COUTURE WITH A CONSCIENCE Ethicality, empowerment and elegance are all woven into up-and-coming fashion designer Lukhanyo Mdingi’s communal label, ATIFY (Africa This Is For You). The label uses ethically sourced and locally produced textiles to create soulful pieces that celebrate the spirit of African design and heritage as well as the hands of those who craft ATIFY’s apparel. For his use of fashion as a medium that not only creates fantasies, but acts as a tool for activism, Smirnoff, as part of its Change Makerscampaign, is shining a light on Mdingi. The campaign, currently running on Smirnoff’s social media platforms, highlights local and international creatives who are bringing attention to issues plaguing society and are making a positive change around them. “The aim is to encourage all South Africans to take up the trend too,” says Smirnoff Marketing Manager, Kyle Lesch. Although Mdingi has only been in the fashion industry for four years, he is swiftly rising to the top and bringing other talented locals with him. While working with a small community of ladies to produce ATIFY’s cross-cultural inspired collections, he learnt about the impact that opening trade with China has had on the local textile and clothing industry, with close to 500,000 people losing their jobs. He also realised that the majority of the women he and other designers employed were over 50, meaning that the craft of sewing and the skills used to create ornate garments would soon be lost once these women retire. Wanting to ensure a sustainable South African textile and clothing industry, Mdingi has collaborated with Learn to Earn. The organisation has a special division in Khayelitsha dedicated to developing unemployed people by providing them with training that enables them to gain sewing skills and an understanding of the production line process. Graduates are employed by the division and manufacture handmade high-quality corporate gifts, conference bags and promotional items, helping them to become self-sustaining. He has also partnered with Krafthaus, a small textile business that specialises in locally produced and ethically sourced wool fibres, to create ATIFY’s unique garments. “Our ATIFY movement aims to empower, promote and nourish our African creative landscape. We believe in the significance of using our African resources and fellow artisans as a means of retelling the intention of our communal label, which values the imperative benefits of paving a promising and richer industry through the use of story-telling and collaboration,” says Mdingi. “Mdingi is making a contribution not only to our country’s clothing and textile industry, but also to the futures of our young, emerging fashion designers – a true Change Maker,” concludes Lesch. Mdingi has represented South Africa’s ethical fashion industry in countries such as Italy and England and was featured in the award-winning series, ETHETICS, which explores and celebrates ethical and socially responsible brands around the world. To see who else has been selected as a Change Maker, visit Smirnoff’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages. Smirnoff. Everyone’s Invited. Not for Sale to Persons under the Age of 18. Enjoy Responsibly. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.