It doesn't happen very often that the most enthralling lookbook to pop into my inbox on a given day is for a wedding themed collection. Don't get me wrong, that is not at all a reflection on bridal designers, but rather because of the temptation for the teams behind such lookbooks to go for the obvious. Google the words ‘bridal lookbook’, and you’ll spot the uniformity in execution from one shoot to the next. And that is perfectly understandable, weddings are after all the most traditional of ceremonies.
However, when one comes across a wedding themed shoot that makes one look at the different clothes and characters in this most ubiquitous ritual with fresh eyes, it is quite the treat. That certainly was the case with the new lookbook for the latest bridal themed collection from Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue. Naturally, I immediately got in touch with the designer and the creative team behind the shoot.
“When it comes to my designs, I know my clients and I know what they want, but Bee and Rich really know what’s current and as I found out during the shoot, they really know how to present the collection better; I think they executed the lookbook beautifully. Designer Anita Ferreira also came through for us with her incredible hat designs which complemented the collection perfectly,” designer Orapeleng tells me when we eventually meet up, referring to the shoot’s stylist, Bee Diamondhead, and designer Rich Mnisi, who was the creative director behind the lookbook, shot by photographer, Aart Verrips. Orapeleng’s statement touches on one of my favourite topics: the potential to present fashion effectively when designers collaborate with stylists; he continues: “As a creative, one can’t do everything themselves, we need to draw on each other’s strengths. That really came through strongly for me during this shoot.”
He's been hard at work building his brand for the past four years, becoming a regular on the catwalk as well as celeb-studded red carpets, having dressed the likes of Bonang, Minnie, Nomzamo and others famous enough to be identified by their first name alone. In fact, it was last year, when both Rich Mnisi and Orapeleng were both invited to show at Swahili Fashion Week in Dar es Salaam that the idea of a collaboration came up, resulting in this shoot for Orapeleng’s A/W collection, which the designer named 'Rose Garden'. Says Orapeleng: "We base our themes on destinations, and this time we went to a Rose Garden in Italy, which we felt was in line with the trends: the floral tones, the applique and all of that.”
With that in mind, creative director Rich Mnisi got to work, “It was such an exciting project to work on because bridal is something new to me and I was really intrigued with Orapeleng's work and the way he presents it. And considering the name of the collection, Rose Garden, we wanted to create a sort of cold dreamy world with goddesses for the shoot,” explains Rich, who then invited long time collaborator Bee Diamondhead to do the styling.
“Rich came up with the creative concept, and he wanted to push it a little bit so he asked me if I could step in. After they sent me the references for the shoot I started researching ways to keep it true to their concept and the brand’s style, while presenting it in a very fresh, very 2017 way,” says Bee, “I presented some new ideas to Rich so that the collection wasn’t presented merely as a repetition of what already been seen on the runway.”
Orapeleng called on his famous clients, Nandi Madida and Bonang Matheba, to feature alongside the models: “Bonang and I have built a relationship over time, and whenever I can dress her I dress her, Nandi as well,” he says. Perhaps as testament to the team’s work, the celebrities fit perfectly into the lookbook without overpowering Orapeleng’s brand with their own very well-known brand identities. “I studied Nandi and Bonang beforehand, so I knew how far I could push the styling with each of them. With Nandi I added more details on her like the septum ring which works well with her edgier look. Bonang has a very specific aesthetic, I wanted to stick with that but also elevate it slightly, so I went for a more royal look. She is the Queen B after all,” explains Bee, “It was very important to keep true to their individual brands, while still staying honest to Orapeleng and his brand.”
With the shoot in the bag, Orapeleng is looking ahead and starting work on a number of new projects: “We’re working on our retail offering; I’m also launching a bridal salon in collaboration with Precious Tumisho Thamaga, wedding planner and founder of Precious Celebrations. We’re also preparing for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, and we’re possibly doing Lagos Fashion Week. And of course, we’ll be working with a stylist on those presentations."
Follow and get in touch with Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue on Instagram.
Creative Direction: Rich Mnisi (@rich_mnisi)
Photographer: Aart Verrips (@aartverrips_official)
Styling: Bee Diamondhead (@bee_diamondhead)
Hair: Renton Wade (@rentonwade)
Make-up: Muzi Zuma (@muzi_z)
Models: Huguette Marara (ICE Models), Tanya Nzonzimbu (ICE Models), Bonang Matheba, Nandi Madida