Exhibition of Interest

An invitation behind the veil

with Lukhanyo Mdingi

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Research, service, transparency, collaboration, community and materiality. These are the pillars governing Lukhanyo Mdingi’s practice as a fashion designer. Recipient of the 2021 Karl Lagerfeld LVMH Prize and a United Nations Ethical Fashion Initiative Alumni, Mdingi’s exhibition recently opened at THE FOURTH in Cape Town. Titled The Provenance, Part I and featured in this week’s Of Interest, we look at the impact of having access to the designer’s process.

There are two parts to Lukhanyo Mdingi’s exhibition, The Provenance, Part I: the first is an immersive installation for audiences to experience the garments for their sartorial value and the second, where works are framed and hung, makes the work’s visual messaging the centre of attention.

To offer insight into his process and practice, parts of his studio seem to be replicated in the gallery. There are notebooks filled with handwritten inscriptions and detailed sketches. A photobook with reference images, material swatches, and post-it notes sits open. Clothing racks are populated with labeled patterns. For a storyboard, unframed photographs are mounted onto a wall salon-style. Giving the feeling that can often only be accessed through private studio visits, the installation allows audiences to intimately engage with his practice. Steps away, enclosed by a wall of sheer pink curtains, a floating clothing rail holds a selection of garments marking the output of the designer’s process.

When studied for its visual message, The Provenance, Part I, especially the framed photographs and weaved artworks, allow audiences to consider Mdingi’s work beyond the purpose of adorning the body in beautiful, ethically made clothing.

Tightly packed into the weft, the warp starts to bring Ighshaan Adams’ approach to tapestries to mind. For Desired Lines, his show at the Art Institute of Chicago, Adams featured more than 20 tapestry installations and soft sculptures to examine migration, spatial segregation and community building. To make the work, Adams looked at the neighbourhood he grew up in on Google Earth. Zooming into the informal paths created by pedestrians taking more expedient routes to get to their desired destinations, the artists investigates the domestic details from a distance. In isolating the weaved tapestries from their garment state we start to see cartography, navigation and Mdingi’s centering of cross-continental collaboration materialised in the work.

Seen shortly after visiting Shocking! The Surreal Worlds of Elsa Schiaparelli at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, Mdingi’s exhibition affirms the necessity of documenting one’s thoughts, ideas, process, research and negotiations. Removing the veil to reveal the intricacies and narratives that inform the garments humanises designers, expanding the public’s points of connection.

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Ruth Ige. Don't hide your glory, 2022.
Acrylic on canvas. 122 x 122cm. (© Copyright 2022, STEVENSON. All rights reserved)