The rise of sustainable fashion is a positive development that reflects a growing awareness of the environmental and social impacts of the fashion industry. No one understands this better than Capetonian fashion designer, Cyla Gonsolves.
Since launching her luxury resort and knitwear womenswear brand in 2017 after being a contestant in the reality series, The Intern by David Tlale – Cyla’s formidable fashion career has been on an upward trajectory.
Designing from a studio on her farm and assisted by a team in Cape Town, she is passionate about incorporating ethical fashion practice, in particular female empowerment, at every step in her supply chain, to produce her signature elegant, casual clothing with a hand-crafted twist.
The Cape Town College of Fashion Design graduate emerged victorious at the SAFW (South African Fashion Week) Talent Search Competition earlier this year where she showcased a never-seen-before whimsical collection. Retail giant Mr Price sponsored the awe-inspiring competition as part of their partnership with SAFW.
Cyla’s award-winning range included languid day dresses, cosy knits, basic blouses, and tulle bags inspired by flower petals. She impressed the judges with her bright yellow garments with a dash of purple and pink. Titled “No Waste Land”, Cyla’s winning collection showcased her profound understanding of the fact that the fashion industry is among the primary culprits of environmental pollution. Furthermore, she illustrated her will and responsibility as a designer to remain conscious and steer clear of fast fashion.
Previdar caught up with Cyla Gonsolves to talk all things sustainable fashion, winning the SAFW Talent Search Competition, and more.
Hearty congratulations to you for winning the SAFW/ Mr. Price Talent Search Competition. How was your journey in the awe-inspiring SAFW/ Mr. Price Talent Search Competition?
I entered a week before the competition closed. I worked through the nights to get my designs in time, I just had a feeling that I had to enter. I was so excited when I got the email that I had made it to the semi-finals. I was in Turkey at that time and could not wait to come back to my studio to start creating my “ NO WASTING WONDERLAND” collection.
When and how did your journey with fashion begin?
I always knew I wanted to go and study fashion design. I modelled for a few years and loved the fashion part the most. I went and studied at Elisabeth Galloway in Stellenbosch for 3 years and did my Advance Diploma at CTCFD specialising in feminism in a supply chain the year after. While I was studying I interned for a few designers like Isabel de Villiers and Tamara Cherie. I then went on the reality show “The Intern by Davis Tlale” and he helped to get my name out there and to find my fashion niche in this industry. From there I started my own womenswear brand and started an online shop.
You were one of the fashion designers cast on “The Intern by David Tlale” reality show. How was that experience and what did you learn from it?
Looking back this was the best thing that could have happened to me as a young designer, it pushed me to become the designer who I am today and so much more. I never thought that I would have made it till the final and I did. It was a challenging 6 months competing against such amazing designers but I learned so much from them. There were times I wanted to give up and we motivate each other till the end. I’m so grateful for the experience and will do it anytime again.
Your winning collection at SAFW, “No Wasting Wonderland” comprised whimsical pieces, among other designs. What inspired the collection and its title?
This collection, it’s all about REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE. I deconstructed all my previous fashion show garments and reconstructed them in an exquisite Wonderland Transeasonal Collection. We used beautiful sheer fabrics like embroidered lace, custom print silk organza, soft tulle, and machine-pressed pleated tulle in my previous collections and gave them a completely new look. All of the garments were coloured into shades of purple and yellow to give the collection a cohesive look. Parts of the garments were deconstructed and handwork was done onto the new garments to create these beautiful ZERO WAIST pieces.
I also created my own fabric by using real pressed flowers from the farm and a layer of silicone to create a unique gloss-textured fabric. We also printed our own pressed flower design onto organza and silk. A doodle flower digital print was also printed onto the silk organza pieces. Hand punch embroidery was done on most of the garments to enhance the flower petal pattern detail. Looking at the collection all together reminded me of Alice and Wonderland and that’s where the collection’s name came from. Let’s stop WASTING and start creating Wonderland.
The collection is also sustainable. Why is environmental consciousness on fashion important to you?
I believe in making a difference in the fashion industry and this is our number one goal as aspiring young designers. Sustainability is becoming a trend, and this is what the fashion industry needs. Fashion with a cause. We as designers need to convince our customers to also make that switch and to support local and stop supporting fast fashion.
There is a lot of creative work that goes into designing clothes. Which part of the creative process is your favourite?
I always wanted to do the trend forecasting part for a big fashion house when I started studying. I love the research and design part. All my collection has a story behind it and I love to start creating the vision/ story I have in my mind and making it a reality.
What is your advice to young designers and stylists who have aspirations of establishing their own fashion brands?
To never give up and to always keep chasing your dreams. I entered the New Talent Competition in 2018 after Lucilla saw my work and didn’t even make it as a finalist after entering. 5 years later I entered again and won the competition. I hope I can inspire young designers and to keep on going, you never know when your big break will come.
When asked about her highly anticipated limited-edition collection in collaboration with Mr Price, Cyla didn’t want to give too much away but she urged fashion enthusiasts to expect something fabulous!