(CNN) — Katekani Moreku was writing down ideas for a new menswear collection in his room in 2018 when he had a eureka moment.
At the time, he was a fashion design student at the Durban University of Technology, South Africa, and did not have enough money to purchase new fabrics to make the designs that he wanted.
He thought, what if he collected old and leftover fabric scraps to create his collection instead?
A few weeks after that moment, Moreku started his brand — Katekani Moreku — using old materials and abandoned scraps to create colorful prints and hats.
“I was staying at a student residence, so a lot of students threw away bags and outfits. I’d just collect them or get my friends to collect them, and then I got to work designing and sewing clothes,” he told CNN.
His first collection, released in October 2018, comprised a range of colorful dresses, skirts, jackets, and hats. The hats were made from local food baskets and have now become a part of his brand’s signature look.
Even though his designs are primarily for men, Moreku said he explored gender-neutral clothing in the collection to ensure that his designs could fit in any kind of closet.
Using fabric scraps, he said he made clothing for men that looked like it was meant for women.
“I wanted to make a bold statement. I thought that a man wearing a dress, or a skirt would look interesting and get people talking so I created skirts and dresses for men to wear,” he explained.
Moreku’s first collection showcased at the DUT fashion show, organized by his University in Durban in 2018. And his reuse of abandoned fabrics earned him recognition in September 2019 at the Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards in South Africa.
He won an award for “addressing the challenges of sustainability in fashion” at the show. Part of sustainable fashion involves reuse and recycling of old clothes, a practice which Moreku says he is not new to.
The 28-year-old is from the Mapulana ethnic group found in South Africa’s Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. He said he grew up reusing everything including clothes, shoes, and food containers.
“I come from a small village and most people there are poor. So, reusing a thing is the normal way of life. During celebrations, some of the women in my village could not afford fancy clothes so they improvised and found old fabrics to make new outfits,” he said.
He added that he often did the same when he ran out of clothes to wear, “I found myself incorporating this lifestyle into my clothes and fashion.”
Moreku told CNN that he is currently working on a new collection made of recycled clothes. In the coming years, he says he wants people from all over the world to have his clothes in their wardrobes.
“I am interested in going global. Not just in South Africa but all over the place. I want people everywhere to have my designs.”
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