All About: Getting to know Siviwe James from Pilgrim Clothing ZA.

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Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – IMAGE: SDR Photos

Today on GoTrendSA we have someone extremely special to hear from, Pilgrim SA Clothing Designer and Creator, SIviwe James! We explore her universe of creativity and wisdom while she gives budding designers some tips on how to flourish in the industry!

GoTrend: Siviwe, you’re the brains behind the fashion forward brand known as Pilgrim Clothing, tell us a little more about yourself and your brand!

Siviwe: I am a 25 year old crazy girl from East London. I kind of stumbled into fashion. After trying a few creative fields, I took a leap of faith and decided to apply to LISOF. It was the best decision I ever made. I finally found a space where I could socialize and learn from my fellow awkward peers who also enjoy people watching, and over analyzing every detail.

Pilgrim Clothing is the evolution of my 3rd year collection. After getting awarded Best 3rd year Range – Menswear 2014, at our annual graduation show I decided to take a break in Cape Town and do my internship with Gabriela Fraser of Gabriela Fraser Designs. I learnt so much from her during my time in Cape Town and it reinforced ideas of possibility in this industry I’ve chosen. I took another leap of faith again and decided to enter for the AFI Fastrack program. It was an experience I will never trade, as I learnt a lot and met such amazing people. These experiences forged my need to pursue design in a professional light and they gave life to Pilgrim Clothing.

Pilgrim Clothing is everything I believe men desire from their wardrobes, without feeling like their negotiating with their comfort and authenticity. It’s a brand inspired by the simple stories of ordinary Africa and its people.

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Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – IMAGE: SDR Photos

GoTrend: Where does the inspiration for your designs come from?

Siviwe: The streets of Johannesburg, as corny as that line is. With my AW15 Collection I was inspired by the ‘hobos’ of Johannesburg. After exploring Maison Martin Margiela work and his use of different deconstructionist techniques, I was inspired by the practice and how its signifiers can bring a concept to life. I applied elements of this particular design practice to my own design work.

GoTrend: We recently saw your collection on the runway at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, how did that go?

Siviwe: It was a great experience and I was amazed at the feedback from that showing. I wasn’t sure if the industry was ready for “anti-fashion” design but I was proven otherwise. Besides the response from fashion week, I am also humbled by how South African guys are keen and eager to play with my work. It’s exciting to know that I do have somewhat of an understanding for menswear and the needs of the non-conformist men whose language of clothing is constant.

GoTrend: How do you describe Pilgrim’s fashion and style?

Siviwe: Pilgrim Clothing is abstract with an idealised awkward styling. It’s experimental and theatric at times but adheres to the laws of practicality and functionality, making each item an essential wardrobe piece, life time pieces.

Its functional workwear basics with artisanal hand-crafted finishes. The overall style lends itself to the kind of man who understands international niche fashion trends which are driven by a strong need for storytelling. It’s my own whimsical idea on a non-conformist man who constantly challenges society in his lifestyle.

GoTrend: How did you develop your interest in fashion design?

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week - IMAGE: SDR Photos
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week – IMAGE: SDR Photos

Siviwe: I had an amazing art teacher in high school who never allowed me to give less of myself in my work. While taking a break from my studies she and I met up and she gave me the pep talk of my life. The biggest struggle for a creative is finding out which industry can challenge your skills while propelling you further in your career. Taking the leap to attend at LISOF worked to my advantage as I met great industry professionals and I feel like I have been groomed by the best in what I can now call MY PROFESSION. My love for fashion has come from my different interactions which great intellectuals who prove that fashion is rollercoaster. She’s demanding, she’s constantly yearning for change and innovation but she’s mostly appreciative of sacrifice.

GoTrend: What is it like working for yourself, any challenges you face? What’s the best aspect?

Siviwe: It’s a little bitter sweet right now. I think my biggest challenge is that I AM A CREATIVE and I lack that business head which executes my insanity in a profitable way at times so there is a lot of negotiating with one’s self that I am experiencing (lol). On the other hand I love it. I love the fact that I have given birth to a lifestyle I fully endorse and believe in, I know it has a place to exist in today’s world. I love my brand and I am excited by the ideas of me investing in my own dreams instead of working on someone else’s. This whole experience is a true test of perseverance and determination. The best part of this so far is the way it’s opened up different doors for me, exposing me to amazing professionals I’ve admired for years. I must say, my next goal is to meet someone who will become part of this adventure with me and help me grow this brand in the right way. I believe my journey is far from over, I just need a partner in crime.

James Nzina for Pilgrim Clothing ZA
James Nzina for Pilgrim Clothing ZA

GoTrend: Siviwe, all we’ve heard from your show is praise! Since, you’re the future of fashion in South Africa what do you foresee trend wise in the coming months?

Siviwe: Truly humbled. I can’t really say for the next months but, the way in which menswear in South Africa has blossomed beyond the conventional ‘suit and tie’ to layered styling which cross gender lines has me excited. I am amazed at this ever present need for deconstructed design, anti-fashion styling and gender neutral aesthetics. The South African fashion industry is experiencing that teen stage of experimentation and its consumers seem keen to play with us.

GoTrend: Do you have any handy advice for aspiring designers?

Siviwe: There is no such thing as failure, there is no real recipe to this so we all FAKE IT TILL WE MAKE IT. It’s the only way to enjoy this journey. The long nights are worth it when you see how people embrace your madness.

GoTrend: Where can we find you on Social media Siviwe?

Instagram – @pilgrim_clothign_za

Facebook – Pilgrim Clothing ZA

Instagram – @siviwe_james

GoTrend: Lastly, what is you mantra and more importantly where do you want to see yourself and your brand in the next five years?

I have two I.D. sized photos of myself in my wallet. At the back of the one I have written “Perseverance, persistence, courage, hard work = Limitless Possibilities” Every so often when I forget what it is I’m doing or when I wonder when the long nights will end, I remind myself of the kind of woman my mother raised, through these words.

I would love to see the brand having settled in to the South African market place as a lifestyle

Siviwe James
Siviwe James

brand which is seen an essential in any men’s lives. I would love to see my clothes featuring in editorials for prominent publications and possible have some of the items selling internationally (but those are my BIG PLANS – lol). I would to also show at South African Men’s Week but my real goals in terms of show casing the garments would be to take the unconventional and place each collection in a setting which tells the story further such as gallery spaces etc.

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