DESIGNER FOCUS: PICHULIK
Was there a particular moment that made you decide you wanted to work in fashion?
There was no direct moment per se. It is less about working in “fashion” as an industry but rather using embellishment and apparel to tell stories.
Who do you admire in the industry?
Miuccia Prada and the Rosita Missoni.
Do you think you have a responsibility as a designer to respond to the social and political issues of our time?
I think one needs to be accountable and make considered decisions around how you make things and who they affect in your value chain. Political statements for mere statement sake, I find limiting - I think action, creating new ways of doing business and sharing stories, kinder considered and inclusive more impactful.
In your opinion, what’s the problem with fashion today?
I think it is homogenous, trend-driven, and reductive. It is constant iterations of each other and programmed to make us all look the same.
How has your relationship with clothing, whether that be purchasing, styling, and so forth, changed with you designer eye?
Because I am primarily a jewelry designer, I focus my attention on accessories - interesting shoes, embellishments. With our womenswear brand collab #pichulikbynadya with Nadya von Stein, I pay attention to fabric, and how form, fit and colour affect your sense of self. I love hemp, linen ,and silks, and fabrics that feel sensual and authentic.
What are the trials and tribulations of being an emerging designer?
I think access, especially coming from southern Africa. Not just exposure, but commercial access through the showroom and retail platforms. Also, a lot of the payment terms of desirable retailers are not supportive of smaller brands, they are long and mean that young brands carry their working capital and take big risks.
What do you feel are the most important ingredients in building a brand?
Endurance, clarity, and authenticity in visual voice, having the right team and community supporting you, and cash flow support.
How do you balance your creative vision with the harsh realities of the fashion industry?
I think often commerce breeds innovation. Essentially PICHULIK is designing things for our women to wear in the world. So we need to listen to what these women want, it is a dialogue. That said, it is super important not to just be driven by the audience. You still have to find meaning, creative expression, and purpose through what you design.
Tell us any anecdotes about the making of your last collection.
I just finished our SS20 Plenty collection. It was inspired by the counter-culture Tropicalia music and design movement that was in reaction to the Brazilian militarism in the 70s, and how that holds many parallels to South Africa. The collection felt very current with Jair Bolsonaro's impact on the Amazonian fires, and also what has been happening in South Africa with the femicide war against women. Both Brazil and South Africa seek answers to handle huge socio-economic turmoil in post-colonial, multicultural contexts.
How do go about choosing your materials and manufacturers?
We handcraft and assemble all in our studio in CapeTown. We filter our procurement with a focus on local, women-owned, and as sustainable as we can. We are consistently trying to further better our packaging and value add process on these precedents.
Tell us a bit about how you run your business.
PICHULIK began with no seed capital and has organically and sustainably grown bit by bit. We are people-focused, and consider what are impactful elements for our employees such as flexible hours and additional leave.
What’s your take on the advent of commerce via social media?
I think it is democratizing the retail chain. It is giving brands direct access and accountability to their customers and also breaking down the traditional hierarchy that maintained the power in the hands of the elite and established. It is also opening up space for micro trends and communities which appreciate difference and make brands accountable to their audience.
What makes a design compelling?
The resonance it holds. The innovation and opinion it embodies - this does not have to be political, it can also be personal or storytelling in nature.
What would be your dream collaboration scenario?
I would love to collaborate with my three favourite Italian brands: Marni, Prada, and Missoni.