Guest Contribution by Doya Karolini
Suzaan Heyns is a South African, Johannesburg based avant garde fashion designer with a special love for highly constructed, tailored and sculptured garments that create a magnificent feeling of conceptual androgyny and steely hard edged femininity. Yes, she has always drawn inspiration from architecture and placed emphasis on quality fabrics. And so, throughout the past couple of years Heyns has established her label, while taking part at various fashion events (such as: Design Indaba ‘08, Cape Town Fashion Week ‘08, Africa Fashion Week ‘09, where she won an award for the most creative range).
Recently, Suzaan Heyns’ origami inspired show at Arise Cape Town Fashion Week (S/S ’10), has had an excellent reception and drew Yatzer’s full attention. Well, it was about time we met her and her fantastic designs.
Why do you purposely create this feeling of conceptual androgyny? Why is it so important in your designs?
Humanity is moving towards singularity in terms of aesthetics. This transpires into where the two classical stereotypes of masculinity and femininity are merging. I am intrigued by the cross over appeal of androgyny, with strong women and softer men. My design style generally isn’t whimsically pretty,but rather a little hard edged and steely.
Could it be something that helps bring balance to the femininity?
It brings balance to overt femininity, revealing a stronger edge and yet remaining sensual.
Are women today hard edged, in terms of behaviours?
As an Afrikaner living in Africa, I’ve been brought up by strong willed women, who maintain authority. This influence subliminally comes out in my work. Women have become harder edged,as within society our roles have changed dramatically.
You seem to have an unmistakeable (almost Tim-Burton-ish) sympathy for the macabre. Why? What does it add, besides theatrical, drama elements?
The macabre leans to the notion of perfection within imperfection, beauty in slight decay, something a little bit off that leads the mind to question. No design for me is ever complete -and imperfection is within nature, which is vitally inspirational. I’ve also always been inspired by subjects such as old medical instruments, 1800’s sketches, old medical etchings, Taxidermy and Edward Gorey.
If u weren’t a fashion designer, would you be an architect?
I would be a sculptor or an architect.
Is it always the design that excites you even more than the person using it afterwards?
The design process is like an organism taking on a life of its own, you get lost in the process which for me is the most important part. It is within the process that inspiration and excitement grows, and so the design is never complete.
Tell me about the Spring Summer 2010 collections. Yes it is clean, sharp and again, architectural….What is the motto behind all?
Dove + Grey + Origami was the inspiration
Dove = birds in flight.
This is the organic feel versus to the technical sharp silhouettes otherwise created. Dove grey also leads into the colour motivation.
Grey = masculine/feminine
The androgynous colour encouraging the ever existing contrasts within my designs
Origami = folds
The folding and shaping is folding the masculine and feminine onto itself.
Being summer there is lightness to the collection, however white and black combinations are used in interesting fabrics for an edgier aesthetic. Dove hats for both men and women in grey, black and white wherein the origami is not perfect for each, were used in creating new and different shapes
Which is the colour of all colours?
Flesh tone nude.
You live and work in South Africa. How hard / or easy, is it to design/produce/sell there?
I find that South Africa is very creative; we have a close design community, who helps support the independent labels. It’s easier to have small independent labels, because we’re an entrepreneurial country and we work hard to compete internationally -as we are not exposed to all kinds of design at all times. Although there is support within the design community, there is a lack of funding for small avante garde labels and therefore production becomes difficult (and the prices are higher). Research materials can be difficult to find and are expensive. The creative energy, however, is incredible and there is unique opportunity to work with skilled rural craftsmen to contemporise Africanism.
What are the demands of your South African clientele? Is it any different than the European or North American market?
A large portion of the local clientele is quite Afro centric, which is interesting (expressed usually by bold colours and ethnic prints). It serves a purpose and has a definite place within the world. My designs, although intrinsically inspired by Africa, appeal to a more Eurocentric market, which is a smaller clientele in South Africa.
What is fashion? Is it a certain need for certain people? Is it a game?
For me fashion is experimentation. It is three - dimensional, moveable architecture and sculpting. It serves as a social commentary, whereby people are able to include or exclude themselves of a certain aesthetic.
And if it is a religion, which is then its Bible?
Socialism is its bible.
Tell me your favourite ever fashion designer / model / photographer / painter / architect.
Fashion Designer - Alexander McQueen & Hussein Chalayan in their early days for their theatrical shows and experimentation.
Hedi Slimane for his menswear when he was with DIOR.
Gareth Pugh / Rick Owens / Helmut Lang / Boudicca / Preen / Yohji Yamamoto. Martin Margiela.
Model – Erin O’Connor / Nadja Auermann.
Photographer – Paolo Roversi / Helmut Newton / Inez Van Lamsweerde / Vinoodh Matadin and Pieter Hugo.
Painter - Hieronymous Bosch.
Architect - Mies Van der Rohe / Le Corbusier.
Sculptor - Jan Alexander / Sue Pam Grant.
Do you always listen to music when you draw, and if yes, to what?
Yes, I always listen to music, with each collection I seem to listen to a particular artist that makes me feel happy at the time, but that artist doesn’t necessarily inspire my collection. When I came back from Brazil in January, I listened to a lot of Brazilian music, however the collection was harder and heavier than what I was listening to. In the same way for Spring Summer ‘09 -bizarrely- Fleetwood Mac made a turn, which has no relation to the dove grey origami theme. The i-pod is always plugged in... Favourites that I always go back to range from Recoil which is a spin off from Depeche Mode, Bon Iver, Nick Cave, Gogol Bordello, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Beth Gibbons, The Black Keys, Tricky, the list can go on for miles and hours...
Would you ever even consider leaving Johannesburg?
Where do you see yourself in –say- ten years from now?
Sketching / draping / cutting and getting ready for the next collection in a studio somewhere. Pretty much the same thing, but with –hopefully- a much bigger team.
Give me the names of two you would love to dress.
Definitely precocious young ladies and eccentric grandmothers.
What should never ever be missing from a female wardrobe?
The willingness to play.
Photographer: Brett Rubin
Hair & make up: Liz vd Merwe
Art Direction: Suzaan Heyns
Gayle Olivier, Nicole Van Heerden, Katherine Bischoff
Kasiani Kosmetos @ Star
Danika Riehl @ ICE
Perpetua @ Pace
Hanko Mostert - Private
Chris Wagner - Private
Andrew Chandler - Private