The designer who dresses the stars

OM Style Avenue AW 17-31424

Media personality Bonang Matheba wears Orapuleng Modutle Style Avenue.

THE glamorous dresses worn by the likes of Bonang Matheba, Terry Pheto and Nandi Madida on red carpet events takes a lot of work.

They begin in the imagination of talented designers, who use celebrities as muses or brand ambassadors. South African couture designer Orapeleng Modutle is currently in the forefront when it comes to dressing some of our leading ladies for his label, Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue.

“I get to dress some of the country’s top celebrities, an opportunity that is not afforded to many young designers,” says Modutle

“I have always wanted to dress Bonang Matheba because she is one of the best dressed red carpet queens. I have dressed all the celebrities that I have wanted to dress locally such as Ayanda Thabethe, Minnie Dlamini.


OM Style Avenue AW 17-30106.jpg

Artist Nandi Madida

“The women that I dress form in line with the product that I deliver and they get attracted to the quality of the style that I deliver. It’s really knowing how to stick to your clientele and quality and craftsmanship is also very important,” he says.

“Internationally, I would love to dress Jennifer Lopez and Kendall Jenner.”

I met Modutle before his African Fashion International Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week Cape Town showcase.

The collection, titled “Rose Garden Wedding”, features subliminal gowns in sequins, chiffon, satin, structured corsets.

The designs are complemented by embellishments such as flowers, pearls, lace, feathers and hats by Anita Ferreira designs. The theme of the collection says

“Royalty is getting married and they have invited their elite family members and friends. The collection caters for the attendees, the mother of the bride and bridal party”. 

OM Style Avenue AW 17-31728.jpg

Modutle said: “It’s a day of fun, people are wearing hats, butterflies on their hair and big gowns… taking couture to another level.

“Our previous collection was very playful, our clientele was very young, she wore crop tops and shorts.

“The couture fashion scene in SA still need to grow, we need to educate our clients about the design and production process, the craftsmanship and the behind-the scenes that goes into creating a couture garment.

“Some of my favourite international designers that I look up to for inspiration includes Tom Ford and Elie Saab and locally Gavin Rajah and Gert-Johan Coetzee are amazing at couture,”he says.


Modutle, the Tshwane University of Technology fashion graduate, developed his love for fashion and attention for details while watching his mother and grandmother do needle work.

OM Style Avenue AW 17-31229.jpg

“I used to watch them hand stitching and that caught my attention from when I was about eight- years-old – that’s when I also developed my love for sketching.

“The first item I made in varsity was a pencil skirt, which took me a whole two weeks to make. My big break came when I interned with Khensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherie. That was an amazing experience and she is the pillar of where I am now.

“I learnt a lot about how she ran her business. She taught me that fashion is not all about the glitz and the glam,” he says.

OM Style Avenue AW 17-32011

Describe the Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue woman?

“She is between the ages of 20 and 60. She is a romantic. She exudes opulence and luxury. She is the kind of woman that will wear a pencil skirt with a slit paired with with a feather jacket to work,” he says.

OM Style Avenue AW 17-30358.jpg

His advice for aspiring designers:

“You need to learn the skill of design, your talent is not enough. Once you know the skill get an internship. It’s very important because you will be working with other people who have been in the industry longer than you.”

OM Style Avenue AW 17-32131.jpg

● Connect with Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue on instagram @Orapelengmodutle.

Photography Credits: Creative direction: Rich Mnisi. Styling: Bee Diamondhead Photographer: Apart Verrips. Hats: Anita Ferreiradesigns. Make-Up Artist: Muzi Zuma. Flowers: Amor Flowers South Africa.

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58

Read more of my work at

This piece was first published in Top of The Times on May 29 2017.



Floral Couture


FLOWER HEAD: Model Samira Ako Manieson of Full Circle Models, who is wearing a dress by Jacques LaGrange Couture. Her makeup is by M.A.C Cosmetics. Pictures by  Cindy Waxa. 

