The Springboks currently on tour in Great Britain have unleashed a new warm-up kit created by up -and-coming Khayelitsha-born designer Mzukisi Mbane.
The jersey was scheduled to be worn in 2020 for the first time, until the pandemic wiped out the Springbok season.
The design is a collaboration between Mr Mbane, Springbok technical partner Asics, and SA Rugby.
It is anchored in the traditional white of the Springbok alternate jersey but features Mr Mbane’s signature patterning. The jersey was worn during the on-field warm-up before each of the three tests.
“Our alternate jersey is traditionally plain white but when Asics suggested using a young South African designer to give it a 21st century twist, we welcomed the idea,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby.
“Jersey design and technology is unrecognisable from what it was even 20 years ago and our rarely-seen alternate jersey gives us the chance to explore new thinking.
“We had planned to wear what we call the ‘collab’ jersey on the November tour last year, but that opportunity has not arisen this time around. However, it will appear in 2022 and will get a first ‘public airing’ before the next three tests.”
Barry Mellis, general manager of Asics SA, said: “The fan is always keen to see new apparel and we thought they’d be interested to see something that was a departure from the traditional plain white jersey of the alternate kit.”
The Springboks wore the jersey for the first time on Saturday before the test against Wales at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
Mr Mbane is a fashion designer and the founder and creative director of the African luxury fashion brand Imprint ZA. He showed an avid interest in fashion and creativity from a young age, he taught himself how to design, sew and tailor using his mother’s old sewing machine.
“Growing up, my mum used to sew, so when I started with fashion, I started with my mom’s old sewing machine,” he said.
“It was the scariest thing because I didn’t know how she was going to respond. I remember waking up and asking her to show me how to use the sewing machine again because it had been so long since I used it. When I was growing up I used to sew a lot and I used to assist her with cutting. That was something that we all did, when she was cutting something, we’d hold the pieces or sometimes we’d just observe.
“But for me, it was different. I didn’t want to just observe, I wanted to do it, too. But as a boy from Khayelitsha, it wasn’t something that was an option for me, or that’s what I believed. So I remember waking up and asking her to show me how to use the sewing machine. And she did.”
Mr Mbane credits his mother for more than just introducing him to the sewing machine. Once he had the hang of it and had started his business, tailoring and selling clothes, it was his mother who reminded him of the value of taking pride in his work and delivering only the best.
“When I started selling, that’s when I realised that she was watching,” he said.
“She wanted to make sure that what I was doing was proper. I often tell people that when I started getting clients, the skill wasn’t fully there but I still wanted to produce everything myself.
“I remember I would create something – work like crazy the whole day, sleep at like three or four in the morning – only to wake up to her unpicking it.
“She was like, ‘Nope, you’re not going to just make this a passion thing. If you want to make it a business, you’re going to respect people. You’re going to give people the right things.’
“That was one of her best lessons – now I go into what I do respecting the client. And when she unpicked it, she didn’t fix it herself. She made sure that I did it properly so that I could learn how to do it myself.”
While his upbringing and background are a key inspiration and motivation for his art, Mr Mbane is careful to not allow it to restrict his scope for growth, even when others in the industry tried to shun him for it.
“When I started taking my brand out, I got reminded that what I was creating wasn’t expected to come out of Khayelitsha, and a lot of people sort of rejected it instantly because it was from Khayelitsha.
“I love the fact that when that was happening, it didn’t put me in a space where I rejected that part of my brand. It pushed me even more. I connected the story. I didn’t aim to convince people that I can create African luxury from Khayelitsha, I wanted to refine the story for myself more. I wanted to connect to why the story was valid and authentic but still coming from Khayelitsha. To why I could create quality from Khayelitsha.”