As a third-generation tailor, fashion is in Lebanese designer Cynthia Merhej’s blood. She founded her label Renaissance Renaissance in 2016 and, since then, each of the brand’s exquisite, couture-inspired pieces have been crafted in Merhej’s native Beirut.
“My family’s fashion legacy initially put me off pursuing a career in the industry. I’m quite rebellious, so the fact that my mother was always encouraging me [to design] really deterred me. I wanted to explore other mediums, so when I eventually came back to fashion it was on my own terms. I’d define my aesthetic as romance for modern, irreverent women; no matter the season, glamour is always relevant. When you are aware of the brevity of life – something that I believe Lebanese people are particularly attuned to – you understand the need and urgency to make the most of every day, and dressing up is a big part of that. Now, more than ever, women want to create precious moments that make them feel special.”
Collaboration is at the heart of Lukhanyo Mdingi’s process, with the South African designer working exclusively with skilled artisans and local communities in Cape Town to create his collections. This year, his unique and equitable approach saw Mdingi nominated for the illustrious 2021 LVMH Prize and awarded joint winner of the Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
“The idea behind Lukhanyo Mdingi – the label that my team and I have created together – is to produce pieces that have a sense of honesty and integrity. Our collections blend artisanal craft with modern refinement, and we strongly believe that there is a sense of spirit bestowed by human hands. It brings a particular kind of quality that is woven into the fabric of all our pieces; purpose and intention are integral to everything we do. Working alongside skilled craftspeople who help bring our designs to life has allowed for a paradigm shift: in our world, fashion isn’t just a means to create clothes, but rather a means to create opportunities and a platform for all.”
We strongly believe that there is a sense of spirit bestowed by human hands. It brings a particular kind of quality that is woven into the fabric of all our pieces; purpose and intention are integral to everything we do”Lukhanyo Mdingi
Established in 2016 by political-science student turned designer Jameel Mohammed, fine jewelry label Khiry Fine has quickly amassed a cult following thanks to its distinctive Afro-futurist designs. In the process, Mohammed has shaped the luxury landscape, ensuring it will not be exclusively informed by Western traditions and culture.
“Khiry’s aesthetic is influenced by shapes and themes that recur in the global African diaspora. As an artist, I seek to engage not just with the aesthetics of my work, but also with the societal themes and processes that give rise to it. I think the world of fine jewelry is changing; customers are finding and resonating with work from a broader swathe of designers than ever before. Seeing tastemakers and leaders like Michelle Obama wear my designs reifies my initial aspiration for this brand, which was to create a coalition of like-minded folks committed to supporting one another in advancing their ideals about society.”
As an artist, I seek to engage not just with the aesthetics of my work, but also with the societal themes and processes that give rise to it”Jameel Mohammed