We chat to Arts University College of Bournemouth-trained designer Jimi Herrtage, who, researching his unisex line, mined the underground art scenes of Johannesburg (Joburg), South Africa.
Talk a little bit about your trip to South Africa – how did it end up inspiring your spring line?
We were coming up with the concept of a new brand/label with some substance or idea behind it. I was actually going to South Africa for the New Year with friends. I started off near Durban, did a safari, then went down to Cape Town, then to Joburg. I quite naively and arrogantly assumed that SA didn’t have a lot going on and I was completely wrong. It’s got so much going on, culturally, musically, across the arts. I was really impressed with the music and the arts, and I noticed the general resurgence of youth culture since the Apartheid and the integration in all these different places.
When we came back [to London], we were trying to come up with this idea and I had this idea that I wanted to do a sort of lifestyle brand. I wanted to travel around the world, If I could travel as much as possible that would be great, and find new talent and give them a platform all over the world. We decided South Africa would be a good place to start. “Kutula” means peace in Zulu, so we’re kinda a peaceful positive movement – I wanted to start something that was positive because everything can be quite depressing in the papers and just for my own sanity it would be nice to try and find interesting, cool stuff to report on.
That was the inspiration behind the clothes – kind of urban cammo. It’s kind of our army of peace, unites everyone and on the website we have an army section where we interview everyone we find.
It’s a pretty unique way of starting a brand – it’s not from a luxury grounding. It’s more about ideas and grass roots talent…
When we shot the campaign, we used a lot of South African models after doing a lot of research and Facebook stalking: we found models out there, we found stylists, we brought a photographer out with us (Roo Lewis, who is fantastic – I think he’s done some work with Wonderland before). Then a couple of models from the UK (friends of mine) came out and joined us and we went on a bit of a road trip to Africa Burns, which is like SA’s answer to Burning Man. We literally documented that and I thought that could be our first magazine. Our first zine.
We had an amazing time there and met some incredible people. The whole gifting thing is awesome. If you’re hungry, people will feed you and if you want to party, they’ll help you party. I’ve become obsessed with South Africa. My girlfriend is South African. I would live there if the internet was faster – but I can’t get anything done there.
So you studied at Bournemouth College. Tell us about your time travelling after graduating.
I studied illustration. I didn’t get an enormous amount from it. It was one of those courses where you had three lectures a term, so you didn’t have much to do, so I started drawing on t-shirts and printing them. That was all inspired by music and clubland culture, because I DJ’d for the last ten years.