Carol Bouwer Bags and Dr Esther Mahlangu connect fashion and art with new luxury collaboration

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Carol Bouwer and Dr. Esther Mahlangu. (Image supplied by Atmosphere)
Carol Bouwer and Dr. Esther Mahlangu. (Image supplied by Atmosphere)
  • In a collaboration that celebrates the heritage of South Africa, Carol Bouwer Bags and national treasure Dr. Esther Mahlangu have come together to unveil 50 custom Carol Bouwer handbags.
  • Each of the bags feature the acclaimed artworks of Dr. Esther Mahlangu, and are crafted from locally and ethically sourced python, ostrich and crocodile skin, with some bags featuring a sophisticated python-ostrich skin hybrid.
  • To honour this moment, we also take a look back at some of the African fashion collaborations that have made us proud this year. 

Collaboration in fashion has become a key player for heightened brand awareness and success. It can even be said that - now more than ever - by means of merging differing tastes, it's an essential catalyst for growth given that it's a move that attracts a market that might have otherwise not had an appetite for one of the brands involved.

A successful fashion collaboration can also serve as an ideal intersection where different LSM groups meet, especially in a country like ours where access to luxury and high-end offerings is often limited.  

And the surge of black designers earning major campaigns, collaborations, and international awards now means taking pride in wearing African names is becoming less of an anomaly as mindsets change, especially in the current "buy black" climate.   

READ MORE: From bold hiking shoes to doodled kicks, these are the 3 sneaker collabs to love and buy right now 

Another testament to this sees national treasure Dr. Esther Mahlangu and philanthropist Carol Bouwer collaborate on a handbag collection. Dr. Esther has made her unique mark on BMW car interiors and Belvedere vodka bottles, and now she's putting her stamp on luxury handbags.

In a collaboration that celebrates the heritage of South Africa, Carol Bouwer Bags and Dr. Esther Mahlangu have come together to unveil 50 custom Carol Bouwer handbags, each featuring the acclaimed artworks of Dr. Mahlangu. 

The exquisite collection is considered a standout in both the world of fashion and art.

“What an exciting time for us to share this bag with the collectors of Mam Esther’s art, our bag collectors and the art world at large. The collection is testament to Africa's endowment and beauty, and tribute to the fact that luxury is not foreign to our land. Each bag is a proud display of African ‘craftswomanship’ and pioneering in the sense that luxury local fashion can now be regarded as a collector’s item,” says Carol Bouwer, CEO of Carol Bouwer Bags.   

carol bouwer handbags
Image supplied by Atmosphere 

Dr. Esther Mahlangu is known for her bold large-scale geometric paintings that reference her Ndebele heritage. A double winner of the much coveted Mbokodo Award, Dr. Esther Mahlangu was awarded with an honorary doctorate by the University of Johannesburg and Durban University of technology. She also holds the French Order of Arts and Letters.

As she approaches her 85th birthday, Carol Bouwer in partnership with Amanda Dambuza and The Melrose Gallery are thrilled to present the world with a proudly South African treasure.

“To present Mam Esther with a gift she values so dearly has been such a delight. Upon learning of what Carol and the gallery were cooking, I had to grab the opportunity to partake in such a ground-breaking collaboration. South Africa is rich with natural beauty and it is time we shared it with the world,” Amanda adds.  

esther mahlangu
Businesswoman, Amanda Dambuza with Dr Esther Mahlangu. Image supplied by Atmosphere 

The bags are crafted from locally and ethically sourced python, ostrich and crocodile skin, with some bags featuring a sophisticated python-ostrich skin hybrid.

Carol adds, “The manufacturing processes are in line with the United Nations Convention on Endangered Species and production takes place exclusively in South Africa. Job creation in the manufacturing sector is paramount to us and we promote the value of employment in the luxury industry”. 

The collection will be launched at The Melrose Gallery in partnership with Boschendal Wines on 20 November 2020, shortly after Dr. Esther Mahlangu’s birthday.

“Boschendal Wines has long been a supporter of African arts and luxury. We recognise this collaboration as one which celebrates craft and heritage – which are two pillars of our 330-year-old estate and could not be more excited for the launch event which will feature our most acclaimed wines," says Shirley Van Wyk, Marketing Manager of Boschendal Wines.  

carol bouwer handbags
Dr. Esther Mahlangu in approval of the handbags after witnessing them for the first time. Image supplied by Atmosphere 

It wasn't too long ago when Woolworths has collaborated with local fashion visionary, Tshepo Mohlala, to create a limited-edition tee that sparks pride in the South African Constitution – lauded as one of the best in the world. Looking back at history, the changemakers of the world have long used t-shirts to spread messages that matter. Emblazoned on our collection of gender-neutral tees, “We, The People” seeks to encourage the passionate people of our nation to band together and build our collective future with power, positivity and resolve. 

READ MORE: Local fashion visionary behind Tshepo Jeans joins forces with Woolworths on limited edition tee

Earlier this year, luxury designer David Tlale, collaborated with cosmetics brand Avon, on a limited-edition accessories collection comprising of a handbag, clutch, and exaggerated frame sunglasses just the way David likes them. 

When asked about his new partnership with the Riboville Collection, David Tlale said; “Riboville Collection is a new way of doing things where you don’t just come to the hotel to just sleep and eat, but also infuse their lifestyle where the hotel now specialises in catering to their consumer’s interest in art, fashion, and food the George Sinovich [Riboville Collection founder] way.”  

READ MORE: Wear your art on your sleeve: Vans and MoMA collaborate on special edition footwear and apparel drop

The David Tlale and Jean du Plessis joint exhibition forms part of a collaboration that shows how fashion can fuse commercially with art. It was launched three years ago in 2017 as a friendship when Jean moved into the same building. Only now in 2020 have people started wearing the collaboration as a distinct way to wear art and be walking ambassadors for the David Tlale brand.   

Jean du Plessis and David Tlale’s fashion-meets-art exhibition is titled 'Holding on to Each Other'. When asked to share the story of his sculpture exhibition, Jean says his titles and the stories that detail where they were derived from, sprouted as Covid influenced creativity.

READ MORE: The art of collaboration sees designer David Tlale and Jean du Plessis join forces on an exhibition

He went on to say the titles alone speak to where his mind was - Balance of Power, Beauty Awakens the Soul to Act, The Extravagance of More, The Extravagance of Less. “The work is a reminder to all of us out there to be mindful of our individual task at hand, to gather our thoughts in these times with regards to our humanity and selflessness to each other. In this time, introspection is key to finding ourselves again and to conduct yourself according to your own strengths and not that of others,” he added.   

Additional information and images provided by Atmosphere PR

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