A muse is defined as a person or personified force who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist. In reality, there is often a much stronger connection between an artist and their muse; their lives intertwine and overlap, they find energy in each other and the artist’s work has a noticeable influence. A few of the Woolworths StyleBySA designers have detailed the people behind the inspiration for their upcoming AW18 collections.

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Wanda Lephoto

The Wanda Lephoto label, a part of the multidisciplinary creative collective The Sartists is spearheaded by two designers: Wanda Lephoto, its namesake, and Kabelo Kungwane.

The pair met their muse, Don, through mutual friends and social media. Despite being older than Don and his friends, Wanda still finds inspiration in their hardwork and creativity as he states:

“Their drive to succeed and their courage is something that fuels my dreams,” says Wanda Lephoto

Wanda and Kabelo are driven by Don’s work ethic and vision. His youthful energy evokes nostalgia, reminding them of their own journeys and the eagerness for learning that has helped them to succeed. They know that success is borne of humility and it is Don’s approach to progression that they take cues from when navigating stumbling blocks. As Wanda explains: “He challenges me to think bigger than my current hurdles and I’m inspired by past work he has been a part of. It is exciting for me to look at.”

This connection with Don runs much deeper than just fashion and aesthetics, there are synergies of love, sports, music and culture. They also possess the same passion for progression. “We share a consciousness of our time and place and what we’d like to see change; as well as what we ourselves would love to change,” says Wanda.

The youthful spirit of their muse really shines through in this collection that is heavily influenced by Wanda’s move back home to assist his parents to realise some of their dreams and the accompanying recollections of his childhood that this has awoken from his memories. With creative influence on this collection being spurred by both a reminiscence and the witnessing of his past, he states his greatest learning being: “As hard as it is, I’ve learned that it’s never too early or too late to go after something.”

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Thebe Magugu

Thebe Magugu’s next collection for Woolworths StyleBySA is inspired by a friend he made while studying fashion design and photography at LISOF. The collection is titled Gender Studies as he explores the balances between masculine and feminine – for example, a formal men’s shirt is made feminine through the use of completely sheer material, and a masculine oversized trench coat is done in a baby pink, faux ostrich leatherette. Much like his collection, his muse fluctuates between the ends of this polar duality, as he explains: “What’s incredible about my muse is that she oscillates between the two, easily looking either vaguely handsome or super pretty on any given day. She is someone to unpack, I find her very fascinating.”

Thebe believes that the women wearing his garments possess a fearlessness. This is something that shines through in his muse and inspires more than just his designs as he elaborates: “While I’d overthink saying or doing something, she just jumps into it; often to amazing results, whether it’s in her own creative capacity as a designer and photographer or as a model.”

There is a strong element of juxtaposition the comes across in both Thebe’s muse and collection. This aesthetic of combative, contrasting elements (oversized vs scaled down, bright vs dark, feminine vs masculine) in his work is drawn from his muse’s style. “It is important to my aesthetic that I always experiment with opposites and she does it so effortlessly in her own style,” says Thebe.

Beyond fashion, they are connected by their mutual “pursuit of the new” be it in art, music or even within themselves. Thebe says that, if anything, his muse has given him the confidence to “just do it.”

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Rich Mnisi

Rich Mnisi draws inspiration from many different areas of his life. However, for his upcoming collection, his muse is very close to home. With this very personal collection, he once again embraces and enlivens his signature retro aesthetic, though this time it is heavily influenced by his own mother, who has been a constant driving force in his creative work. “My mother has always been an inspiration for all of my work, so it was only fitting to have her as my muse,” he says.

Rich’s collection is very much inspired by the sense of style of the women in his childhood, but specifically his mother – her love of pleats shows up strongly. He makes more subtle nods to his mother in textiles and flourishes of other design details.

Rich’s homage to his mother is a beautiful one of love, trust, laughter and inspiration, as he states: “She genuinely inspires me. I wouldn’t be half the man I am today without her.”

Rich draws on his mother’s teachings, quirks and influence not only when he designs but also in his daily life as he explains: “She has taught me to be patient, kind, giving, ambitious and humble. She has also taught me not to cut my nails at night; apparently, it’s bad luck.”

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Anees Petersen: Young and Lazy

Anees may be young, but he’s definitely not lazy and the same can be said of Kalo, his muse. Kalo has been a part of the Young and Lazy brand from early on. Anees met Kalo at a sale for one of his first studios about six years ago and instantly hit it off. The pair have very similar tastes and this makes it easy for Anees to design for him as he explains: “Kalo has been influencing the brand for so long and a has a deeper understanding of fashion than most of the people who are actually in the industry. He has own specific style and since we are into the same things, everything I make suits him.”

Anees attributes the success of their synergy to the fact that they are first and foremost friends, with similar upbringings, culture and taste in music. He appreciates this bond and knows it isn’t a common occurrence, saying: “The fact that we are homies first, yet still get to work together in different creative capacities is very rare. It’s genuine.”

Anees is inspired by Kalo’s strong sense of self and this shows in his designs, which he does not base on the work of others or any external influences. “Kalo has taught me to ‘just be yourself’ and not try to emulate anyone else. I’ve seen the way he represents himself and how unafraid he is to put himself out there,” says Anees.