Flowers remain a central element for most spring and summer collections. For many years fashion designers have taken inspiration from flowers to create dreamy haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces.

Seen on runways, florals are no longer restricted to prints on garments: designers are complementing their designs with extravagant headpieces as seen recently at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Joburg.

This is currently a big trend, here at home as well as abroad. Designers such as Dutch luxury fashion house Viktor & Rolf impressed with their 2015 spring and summer collection that styled with elaborate floral embellishments.

Viktor &  Rolf.jpg

Viktor & Rolf impressed with their 2015 spring and summer collection that styled with elaborate floral embellishments.

Stellenbosch floral stylist extraordinaire Alwijn Burger says it is about time
that flowers were no longer reserved for just the garden or for weddings. Known as Blomboy, Burger has made a name for himself in the niche market as the talent behind surreal floral arrangements worn as headpieces and beautiful arrangements at events of all kinds.

In the past months, he has collaborated with a number of fashion designers, creating floral arrangements that add pizzazz to their showcases. Burger’s work is not limited to flower
accessory pieces for women, he also makes quirky pieces for men.

Alwijn Burger 6935 (1).JPG

I meet Burger at couture designer Jacques LaGrange’s studio in Sea Point where he meticulously creates an extravagant headpiece to go with a daring thigh-baring metallic
dress by LaGrange.

Working on leggy model Samira Ako-Manieson of Full Circle Model Management, he uses tropical leaves and calla lilies to create a leafy and dramatic piece which he describes as

Since the metallic gown already commands attention, Burger had to make sure that the
headpiece did not take away from the glamorous gown.

His process is organic; taking into consideration the dress and model, he plucks and twists and the floral piece comes to life effortlessly. 

The entire process takes just under 15 minutes.

“It’s about time that the meeting of fashion and flowers is becoming a big thing. Flowers have always been the Cinderella of the accessories: they have not been given enough prominence.

Alwijn Burger6906 (1).JPG

“Also I think we take flowers for granted as we are used to having them in our gardens. We tend not to appreciate them as much. However, we are catching on to the international trend where flowers are a timeless sort of thing… I hope the trend is here to stay.

“Instead of wearing your usual hat or fascinator that will cost you hundreds of rand, why not do a floral fascinator or piece? It’s not expensive; the bunch of flowers that I used on Ako-Manieson were only R350 and it will make your outfit stand out more,”he says.

Although Burger’s love for flowers began as a child, he fell into his now career purely by chance, after landing a job as a clerk at a flower shop in the UK, where he learnt as much as he could about flowers.

Samira  Ako- Manieson 6982 (1).JPG


“Flowers are here today and gone tomorrow… they are not an investment but meant to be enjoyed,” adds Burger.

Samira  Ako- Manieson 6991 (1).JPG

Connect at, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: theblomboy

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on November 9 2016. 


Italian flair for Madiba Shirt


The Presidential  brand is known for its luxurious, hand-painted silk batik prints and attention to detail at every level of each garment’s creation. But for the most part, it’s
known for its connection to Nelson Mandela.

Mandela made the “Presidential Shirt”, fondly known as the Madiba Shirt, world famous when he wore one presented to him by brand founder Desré Buirski following his election to office in 1994.  On Friday, Presidential embarked on a new direction with a debut women’s collection for the African queen.

The “Presidential Queen” AW17 collection, together with their latest menswear range, was unveiled at SA Fashion Week (SAFW) in Joburg’s Hyde Park Corner. Collaborating with Italian- born designer Pietro Giannuzzi, the presentation included 35 looks designed and made in South Africa.


The intricate detailing of the embellishments, beadwork and embroidery on each garment was impressive, as models walked down the catwalk in exquisite gowns, bomber and biker jackets, kaftans, pants, and silk and cotton shirts in African and Eastern prints.

The collection showed African haute couture and ready-to-wear pieces could be mixed and matched separates or worn as sets.

Speaking after the show at a gathering of the Presidential team and special guests, brand founder Desré Buirski explained how Presidential was evolving to cater for men and women while sticking to its original aesthetic.


