Rozanne is… Ani-mal! [Exclusive Pics and Interview with SA Fashion Sweetheart]

I made my first acquaintance with Rozanne Whyte in the notorious days of Joburg’s somewhat cult Secret Parties at Horror Cafe. Rozanne and her sister were the notorious and atypical fashionista twins, bound to be at every underground party/exhibition/fashion happening.

I have managed to stay in touch with the troublesome sisterhood, and have since become an avid follower of Rozanne’s ultra quirky fashion label ‘Rozanne is…’. Rozanne is… is one of South Africa’s pioneering underground streetwear labels, having been exclusively responsible for the wardrobe for our prize booty rap duo, Sweat X, as well as being stocked by stores such as The Street in Greenside, Burgundy Fly in Maponya Mall, Soweto and directly from Rozanne at her studio.

The Rozanne is… aesthetic is distinctively South African, and distinctively her own. All garments are handmade by this daring and ever so cute entrepreneur of fashion. If you are in the know, she might even be willing to create you a custom garment according to your wants and desires.

I was sneaky enough to squeeze myself into the crew for the photoshoot of her new range. It took place at the enticing location of Main Street in central Johannesburg, an art precinct on the verge of explosion, and home to the much adored Arts on Main. Everything about this shoot throbbed energy, it included many familiar faces from scenes far and wide and a clothing range that oozes post-rainbownation urban edge. I caught up with the bubbly seamstress for some chit chat. Tjeckit!

First up, tell us a bit about your new range ‘Ani-mal’, what is the concept/inspiration behind it?
Firstly, my latest campaign is my a/w 2010 collection and it’s entitled, ‘Rozanne is… Ani-mal!’
The Afrikaans word ‘mal’ cos it’s a little crazy and weird and quite risky for a South African campaign. I love that it’s nothing you’ve ever seen here or in any international magazine. I wanted to show my humourous and fun take on urban fashion and wild animals in the city. Its a continuation from the previous shoot that Chris Saunders and I did for One Small Seed. But this time, I wanted my models, who have big personalities to act like wild animals. Each scene has a story, you can probably figure it out if you look closer. The guys are big and scary, like the predators and the girls are being hunted. Just like in the wild. The second theme is territory, two alpha males fight each other to win the affection of the sexy female, and just like monkeys, everyone can go back to their inner ape and just have some crazy silly fun! And just for some more fun, howling at the moon, growling to be cheeky, even escaping the confines of the city just to be free.

I also think that there is huge interest  in South Africa from the rest of the world at the moment because of the world cup. Most people have forgotten about the creativity and fashion side of this country. Their main reason to come here is for the soccer and the ‘Safari’. So I was inspired by this and gave it my own twist on The young urban generation in SA. Now you can view the big five in the city all dressed up!

For our readers who aren’t familiar, tell us a bit about your label, ‘Rozanne is…’ ?
“Rozanne is…” is my street couture label that I have been running since 2005. It was launched at the SAFW Elle new talent competition… where I was a finalist since 2003:)

Its quirky, a little crazy, some silliness thrown in for good measure. I pay alot of attention to detail and often my work is constructed with secret panels, cleverly designed to be multifunctional, like the reversible men’s hoodie… I love playing with panel cuts and putting alot of thought into my designs and how a garment should function.

I named it Rozanne is… so that it can change… Its gives the wearer the freedom to interpret my range and how they feel when they wear my clothes, and it also allows me to change and customise my label. I constantly change and this allows me to be free to think outside the box:)

My work has been featured in various local magazines and also in the Collenzioni sport and street in Italy. I have also taken part in 2 art exhibitions.

For any eligible bachelors out there who might (and should) be interested, give us a clue about WHO Rozanne actually is?
Rozanne Whyte is the crazy fashion designer behind ‘Rozanne is…’. I am also a stylist, design and produce the wardrobe for fantasy TV ads and feature films. And I sometimes model:)

Who would you most like to see wearing Rozanne is… gear?
Anyone that is KOOL and likes to be different…
The people on the street make me happy, not really anyone specific in particular, its more a lifestyle and a mind set.

How did you get into fashion design? Was having your own label the idea from the very beginning?
I studied fashion for 3 years at GFD design emporium back in the day… It was in competition to LISOF. and the only college in South Africa that taught the proper french couture way:)
My dream was to be able to create all the ideas in my head. And starting my own label came so naturally, my friend and I were working and supplying our then label, ‘Warped’ to Pulsate while we were in 2nd year of college. ‘Warped’ was a finalist at SAFW Elle New Talent and Smirnoff international fashion awards… We won many awards. But after completing our studies, we went our separate ways as our goals were not the same. So that’s when Rozanne is… was born.

