Ubuntu International Project is an organisation developing, promoting and exporting a new South African design led aesthetic that fuses the techniques and traditions of South Africa with South African contemporary fashion in order to create a unique South African high-end Heritage Brand.

South African designers, Stiaan Louw, Heni Este-Hijzen and Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa Knitwear are heading to London to show at London Fashion Week as part of the Ubuntu International Project.

Scheduled to show at the Vauxhall Fashion Scout on Monday September 19, 2011 at 10:45am, this will be a debut for the three South African designers and is intended as the start of three year programme aimed at nurturing and promoting South African talent on the international stage. “The reason we chose these three designers is they represent the new South African look that is coming through,” says Errol Hendrickse of Ubuntu. “Within their work traditional influences are evident along with a particular heritage aesthetic that translates as a brilliant new fresh aesthetic".

"One that is not geographically confined and that can be African but Eurocentric at the same time.” Hendrickse, originally from South Africa, and now living in London, started Ubuntu two years ago with Theo Omambala as an initiative in which to grow talent from emerging markets across the globe. “We realised there was a gap within the market in terms of a SA design aesthetic,” says Hendrickse, “The world is desperate for a new design aesthetic as everything is so diluted on the global creative stage.” The show on the 19 September will be proceeded by an intimate showing at South Africa House on Friday 16 September.

Hendrickse is adamant that this trip is not about making sales. It is about introducing these three chosen designers to a larger fashion industry.
Labelled a “talent goldmine” by Vogue.com Vauxhall Fashion Scout continues to attract the crop of the fashion industry looking for the 'next best thing'.

Peter Pilotto, William Tempest, Felder Felder and Louise Amstrup all launched at the Vauxhall Fashion Scout shows. “Vauxhall is very much a soft launch,” adds Hendrickse. “Remember this is a long term plan. When we come back next year, we‟ll ask the designers to put together a pre-Olympics collections so they become part of the cultural ambassadors for the new South African look. Each season their aesthetic will become stronger, their finishing more perfected so that when we show in Paris, they will have that perfect finishing and finer details that
are so necessary for the Paris catwalk".

“By the time we get to New York at the end of the third year, they will be incredibly dedicated and focused on the commercial element. By then they will already have set up SME manufacturing in this country.”

The initiative is being funded from both the private and public sector and long term aims to engender sustainable employment in South Africa. All three of the designers are working on eight strong looks that will sit alongside each other.

Stiaan is updating and perfecting some of the pieces from his Johannesburg Fashion Week collection earlier in the year, Heni is working on a collection entitled “Black & White” that is inspired by the Ndebele tribes and Laduma is known for his interesting Xhosa inspired knitwear. “I'm naturally excited and happy to have been selected, but would like to approach showing and the collection with a 'sober' frame of mind knowing that it is merely an introduction to the fashion week framework in London,” says Stiaan Louw.

“Considering that it is a introductory showing and not focused on retail I would like to use this opportunity to compare my product, fabric selection and production methods to what is on offer by independent brands at LFW. I have also made contact with a potential representative for the brand in London recently and this is an opportunity to expose them to a South African produced menswear offering, and physically showing them product as opposed to images. I have no illusions about export or the level of design in London and see this as a starting point to gauge the market there and improve my product.”