“I am so proud and so excited to be working with Giannuzzi… he is taking the brand to the next level. He is inspired by the brand and the history of the shirts being connected to the history of Madiba,” says Desré Buirski

“What is amazing is how he has managed to use our fabrics, not only combining Eastern fabrics with African, but also that he has brought in his Italian skill of design,”she says

“As much as he is proud to be associated with the brand, we are proud to have
him on board with us. The existing team will remain and the heart of the shirts will remain. However, as we grow we will add new collections;

“We are so proud that we can represent the country in such a beautiful way. We have been asked for years to produce womenswear and I never really wanted to do shirts for women as it was going to be too much of a duplication;

“We felt that this was the right time as we had Giannuzzi on board to bring in the Italian flavour with our fabrics, beaded details… the collection is absolutely stunning,” says Desré Buirski.


About his involvement, Giannuzzi says that being part of the already established brand as they embarked on a new journey and being entrusted with the task of producing the brand’s first women’s collection had been a huge honour.

“I was very proud to be asked to be part of the team and to design the ‘Presidential Queen’ collection. Before Presidential used to sell only shirts and now you can find jackets, dresses… It is a brand that is evolving;

“It is becoming younger, but is still inspired by the past and the great man Mandela,” says Pietro Giannuzzi.

Another milestone for Presidential is the bulk of their production is now being done by a local factory, thereby playing a big role in supporting the local fashion industry.

“Presidential Group took a decision to make the Presidential Shirt range in
South Africa two years ago. Before that, the shirts were made abroad, now 80 percent of the shirts are made in Cape Town at Lontana Clothing.

“Our support of the factory has ensured it has continued operations in a very challenging economic environment,” he says.

“The craftwork in our range showcases South African talent. The skills are here, they just need to be found, harnessed and given an opportunity to shine,”says Pietro Giannuzzi


Buirski adds: “What is also fabulous for us is that we are not just aiming to be a wonderful brand, we want to keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive. And in order to do that, it is not just by wearing shirts and these beautiful fabrics, but to actually create jobs by giving local
fashion a bit of a boost.

“We are still doing all the shirts and we will keep the shirts coming in all different styles and fabrics, but adding other pieces makes the collection a bit broader.

“We felt that this was the right time because the brand needed to evolve and we would really love at some point to take the brand to the rest of Africa”

“But we first had to introduce the new collection because this is the heartbeat of our home and the heartbeat of Nelson Mandela,” says Buirski.

Celebrities and fashion influencers who attended the Presidential showcase included stylist Dumi Gwebu, TV presenter Mthoko Mkhathini and a photographer from According To Jerri, who all wore printed Madiba Shirts.



Pietro Giannuzzi and Desre Buirski.JPG

The Presidential team:  Pietro Giannuzzi and Desré Buirski.

Connect with them at :Website:
Instagram: @presidentialshirt
Facebook: Presidential Shirt
Twitter: @presidentialAfr

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on September 28 2016. 

King of couture shows high style


JLG no credit

Jacques LaGrange needs no introduction.

Whether you move in South Africa’s fashion circles or are a socialite, you’ve probably admired his creations. Over the years, his meticulous attention to detail and the glamour of his garments, usually created with a touch of drama, have earned him the title “King of couture”, and his client base includes the who’s who of South African society and international socialities.


Describing himself as a “farm boy that happens to be in the fashion world”, LaGrange
grew up in Paarl and credits his mother for his creativity.

“My love for fashion was always there from a very young age. I remember during bath times I used to enjoy draping a towel around me in a fashionable way.

“I also used to drape myself in my mother’s curtains… I always had a thing for draping things,” he says.

JLG no credit 2

“When I was a little boy, I played with dolls instead of cars.I had a love for art and nice things and my mother loved to dress up.

“During those years there were a lot of parties and she used to dress up in these beautiful dresses. People don’t dress up like that now. In those days, I would tell her what looks better with what, which shoe and earrings go together… I guess I always had it in me,” LaGrange says.

