Androgyny is the biggest talking point in fashion right now.

Androgynous fashion or gender-neutral garments that can be worn by men and women have been on our radar for a while. The traditional lines of men versus women are blurring fast driving the shift towards open-mindedness and gender fluidity.

Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith, 17, is fronting a campaign for Louis Vuitton women’s wear line while boyish girl models are appearing at men’s fashion runway shows.

At the recently held SA Menswear Week in Cape Town, designers such as Rich Mnisi and Thebe Magugu, Mzukisi Mbane, Lukhanyo Mdingi and Deeva van der Merwe presented unisex clothing.

There were mixed reactions from audiences, some men felt that they were not yet brave enough to step out in a skirt or dress while others were ready to try some of the styles.

For Cape Town designer Deeva van der Merwe of the Merwe Mode, she has been more comfortable shopping in the menswear department for as long as she can remember.

“I feel so strongly about the androgyny and the unisex look. It’s become a huge trend now but since the beginning I have felt this way. I always shopped in the menswear department and I have had so many menswear clothing that I have bought over the years that fit me well,” says van der Merwe

“The shoes, pants and it’s not necessarily that they are big or small but it’s just the style that I like and the fit is much better. It is still difficult because the stereotype of ‘pink is for girls and blue for boys’ is still there however that is changing.

I love wearing men’s clothing I think the structure and the tailoring is much better,” she says. Van der Merwe, graduated from the Future Excellence Design Institute of South Africa (FEDISA) with a BA degree in fashion design and business management where she was awarded two of the four ceremony awards for Best Technical Ability and Most Creative Collection.

“I originally wanted to be a veterinarian (vet) but I have always been artistic…I enjoyed art and drawing. When I was accepted at FEDISA and I never looked back,” she says.

Van der Merwe did her internship at the Tom Ford Studio in London, a position many young designers would kill for.
“It was an incredible daunting experience. An almost sterile environment compared to colourful South Africa, I expected it to be this wild and arty place. It was great working for him… the experience made me fall in love with tailoring and menswear,” explains van der Merwe.

The Merwe Mode aesthetic is well tailored and structured Androgyny lines complimented by subtle prints.
“Our aesthetic is clean. It’s Androgynous. It’s tailoring and there is a subtle quirkiness within each garment. The colour palettes are very feminine, strong and confident but each piece is also blank enough for you to use as a canvas and style your own way,” explains Van der Merwe.

“My heart does lies in custom wear. We started with simple street wear, good fitting and fun stuff and progressed to custom wear. I am a pattern maker by trade and I enjoy making patterns which can be on the laborious side but it’s something that I genuinely love doing,” says van der Merwe.

“I am totally fascinated with creating custom made garments for people. From forming the garment on the person’s shape, really getting to know a person, to making a flattering piece that complements their personality and style. It’s a lot of work and it’s tiring but I have a lot of energy and a very, very keen interest in people,” she says.

She continues; “Designers need to lessen the quantity of their designs and concentrate on their fits. With a good fit you can keep changing fabric and patterns. You get known for your fit and style and fast fashion is impossible to keep up with.

Create impressive and unique designs that can’t be mass produced, van der Merwe says.
Inspiration, she says comes from everywhere, from picture sharing sites such as Instagram and Pinterest to the Internet.

“Running a label is very hard and time consuming but it becomes an addiction that becomes part of your life. It’s constant problem solving, making a mess into your beauty. It’s really mistakes evolving into elements of perfection. It’s rolling with the gun shots…I wouldn’t change it for anything,” adds van der Merwe.

* You can find Merwe Mode at Convoy at The Bamboo Centre in Melville Johannesburg or at their studio in Cape Town.

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Categories: Fashion