What or who inspires you to do what you do?
Lots of things inspire me… The people around me. Arty fartys…. The creatives. The KOOL kids. Fashion, illustration, art, graffiti, music, movies, animation, other like minded crazy peeps. And traveling to KOOL places.
The endless ideas in my head… that I often conjure up in my dreams. Being able to create all my dreams and make them a reality for others to enjoy keeps me doing what I love:)

Who is the best dressed person you know?
There are a few… Def the other half of the twinset:) She is my walking mannequin… I get to play dress up and she will usually wear whatever I put her in… Which is so much fun!
The best dressed guy I know, is any hot guy in a pair of a Rozanne is… twisted seam skinny jeans:) I believe if you have your own original sense of style anyone can look good… Mixing it up and not being afraid to be a little different gets my thumbs up! I really love the way Guy Ndlovu and Spoek Mathambo dresses…. geeky kool:)

What other local/international labels do you follow?
I love all the greats. The Japanese designers, Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake, Rei Kawabuko. Viktor and Rolf, Vivienne Westwood, Alexander McQueen( So sad he is gone:( ) , Balenciaga and John Galliano. The couture greats are amazing. I get most of my inspiration from them as they show that anything is possible. My label is completely different. But I really appreciate the love that goes into making a couture garment:)

What are you wearing right now? (Nudge nudge) Haha but seriously what is your favourite garment, accessory, piece of footwear at the moment?
Hahahhahaha! I actually love being naked…. WINC wink!!! 😛 But seriously…. I am loving: my hand knitted chunky scarf as my fav accessory right now… it keeps me so warm, its beautiful and its handmade. My fav garment, is my twisted spiral paneled skinny jeans… I practically live in them:) And I love wearing high top sneakers… In bright colours and kool fabrics.

Thanks Roz face! Have a peek at the shoot below people!

A little bit about the shoot:
I think my design and construction has matured. This collection I have played around alot with couture techniques and my all time favourite twisted seams especially in my jeans. I have also added leather jackets and unisex chunky hand knitwear to the mix.

– I love using interesting and colourful prints in my ranges and this time I loved the geometric african style neon prints I found.
– My favourite pieces are my jeans. From my ladies spiral twisted panelled jeans, to my metallic leopard print skinny jeans with front zip details, to my all time favourite hi-performance ‘poo’ jeans, now with twisted seams. I kept the washes raw and dark as its eco-friendly, not to use harsh chemicals and litres of water to wash them
– I always like to add some animal print to my collections and I found this really cool leopard print corduroy for my ‘rabies’ pocket hi-waisted skirt and leopard print mesh to line my parachute metallic hoodie.
– Lastly I love to play with the direction of stripes and checks and create new dimensions by cutting and constructing panels to give a geometric illusion. Seen in my Checked suit with neon pinstripe and my checked drawstring coat tail dress.

All clothes: ‘Rozanne is…’ from the A/w 2010 collection

Photographer: Chris Saunders (Who was back in Jozi briefly from Italy to shoot for Dazed and Confused)

Stylists: The Twinset (Rozanne and Sasha Whyte, Sisters that look like twins and often collaborate. We look the same, think the same, have the same design aesthetic. Double the fun, double the trouble!)

Make up and hair: Julia Rubenstein (A cute, shy and very talented make-up artist and hairstylist who has worked extensively in both the feature film and editorial fields.)

Models: Athi-Afikile Myataza (Marketing student and model for PACE :: agile as a buck and flies through like an eagle.)
Adam Lowery (Owner of The Street, a concept store in Greenside, JHB, that stocks everything from street wear like Rozanne is…, Nooka watches, sneakers, art and music.)
Kat Maponyane (Blogger, DJ (half of Dont Party favourite, musical chairs), mobile marketer and snowboarder)
Robyn Davie (International model, vintage hunter – sourcing, adapting and working at launching a vintage couture fashion range called ‘Reaching Robyn’.)

Art Director: Sasha Whyte (The very talented senior art director from JWT.)

Photographer’s assistant: Ed (You know Ed, everybody knows Ed…)

Special thanks to everyone on the shoot, The Street for the fab Nooka Watches, Russel at Mainstreetlife for location setup and Sasha for the fab home cooked treats all day!



Rowan is part designer, part writer and a total techno tourist. He's one of the founding members of Don't Party. Catch him weekdays between the div tags.