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Front Row with Amanda Trom of VNTU

Image courtesy of Amanda Trom

Front Row with Amanda Trom of VNTU

My next FRM interviewee is an emerging fashion designer with the entire world seemingly at their hands. Amanda Trom is a South African-Zambian fashion designer currently based in Cape Town whose design work–with their adorned brand VNTU–warranted my attention a few months ago.

To be entirely specific, it was at a fashion awards ceremony which we were both privy to being invited to as nominees, for different categories, in which I first heard the name 'VNTU' & engaged with the story of the brand. And I haven't been able to forget about the brand ever since.

For me, what characterises VNTU as a brand, as well as what immediately stood out to me are the graphicshow they can communicate to their customer using a specific curated visual language by Amanda herself. It's the visual stimulation I get from the mixture of colours, fonts & more all intertwined into the clothing. Bespoke visual graphics woven into the story of a Pan African brand. Asking Amanda more about this during our interview, she mentions: "I'm all about communication and storytelling. Graphic design is the most efficient way of non-verbal communication; colours, fonts & textures and you've gotten a message!"

In her short tenure as a professional designer thus farAmanda has already managed to showcase a VNTU collection at South African Fashion Week (SAFW) last year, as well as win “Best New Fashion Film” for their Graduate fashion film 'Origin AW23' at the Fashion film festival Milano in Italy. This simply bears testament to the rich visual code she has begun creating for VNTU and how it resonates to a local and international audience.

So enjoy this ensuing interview which allows us to take a peak into the world of VNTU! Inspirations behind Amanda's design process & why she opts for natural fabrics & upcycling deadstock first, what it means to be an ethical designer within today's fashion ecosystem, looking ahead at 2024, and more!

Would you mind introducing yourself and including a short description of what you do?

AT: My name is Amanda Trom. I am a fashion designer and creative director. I like to think of myself as someone using fashion as my form of communication to the world.


What are you most inspired by when it comes to your design process?


AT: The world around me inspires my design process. I observe society and the world, analyse it or think about my own life experiences and feelingsand then try to translate that into colour, texture and eventually designs. I want my designs to be a reflection of what I'm thinking or feeling.


Could you tell me a bit more about VNTU? What's the inspiration and meaning behind the brand?


AT: When conceptualising the brandI really wanted to incorporate all facets of my life. I'm a South African-Zambian. Born & raised in Cape Town and I wanted my brand to reflect that texture. Pan African elevated streetwear. The name came from my Zambian dad, in his language "Vinthu" means light. I obviously had to modernise it into "VNTU"but VNTU means light and this was how I intended on showcasing my light to the world.

Immediately what stands out to me about VNTU are the graphics. The visual stimulation I get from the mixture of colours, fonts & more all intertwined into the clothing. How would you describe the relationship between Graphic design and your fashion design work?


AT: I'm all about communication and storytelling. That's one of my favourite things about fashionthe process of creating a narrative, reflecting the times and ushering in different eras. Graphic design is the most efficient way of non-verbal communication; colours, fonts & textures and you've gotten a message! You can look at something and we've just communicated, you're literally going to proceed and form an opinion. I love that interaction.

What mainly informs your decisions with regards to materials & silhouettes?


AT: When it comes to materials, I start out by making responsible design choicesnatural fabrics, deadstock or upcycling random things. When it comes to silhouette, I've come to believe that fashion is meant to be worn and enjoyed outside of a runway or editorial set. You'll never find super exaggerated silhouettes or anything intending on overpowering the wearer. I believe that the clothes and the wearer need to exist symbiotically.


As a fashion graduate–how do you feel the experience has shaped the trajectory of your overall craft today?


AT: I think in the age of instant gratification and overnight viral successfashion school forced to work in a very methodical manner. Really allowing myself to go through the process. I don't feel pressured to churn out anything. I know and understand the importance of laying foundations and putting time and energy into projects. In fashion school you come to understand fashion as a labour of love and you appreciate the small details.


You also debuted at SA Fashion Week last year! An incredible achievement for a young designer and I loved your collection. Could you tell me more about the overall experience?


AT: The experience was surreal. The level of production and organisation skills was exceptional on the side of the SA Fashion Week team. Beyond that the experience was really reaffirming. I graduated from fashion school 6-months prior and I was really struggling to fully step into my identity as a "fashion designer"sounds really weird but I just felt like an ex-fashion student for a while. So having that moment and showcasing with so many talented designers really gave me the confidence to fully step into my identity as a fashion designer.


I also saw on your Instagram that your graduate film won “best new fashion film” at the Fashion film festival Milano in Italy last year! Insane. How did the entire experience feel?


AT: It was actually insane! That was my graduate film. I spent a lot of time and energy on it because I knew that this was my introduction to the industry. I really wanted to enter the industry proud of my portfolio but I never anticipated it going that far. For your work to cross oceans and win an award is crazybut again reaffirming that I was doing something right.

According to you–what does it mean to be an 'ethical designer' within today's fashion ecosystem?


AT: I think to me, being an ethical designer is to design and create without anyone or anything being taken advantage of. Not taking advantage of your consumer by creating poor quality clothing that won't last a lifetimeand not taking advantage of those who make your garments. Ensuring that you limit the negative impact your clothes have on the environment and community. We should really all be able to enjoy fashion and sustain ourselves and our families; this goes for everyone across the supply chain.


What are some of the things you are looking forward to in 2024?


AT: I'm looking forward to growing as a person and a creative. Last year was my first year outside of a structured environment and it was exciting seeing myself forge my own path. I'm going into 2024 a lot more confidently and I know that the best is yet to come. I never hold onto previous accomplishmentsI'm always thinking of ways to grow and innovate, constantly raising the bar for myself.

Image courtesy of Amanda Trom


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