Since Jacques van der Watt’s fashion week debut in 1999, Black Coffee has become one of the most acclaimed fashion design labels in the South African fashion industry. As the winner of the Cape Wool Designer Challenge at the recent SA Fashion Week A/W18 Collections, Jacques gives us an inside look at his new collection.

Black Coffee's A/W18 Collections
Black Coffee's A/W18 Collections
Image: Supplied

You recently won the Cape Wool SA designer challenge, what inspired this collection? I was inspired by ancient labyrinths. I love the idea of a single path to a centre and a single path out again and the geometries found in these old labyrinths are really beautiful.

Tell us more about your collection: What are the key pieces and what makes it different to past collections? The pom pom parka and the bell-sleeved lasercut jacket are absolute must haves. The collection is more layered than other recent ranges. The fabric combinations are more diverse. We often make use of laser-cutting but we used machine embroidery for the first time this season. The use of wool also added a new dimension. Wool is very diverse. I had fun playing with different textures and we also deconstructed some of the fabrics to create more texture.

What was the process of making this collection? The nature of the challenge required beautiful presentation drawings. I always start with drawings but these were very detailed and as a result every look was fully realised prior to cutting. The next step was cutting panels of wool and having it either embroidered or laser-cut. The laser-cut panels were then appliquéd onto mesh or sometimes another layer of wool. These processes really elevated the collection and set it apart.

Why did you decide to become a fashion designer? I started designing and making clothes in high school. It was sort of inevitable that I should become a designer.

How does the brand’s location influence or inspire the brand’s identity and seasonal designs? I often play with African themes. The Black Coffee identity is very rooted in being a South African brand.

Where does your love of geometric and symmetrical patterns come from? I’m not sure what exactly the starting point was. I’ve always been drawn to geometries and the more complex the better. I love how they envelop the body and become markings of sorts. It almost creates an armour. If clothes can’t provide the wearer with confidence then what is the point?

Describe the Black Coffee aesthetic in one line. It is ever evolving but a constant has been taking from the past and making it modern.

How does Black Coffee stay ahead in a fast-paced fashion industry? I remain curious and I like innovation. My ranges are very construction based. We usually have a specific technique tying everything together. This exploration of new techniques keeps it fresh.

What are your thoughts on slow and sustainable fashion? Does the Black Coffee brand align with any of these ideals? I believe strongly in the buy well, use less philosophy. Black Coffee garments are investment buys; timeless statement pieces that are not driven by seasonal trends.

You have always been quite selective about presenting at fashion week. Why do you choose to show some years and not others? I like to show at least once a year. I put a lot of energy into making sure a collection is very resolved so it is not always possible to show more than that. I am not concerned with the pressures of following an international seasonal calendar. Our industry is set up differently and it’s fine to find our own system.

What are your thoughts on the current South African fashion industry? As always the industry is vibrant with creative talent but the amount of viable retail outlets who support local design are limited.

Some of our favourite looks:

- Black Coffee is at 44 Stanley Ave, Milpark, Johannesburg

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