Black Coffee is a South African fashion label founded in 1998 by Jacques van der Watt, a graduate of Leggatts Design Academy in Johannesburg. The fashion brand was catapulted into the fashion limelight in 2009 after winning the Mercedes Benz Art Award and has shown at South African, Berlin and New York Fashion Week amongst others. Jacques van der Watt is considered to be one of the pioneers of fashion in Post-Apartheid South Africa, where fashion became a new form of identity negotiations, self-making and various sorts of remixing.
While their meticulously constructed womenswear bears an architectural quality in its structures, the overall look remains feminine. The collections are shaped by diverse conceptual starting points ranging from matters of culture and heritage to science or contemporaneity. The design references local aesthetics and crafts – for instance Xhosa beadwork or patterns of Congolese Kuba textiles – and combines it with an intuitive, modern twist devoid of cultural clichés. Black Coffee thus provides interrogations into the possibilities of fashion to construct local identities or as chef designer Jacques van der Watt describes it:
„It was inevitable that the country’s search for a new African identity would be part of my own design process.“
This design approach particularly takes effect in the Counterpoint Autumn/ Winter collection 2010/11 and its installation-like runway show. With a catwalk reminiscent of George Braque’s art, the cocoon-shaped coats of a dusty colour palette not only quote Picasso’s iconic painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon but also translate it into a sculptural form. By questioning the alleged discovery of the so called „primitive form“ by Classic Modernism, a reappropriation of these African forms takes place and Black Coffee’s fashion became a true counterpoint.
Video: SA Fashion Week, Spring/ Summer 2013, Black Coffee.
Article by Mareike Schwarz.