off by the high price of some clothing, but that of course does not mean that there are no items that are available on a budget. You must know your style and be able to easily identify pieces that fall within the spectrum of your preference; however, also take into account that it takes time to be able to reach the level of having a good-eye to spot a bargain.”

Would you say that the competition is high, now that more shops have opened here? 

“I have faith in the vibrancy present in the pieces we display. I have also realised that the majority of our competitors do not offer a high-value ratio in comparison to the low price.”

To that, he added that they are the only store in Lower Main Rd that specializes in the collection of old-fashioned clothes, along with their production.

“I am ecstatic that Maids of Honour has established a rigid ground to stand out amongst all the other thrifting stores that surround it.”

What do you think the future holds for Maids of Honour? 

“I believe that running a thrifting store is one of the toughest businesses to be maintained. Since not only are some people still stuck with the mindset that branded items are worth much more than thrifted ones.”

He said that they strive to provide their customers with quality products that are sustainable, but affordable. 

“I believe the future is bright because we are willing to put in the effort that it takes for us to thrive.” and that this would allow the business to expand.

Reem Ahmed

The wrapped-up creatives: South Africa meets Germany

A creative group of fashion students both from South Africa and Germany took it upon themselves to design four different artistic skirts. These represented both countries and their backgrounds at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, in Cape Town. These creatives were part of a cultural exchange. The German designers used South African fabrics whilst the South Africans used their textiles to design these beautiful and unique skirts.

The inspiration behind this amazing artwork is unity; who would ever think that these two countries would come and work together in 2022 as one. We already have a shared relationship when it comes to fabrics. For example, the print German fabric – referred to as Leteisi (Setswana) in South Africa – has been used by the Tswana tribe for decades and has become traditional fabric of theirs. It’s fascinating that the origin of this cloth is German.

This German print is said to have been introduced in South Africa by the Germans who settled in the Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal for trade. It started by being exported from Europe so as to meet the demands of these settlers. With time the Xhosas (a South African tribe originating in the Eastern Cape province) then replaced their traditional animal skin apparel with this textile.

When shipped from Europe to SA, it was preserved by using starch, hence the stiffness of the fabric when new. It also has a distinct smell because of the colour dyes.

It is exciting to have this collaboration, even more so because we have so much in common. Based on our traditional fabric history we are able to relate and collaborate on designs from our different countries, continents, race and cultures.

Boiketlo Esitang