Based in Cape Town, South African designer Ricci Janse van Rensburg has the ability to create worlds way beyond the southern hemisphere where she designs. Her goal has always been to empower the women she dresses to think outside the box with creative styling, funky fabrications, or bold cuts. The Cape Town College of Fashion Design (CTCFD) graduate’s designs regularly win best-dressed awards and, throughout her studies, she has been recognized as both a semi-finalist in the Vodacom Durban July Young Designer Showcase and as a finalist in the Emerging Creative competition, showcasing at Cape Town Fashion Week and Mercedes Benz Johannesburg Fashion Week. Her brand, Ricci JvR can be described as structured romanticism, finding inspiration and beauty in unexpected concepts and bringing them to real life. Like a subdued Alexander McQueen, the brand lives and breathes the famed designers’ quote: “I want to empower women. I want people to be afraid of the women I dress.” We talk to Ricci about drawing out personality in clothing and celebrating the creative moments.
How and why did you start designing?
I have always been mesmerized by design – the way it can influence how you feel, how you carry yourself and simply how you can express yourself through different creative outlets.
For me, the fascination comes from observing people – how they are influenced by their environment and surroundings. From around the age of 12, I carried a sketch pad with me to illustrate the various ideas, shapes, colours, textures, emotions and possibilities that I came up with. I used to design dresses for my friends inspired by their personalities. The small things that differentiate people from each other fascinate me – I approach clothes in a similar way…the beauty of each garment can be found in the attention to detail.
What is your biggest hurdle building a brand today? What is it like being a fashion designer in South Africa?
It is really difficult to be a designer nowadays simply because there are so many brands competing. For me the biggest struggle has been the manufacturing of my collection – the constant struggle to source the same fabrics (as used for the samples).
South Africa is filled with so much diversity, creativity and inspiration – this makes it both challenging and exhilarating at the same time. Finding affordable sample and manufacturing companies to ensure I can keep my price points within an affordable price bracket, to cater for the South African market, without compromising on the quality or design is a challenge. Manufacturing and resources might be limited in South Africa which can be frustrating at times but also helps you to think outside of the box and forces you to find creative ways to solve everyday problems. Developing a creative way to approach obstacles can result in original creations with beautiful details, which you might not have given much thought to if all resources were available.
What do you think about fashion today?
I think nowadays there is a lack of diversity. Fashion has become more commercial and fast paced than ever before. There is a lot of competition in the industry and many people are willing to sacrifice quality and creativity in order to change their wardrobe every season. Fortunately there is also great interest towards young designers.
What is your fashion philosophy?
I appreciate the diversity and the mixing of various styles and trends to create your own style. It is not all about the price tags, brands and current trends, it is about you. For me, fashion is a medium to enhance your personality – a tool that should be used or adapted to express who you are.
What inspired this line?
This collection can best be described as practical and comfortable clothing – layered and styled in an effortless way. The silhouettes are relaxed, soft and draped with roomy, romantic volume and attention to the finest details.
The nomadic lifestyle has always been an underlying source of inspiration to my brand – captivated by the raw beauty of fierce nomadic tribes/cultures and the exploration of the unknown. The focus on detail, the quality and complexity of handcrafted pieces and the uniqueness of their work tells the tales of long forgotten artisans and their craft. The journey of ongoing inspiration started with the exploring of the vibrant nomadic lifestyle of the Native Americans. Therefore, a lot of weaving, plaiting and fringing can be seen throughout the collection, which adds to the organic element thereof.
Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?
I draw inspiration from anything and everything that touches my soul, challenges me, stirs an emotion in me, entices my curiosity, expands my knowledge or simply grabs my attention. From music to traveling to brief moments shared with strangers – we are surrounded by inspiration everywhere we go.
Any tips and tricks of the trade?
My advice would be to embrace knowledge and never allow yourself to believe you know everything – be open to learn from others and surround yourself with people who not only inspire you but who believe in you. It is important to learn to identify and accept your own strengths and weaknesses, by knowing this you can make the best of every opportunity, yet challenge yourself to grow.
Also, never underestimate the power of networking. By networking you meet a lot of interesting people, people you can learn from, collaborate with, and be inspired by as this could potentially open a lot of doors for your brand with amazing opportunities to move your brand forward. You might even be that person who can inspire a fellow creative or perhaps you are able to offer someone an opportunity that could mean a lot to them.
Everyone’s journey to success looks different and that’s what makes it so exciting. Therefore embracing the season you are currently in and enjoying the process is as important as the end result – creativity is meant to be celebrated and enjoyed.
Get ready to get out of your box with Ricc JvR’s first collection, Neo Native, and follow her when she launches.