Anational: Blurring Boundaries
7th April 2016
Brainchild of Alexandra Blanc and Tameez Vayej, BLANC's AW16 Anational collection, is transforming local fashion
Despite being a relatively young collaborative brand, BLANC is changing the relationship between runway and street fashion by merging the two – transforming Cape Town’s local fashion all together.
The whole notion of liquifying boundaries is one that is deeply rooted in the label and all its conceptual thinkings while at the same time running parallel to its practicality by blurring the traditional line between high end, runway fashion and prêt-à–porter streetwear.
Combining forces whilst still remaining true to their own ideas of creativity is an alchemy that Alexandra and Tameez have mastered, the results of which Tameez likes to call ‘contemporary street art’. And when you think about it, that’s exactly what BLANC is.
“BLANC is the thrill of the unknown on a clean white page, it is stillness with a touch of madness. Menswear flowing into womenswear with no rigid divide between the two, BLANC is clothing for the individual. Fluidity is at the core of the brand’s philosophy, blending a high-end street aesthetic with timeless simplicity. Made to transcend social constructs and salute the untainted self, BLANC is a metaphor for your interpretation. It’s the kind of clothing that has your back, the kind that holds your story.” – BLANC philosophy
The duo’s first collection together, Anational, draws inspiration from different skin colours, nationalities and people, which ironically is a reflection of themselves. Coming from two different backgrounds and growing up in a pre-democratic South Africa the pair are on opposite sides of both racial and gender spectrums but despite their different identities, which they are steadfast in, when they combine their talents and transcend the boundaries created by society they become curators of a new fashion movement.
Having studied Fashion Design at CPUT, Alexandra went on to win the AFI Fastrack competition in 2013 with her graduate range, which showed at MBFW Johannesburg and Africa. In 2014, she previewed her unisex collection Trans, at MBFW Cape Town, which highlighted gender fluidity in fashion. In 2015 Alexandra went debuted Neobodies at the Bokeh Fashion Film Festival, a collection she has worked on with the help of Tameez fitting menswear.
The fit of their clothing is the most important part of production to both designers and something that brought them together. Alexandra had been creating menswear and fitting it on herself but struggled for obvious reasons. “I felt like I couldn’t really produce menswear the way I wanted to because I didn’t know how exactly it should fit on a man’s body. Its not just about the fit, its about the feeling, and I think that’s how both of us design. Our criteria for clothing to be successful is when you put it on and its that feeling that you get, when you feel good in your clothing and you feel like yourself.”
Growing up in his family’s factory, Tameez was surrounded by mass produced fashion and the business side of things was embedded in him from a young age. Working second jobs in retail, Tameez adopted a very sales-orientated outlook on fashion.
“I worked in a couple of head offices after that where they actually gave you first hand training, you learn from a buyer, you learn from a merchandiser, you learn from a visual merchandiser, you learn from a stylist – so its groomed into the companies. Something thats really lacking in fashion institutes.”
From there, the partnership happened organically. Tameez’s eye for street fashion and head for business allowed him to see the potential in Alexandra’s designs. Identifying the influencers in street fashion by the likes of the avant garde gods such as Rick Owens, Boris Bidjan Saberi and Jerry Lorenzo, Tameez is inspired by the dark street culture movement, which influences fashion with its layering and draping elements, trends which are frequenting the streets locally and globally. “We’re just trying to BLANC everything up and really make our own street wear. Our higher end pieces can be worn everyday too, a really strong element of our collection. There are a lot of designers making beautiful garments but when it comes to wearability everyday, that’s what they lack. That’s my major thing and what makes the business survive.”
The combination of fashion as conceptual art and wearability on the streets is what really makes BLANC stand out artistically, as well as as a successful business.
The merging of two opposites is a common thread in the latest collection, Anational, not only conceptually but also in a very practical sense – one of the collection’s stand-out pieces, was created by taking two photographs, liquifying them on Photoshop and then translating that to a tapestry.
This flows over into the team’s actual design process as well, with Alexandra sketching on a tablet, which can then be printed and added to and adjusted by Tameez who is able to draw on top of them.
Before digital sketching this kind of back and forth design process was done merely through explanation and discussion, so the merging of technology with traditional means of design is an element that makes the BLANC team so strong.
“This is what a lot of partners lack and where a lot of the conflicts start. Of course we have our own little debates but when it comes to work, I’ve never met someone I can work with as easily as Alexandra even though she’s so set on certain things – where the clash happens is exactly where we grow.”
“The name BLANC is seen as a blank canvas for the wearer to express their individuality, not the other way around, as is common practice within the industry. That is what we strive for.”
Alexandra and Tameez are the epitome of their brand and everything it stands for. The introspective yet innovative dynamic of the ensemble allows for the creation of evergreen, practical fashion that transcends the cookie-cutter trends plaguing street wear of late. BLANC gives meaning to and elicits an excitement in local fashion that many, including myself, have been waiting for.
PHOTOGRAPHY // Gemma Shepherd
STYLING // Alexandra Blanc & Tameez Vayej
MAKEUP // Zipho Ntloko @ The Makeup Stand
MODELS // Ross Maharage & Tarryn Bam @ Twenty Model Management