Next Generation: Renee Nicole Sander

What can fashion become when you ignore the natural body form? Renee Nicole Sander explores this question through her graduate fashion collection.

“I love breaking down fashion and creating new forms,” says Namibian-born Renee Nicole Sander, who graduated from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2013 with a National Diploma in Fashion Design.

Sander hopes to challenge the commerciality of the clothing market and trend-defined silhouettes with her highly individualistic, voluminous designs. For her, fashion design isn’t just about creating beautiful garments - she wants her work to evoke environments and moods allowing for creative expression. Opting for pared-down designs in a limited colour palette, Sander focuses more on shape and how it adds a specific depth to garments. The resulting creations often reference ballooning volumes floating in mid-air. 

Her graduation collection, which she presented as an Emerging Creative at Design Indaba Expo this year, took inspiration from the unique shapes of glaciers. It included overly puffed-out coats, stiffly structured trousers and asymmetrical dresses in a uniformly icy white. She presented her graduation collection 

Along with creative new shapes for the body the materials Sander uses play a fundamental role in her fashion collections. She experiments with unlikely materials like plastic, wadding, block-out lining and mesh to create bold shapes that retain smooth, strong textures. Her use of materials introduces an extraordinary, almost bizarre element to what might otherwise be a simple garment.

I have more room to experiment when I use a limited colour palette with various strong textures found in unusual materials, Sander says.

In the commercial clothing market, garments are shaped according to whatever silhouettes are fashionable at the time, from oversized coats and loose-fitting sweaters to skinny jeans and tailored skirts. Sander wishes to challenge this over-reliance on fashion trends with her own exploration of shape and materials.

Having a keen interest in fashion from a young age, she spent a year in Europe after school where her passion for designing clothing deepened. “I have always been a very fashion-conscious person and during my gap year I was lucky enough to stumble into a Graduate Fashion Week show in London and that was it. I knew I had chosen the right career path,” says Sander. On returning to Cape Town, she enrolled in the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. 

"I love being in an industry that is constantly growing and evolving. I really enjoy how fast-paced fashion is - it pushes me to constantly adapt," she says. "For me, there was no option other than fashion and I hope through my work I will continue to make strong statements."