A fashion design graduate from the South African Academy of Clothing Technology, LaGrange cut his teeth in the world of fashion working for couturier Errol Arendz as his personal assistant.

pic by Johann Delport 3

Picture by Johann Delport 

In 1999, he ventured out on his own with his label, Jacques LaGrange Couture.

“Working for Arendz was nice and people often ask me, ‘did you learn something
from Arendz?’ But I don’t really think I learnt that much. I learnt how to work with people because there was a lot happening on a daily basis, but a flair for fashion is something I always had,” says the designer, whose first creation was a wedding dress
with a panelled corset and bead-encrusted neckline.


Online encyclopaedia Wikipedia describes “haute couture” as a French word for “high fashion or high dressmaking”. It further says it is high-end fashion that is constructed by hand from start to finish, made from high quality, expensive, often unusual fabric and sewn with extreme attention to detail and finished by the most experienced and capable sewers, often using time-consuming and hand-executed techniques.

LaGrange agrees.

His designs are constructed with luxurious and quality fabrics, sourced from the world’s most respected fabric manufactures such as Jakob Schlaepfer in Switzerland and Solstiss in Paris.

pic by Johann Delport 5

Picture by Johann Delport 

Valentino, Chanel and Dior are some of his favourite haute couture masters.

“Haute couture is a way of putting a garment together, the techniques, the fabric choices, the styling, the proportions… it’s like being an architect.

“You get fashion and you get couture, and I always say, couture is a lifestyle’,”
says LaGrange.

“Couture is made for the body. The fabric, workmanship and proportions are key. Not a lot of people do couture because it’s very expensive.

“I could afford to do things differently when I started out because I had highend

“Whereas new designers are struggling more because they haven’t really found themselves and their signature… I always knew what I wanted to do,” he explains.

“Real couture takes months to create if everything is done by hand. It can take up to six months, which makes it very expensive.

“The word ‘couture’ today is so widely used and most people don’t understand it. It’s a lifestyle because you can’t wear couture every day. I always say that couture is not a party dress, it’s a lifestyle,” says LaGrange.


pic by Johann Delport 1

Picture by Johann Delport 

He describes his typical client as an elegant, confident, strong and powerful  woman who knows who she is, what she wants and who is not afraid to draw attention to herself. The demand for his services is great, with a stream of orders coming in throughout the year, says LaGrange.

“I am a very simple and plain designer, but I am over-the-top at the same time. Sometimes we have to work quickly to produce a garment which is not really
proper couture, but an illusion”

“Also, if you do proper couture, the dress may appear outdated, so we cheat here and there to make it more modern.

“Sometimes we do very simple wedding dresses and sometimes over-the-top extravagant gowns. I enjoy the whole process, from the start to seeing the end product;”

pic by Johann Delport 2

Picture by Johann Delport 

“It gets frustrating sometimes, but I love doing things such as the beading by hand. I have dressed a lot of people over the years, high-end people who live the couture lifestyle”

“ I never planned on being a wedding designer, but I did one wedding dress and everyone loved it – and they kept calling.

“I always say that if you dress a bride and you don’t get clients from that wedding,
then you are doing something wrong. All my referrals are by word-of-mouth. I am fully booked and I don’t even have a website. I am active on social media, but I don’t really believe that’s how you get business”

pic by Johann Delport 4


“It’s nice to be out there, but that is not how my clients work… They fly in and out
for consultations, from Paris and all over Europe…

“We create beautiful garments that people sometimes think are done by a European designer. They come here wanting one dress, but they leave with three”

“A lot of people ask me, ‘what awards have you won?’ I have won a couple, but it’s not the awards that make you famous, it’s the clients.

“You can have great people writing about you in magazines and you can do TV interviews – all of that is great for a brand, but at the and of the day they are going to pay for your lifestyle,” says LaGrange.

Jacques Le Grange

Designer Jacques LaGrange

This article was first published in the Cape Argus on May 24 2006.