Candice Swanepoel at Berlin Fashion Week: The model talks about design talents from her native South Africa and her own swimwear line.
The South African Candice Swanepoel is one of the most famous models in the world. She traveled to the opening show of the Berlin Fashion Week in January 2020 to support the four South African labels (Clive Rundle, Floyd Avenue, Rich Mnisi and Viviers), which showed “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents” as part of the international youth development program , You will soon find out more about the designers at VOGUE.de.
VG: Mercedes Benz presented designers from South Africa for the first time this year in Berlin. You yourself grew up there. How did you get in touch with the fashion world?
CS: I grew up on a farm when my sibling and I wore coveralls all the time and played in nature. When I was 13 I discovered Fashion TV, I watched all the shows there and was fascinated by this world, but I would never have thought of becoming part of it because I didn’t know how. When I was 15 I was discovered by a scout. I remember sitting in our kitchen with my mother and we were consulting to give it a chance. It was surreal when, after I started modeling, I came home and suddenly saw myself on Fashion TV.
VG: Did you have talents from your home country on the screen in the fashion world at the time?
CS: The world was nowhere near as connected as it is today. Little was seen of what happened in a country that did not have a major fashion metropolis. That I was discovered in South Africa was also a miracle. In the meantime, that has changed and you understand how important it is to give new talent a platform. Because that’s what matters: So many people who do wonderful things simply never come into focus because they don’t get a chance. And on the other hand, there are people like me who come from nowhere and suddenly a new path opens up for them. This group should grow. In addition, the fashion industry is oversaturated. Where should new inspiration come from, if not from countries or groups that have so far been overlooked? There is a lot of potential on the African continent that has not been exhausted for a long time and a great enthusiasm for fashion. I was in Rwanda recently and the people I saw there were more concerned with their looks than in New York City.
VG: Is there anything that unites the talents from your home country? Aesthetically, as well as ideally?
CS: It may sound like a cliché, but when you grow up in South Africa you get a special appreciation for nature, a special respect. In this sense, designers from South Africa have always been doing exactly what everyone is talking about now: having an awareness of how we do with our environment and our fellow human beings.
VG: Do you also do this yourself as a designer? In 2018 you started “Tropic of C”, a swimwear line that has now become very successful.
CS: My own designs are heavily influenced by my home, the materials and colors I grew up with. The production is sustainable and whenever there was a chance that my label could give something back to communities, I wanted to use it, but without restricting myself to South Africa. For example, there are women in small craft businesses in Colombia who produce bags for me. I think the time has come for small, transparent labels like mine or the four designers we saw at Berlin Fashion Week today. People are more aware of how they want to consume. We have all had so many years of brainwashing behind us that we were bombarded with appeals to buy this or that. Now many people want to feel a connection to what they have again.
VG: How did it come about that you founded your own swimwear brand and entered an area in which you had previously worked as a model?
CS: When I started my brand, I felt I couldn’t find swimwear anywhere that matched my ideas. I bought a lot in Brazil because the cuts were so good, but I didn’t really like the materials and colors. I was working for Victoria’s Secret at the time and when they discontinued their swimwear line I started my own. This did not conflict with my fashion career, but supplemented it. Everything came naturally because my mother was an aerobics teacher who used to make her outfits herself. So I got that from her. I also grew up near the sea and was always obsessed with beach life. When I founded the brand, I was pregnant, so I had taken something out of the whole fashion circus and had time to think it all out and set up a team to build.
VG: And how did it feel to no longer represent only other brands, but your own?
CS: To be creative was a relief for me. I got myself involved in this business and took everything into my own hands, from the designs to the campaigns. I wanted to show what I find beautiful – after presenting what others have found beautiful for so long. This brand is my third baby.