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Front Row with Skolliemuis

Our next interviewee for FRM is a stark example of the promising future of fashion design in South Africa. Dané-Mari van der Nest–better known as Dané or 'Skolliemuis'–is a second year BA Fashion student currently based in the "Mother City", Cape Town.

At FRM, we pride ourselves in promoting the next gen of African creatives and we have continually professed our affinity towards progressing the upcoming generation of fashion students & nascent Gen Z designers–and our conversation with Skolliemuis is no different.

Photography courtesy of Fedisa; Modelled by @holy___guacamole

I first stumbled (literally) across Skolliemuis's work a few months ago in-person at a fashion exhibition–astonished at the sheer ingenious of silhouettes, materials and techniques used to create her design inventions. What may go unnoticed is the unique way in which she executes on her references–usually pop-culture related, slightly tongue-in-cheek, and laced with feelings such as humour & nostalgia.

According to me, she possesses the innate ability to channel avant-garde looks inspired by Kanye West music videos & whimsical elements such as characters in The Angry Birds movie, as well as tap into her unique pool of archive pop-culture references, such as David Bowie, in order to churn out embellished designs inspired by Ziggy Stardust himself. You can easily trace this influence back within Skolliemuis's embellished creations and how enjoyable her eccentric colour pallet is–usually leaning towards vibrant colours such as electric blue, tiger orange & candy red.

Photography by @finicholss; Modelled by @sometimes.eye.wonder

Primarily using recyclable items such as cardboard, double-sided tape, metal wires & epoxy–this promising fledgling designer loves repurposing these kinds of materials into innovative silhouettes. Fabric manipulation is another element which massively inspires their design ethos and this is clearly evident through their breathtaking ability to integrate this constant "work-in-progress" mentality into their creative practice.

So enjoy this following interview with Dané as we delve into their psyche and aim to understand their creative identity, inspirations behind her work, upcoming fashion shows & collaborations with local creatives, and much more.

Photography by @skolliemuis; Modelled by @dreamyeth

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

Skolliemuis: Hi, I’m Dané-Mari van der Nest, but most people simply call me Dané or Skolliemuis (my Instagram handle). I see myself as a young creative–currently a second-year BA Fashion student at Fedisa in the Mother City, Cape Town.

Besides dedicating a significant amount of time to my university work, I enjoy any creative project I can get my hands on–especially when working alongside friends with fashion photography projects. I've been exposed to the assisting, styling, directing and modelling aspects of a fashion shoot. These are all things I want to continue exploring in the future.

In addition to my studies and creative endeavors–I’m also involved in a venture that caters to the needs of fashion students and small businesses. My current project involves me assisting my mom with her start up Vinyl sticker and Heat transfer Vinyl company, 'WACKco Vinyl'. This has given me an opportunity to use my knowledge from uni and to refer back to it when building a brand. It has been an exciting and fulfilling experience to contribute to this entrepreneurial endeavour alongside my mom.

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

Skolliemuis: I find inspiration in the journey of trial & error. It's a continuous learning experience that encourages me to persevere and find solutions. I often find myself repeating the phrase, "there's always a way to recover", which has become a guiding principle for myself and my fashionista friends. This forces us to analyse challenges and devise effective plans to overcome them. This mindset fuels my creativity and motivates me to push boundaries–knowing that even setbacks can be transformed into opportunities for growth and innovation.

Photography by @finicholss; Modelled by Talia Kannemeyer

As a second year fashion student–please tell me a bit more about your experience thus far. How has the experience of being in a fashion institution influenced your overall craft?

Skolliemuis: Since starting my fashion career at Fedisa, I’ve definitely learnt a lot about the industry and myself. I've had a quite a few sleepless nights and stressful moments over the past year and a half, but on the other hand–the feeling of accomplishment is always worth it when I see my ideas come to life. I've learnt to put my everything into my creative pursuits and setting up clear goals at the start; this motivates me to keep going!

My studies have given me the opportunity to explore different areas of the fashion industry–from working in retail to being a dresser for an industry-based fashion show. Which is all part of my journey; to discover what I really want to reach in this industry. I've gained a new sense of confidence when approaching projects and I'm eager to expand my horizons within my work.

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

Skolliemuis: At the end of my first year, we were challenged to create an Avant-Garde avatar. This is when I started to freak out with textiles and silhouettes. They play such a big role in expressing the meaning behind my creations!

When it comes to textiles, I link it with a specific feeling that I want to express through my garments. This includes colour & texture. Something that always amazes me is fabric manipulation. This is a craft that I like to use in my designs and want to explore more. I love working with my hands and the fact that I can create wearable structures–whether its from recycled cardboard & double-sided tape or metal wires & epoxy–it has opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me when it comes to silhouettes.

Photography courtesy of Fedisa; Modelled by @holy___guacamole

I've taken inspiration from icons like Kanye West's 'I like it' music video for my Avant Garde look (November 2022) & David Bowie's bold ensembles for my corsetry and shoulder piece (March 2023).

My structures bring a unique-yet-balanced sense to my overall silhouettes. As I am a very nostalgic person, I aspire to create an experience for the viewer of my work and to leave them with something to reflect upon and discuss.

Photography by @skolliemuis; Modelled by @dreamyeth

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

Skolliemuis: For me, this means making mindful choices when it comes to fabric selection and usage. To take into consideration the people around you and also, to collaborate with other creatives that are at the same 'level' as me within the industry–so we can build each other up and get inspiration from different perspectives.

As a fashion student, I work smart when cutting out pattern pieces–to lower my fabric waste. I’m a big thrifter and love to reinvent old clothes to give them a new life. Something that always excites me is how keen the creative community is to collaborate on side projects, which enriches the whole creative vibe of Cape Town.

Are there any current global fashion (or other) trends you've spotted which interest you & influence your work? If so, please elaborate.

Skolliemuis: As a young creative, I find it important to be aware of the current trends within the industry–and when approaching a new design, I always take a look at WGSN's latest uploads to ensure that I am on the right track. But from there on, I add my own signature touch to my work.

With technology always growing and now becoming a big part of the fashion industry, digital fashion has been something that influences my work. This is specifically referring to how there are no boundaries in the technological world; this is what I want to achieve with my designs through the silhouette, colour & fabric choices.

Designers like Martin Margiela, Demna Gvasalia, the late-Virgil Abloh, Kanye West and now Pharrell Williams have a hold on me–and the way they present their work with meaning always inspires me.

When it comes to trends, I would rather look at luxury fashion houses and small upcoming brands than more established "fast-fashion brands" for inspiration. I'm amazed at the craftsmanship behind every garment that walks the runway.

Photography by @finicholss; Modelled by Talia Kannemeyer

What are some of the things you are looking forward to during the remainder of 2023?

Skolliemuis: I'm very excited for the next few months as I'll be doing some collaborative work involving styling and modelling on two separate projects, with Tamsbaby and Müller Fischer.

At uni our next big event is the K-WAY x Fedisa Trade & Fashion show, where our sportswear garments will strut the runway. My group's chosen sport was snowboarding, so you better come watch the show if you wanna see it on the runway!

Fashion shows always leave me feeling proud. I see these shows as a celebration of all the hard work we've put in–and it give us the chance to share that with our family and friends.

Although I'm not completely aware of what our next big sewing assignments will be after the tradeshow, I'm eager to see what the future holds and how I can express my creativity and craft even further! Follow my journey on Instagram through my personal account @skolliemuis and my creative account @dmvdnest.creations.


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