Wanda Laphoto:
The rise of creative Freedom in South Africa








How’s life in SA post apartheid. Is it different or is the system still in place in a different way? 

South Africa got its freedom in 1994, a year after I was born so it’s difficult to say for me as I did not experience racism as it used to be in this country. I think without a doubt things are much better as we are an emerging economy that has much to give in any aspect of life. As for the system I think the system is still in place in the same way it always has, the only difference is all the physical signs e.g [No Blacks Allowed here] of oppression were taken down, but all the rest, be it psychological, mental or otherwise still exist and still reaffirm that freedom exists only in spaces that do not disturb, disrupt whiteness, to some extent.

Not making it is my biggest fear right now. Not being successful in my own eyes and to the eyes of those who support me. As a young artist and designer who is constantly a work-in-progress I’ve always battled with the idea of “selling out” and what that actually means against the term being “pure”. Hopefully this will be a fading fear.

What is the happiest moment of your life?

This is a difficult question for me. I’d say 2016 arriving in London with my brothers and friends The Sartists for a pop-up at TANK magazine during LFW and exhibition titled Fashion Cities Africa at Brighton Museum. For most of us it was the first time we had traveled outside of South Africa but also the first time we felt like our dreams were valid and there is a market out there willing to hear them. For me it was also the first time I had showcased anything I had designed under my own name, my first collection. I had always designed in collaboration for brands be it adidas or for Levi’s before that but it had never been for myself in way that was.

After our first runway collection at SAFW last year I remember having to shut down the brand. At the time I remember releasing a statement saying “[....in a time where the world looks at Africa for inspiration, it is interesting to observe what & where we as African go and do. Often having to re-appropriate, exploit and stereotype our cultures and narratives against the commercial viability the West has over us we seldom look past aestheticism to unwrap the true nature of who we are, whether that lives consciously or subconsciously in who we are].” The statement we had released was a nicer way to say “fuck you” to all the publications, stylists, art or creative directors, buyers and even consumers in this industry who didn’t understand our fight and wanted to stereotype us into “just African designers” whose knowledge, aspirations or contributions to them was far inferior to our global peers. When we shut down we knew it was temporary but it felt like getting it to get back up would take forever and that couldn’t come any sooner. We had many things to learn from that but yes that is by far the darkest place I’ve been in.

Who is the most influential person in your life?

It is almost impossible to answer this question without mentioning all my close friends and family who shape my life and are unsung heroes in their own respective ways, be it for me on a personal scale or for their respective industries. With that said an honorable mention to collective @thesartists who I believe continue to carry the cross for generations that have already had their time and a generation that is yet to. My father will always have the most influence on me when it comes to ethics, morals and just humanity but I don’t believe there is a single person in my life with the most influence on me. It is truly a collective effort of all my friends and fellow creative collaborators and artists. They are all the Wanda Lephoto brand, most times even more so than I am and that is true influence for me.

This is it. It’s as honest as I could be and my best.
Thank you once again, always and forever thank you.