We’ve got something exciting going on at Tank and Because HQ. Starting today inside our gallery space, we’ll be hosting the inaugural UK event by travelling showroom Merge Za, showcasing five of South Africa’s brightest fashion talents. Besides the main exhibit – displaying collections by Rich Mnisi, Lukhanyo Mdingi, SELFI, Wanda LePhoto and Yongn & Layzee – there will be panel discussions, guest speakers and parties throughout the five-day event.

Today (from 3 to 5 pm), a talk on “Growing Fashion Businesses” will be held while on Monday (from 3 to 5 pm), there will be an in-depth panel talk on “Sustainability in a Fashion Context” with speakers including Orsola de Castro, Anna Freemantle, Rose Sinclair and more.

Read on to get better acquainted with these talented young designers who are inspired by everything from the grace of a giraffe to the modernity of Raf Simons.

Rich Mnisi

Rich Mnisi launched his eponymous label in 2014 – the same year he won the Africa Fashion International Young Designer award. Pop culture and his South African heritage loom large in Mnisi’s work, not least his Spring Summer 2016 collection. Featured in the showcase, Mnisi’s newest range is all about “giant yet graceful” giraffes from his home country, with pieces featuring elongated sleeves and unexpected volume. But his references are never literal. “Some people have this stale notion of an ‘African’ aesthetic but they forget we are a very diverse continent with more than 2,000 tribes,” he tells us. “My work is about the Africa of today but also about the universal.”

Lukhanyo Mdingi

Purgation, Taintless, Tactile…No, this is not the name of a 19th century Russian literary epic. In fact, they are the titles of Lukhanyo Mdingi’s latest collections and a telling reference to Mdingi’s attitude towards fashion. For him, clothing carries a message, and his main concerns lie in the infrastructure of the fashion industry, including labour distribution, textiles and machinery. For his Spring Summer 2017 collection, Mdingi takes a “nostalgic African narrative” with separates including indigenous African iconography and print work.   


SELFI isn’t about being serious. Designer Celeste Lee Arendse’s Cape Town-based label is all about fun prints, soft tailoring and comfort – daytime clothes you would happily reach for again and again. There are male and female versions of garments using the same fabric and prints, as well as unisex pieces. Arendse says her clothes are only stocked in stores that share her emphasis on locally and ethically sourced products.

Wanda LePhoto

Wanda LePhoto a founding member of artist collective the Sartists, who document their lives and style in post-apartheid South Africa. LePhoto’s ready-to-wear brand is heavily inspired by streetwear, in which the designer cites “under-celebrated Black pop culture from the 1960s to 1990s” as an ongoing inspiration.

Yongn & Layzee

Anees Petersen’s cult streetwear brand Yongn & Layzee nods to surfer and rock ‘n’ roll culture with contemporary references ranging from Yohji Yamamoto to Raf Simons. “Luxurious leisure pieces” is how Petersen describes his brand. Among the pieces featured in the showroom, you’ll find hoodies and T-shirts with graphics by Cape Town-based artist Mia Chaplin.

The showcase will run from today until Monday (19th September) at Tank’s gallery space on 91-93 Great Portland Street, W1W 7NX. For more information on the programmes and exhibition, please contact hello@mergeza.co.