Don Zondo and Amy Zama - Founders of DNA Styling Agency
Don Zondo and Amy Zama are the creative duo behind DNA Styling Agency. Don is originally from Durban whilst Amy is from Richards Bay. Both are currently studying Fashion at Lisof.
What is your work dynamic like working as a male and female duo? And how did the partnership to create DNA Styling Agency come about?
Our work dynamic as best friends in a partnership has become very systematic and synchronized, in the sense that we have had to teach and train ourselves to separate the two relationships. In the business, because we are partners of the opposite sex, we have to check our egos and grudges from arguments we may have had as friends out the door, and focus on what jobs and tasks need to be completed by giving each other an open floor for communication.
Funny enough, the birth of DNA Styling Agency, came about as we both were interning for Rich Mnisi and Aart Verrips because we just had a good understanding of each other and were inseparable, the industry and our mentors started called us a twin package, and we decided since we kick ass as two homies why not start a creative agency to continue to mold our creativity and collaborate with artists of our kind in the industry, so shout out to Rich, Aart and Beediamondhead for pushing us still.
You operate in an industry that has a number of existing large styling and creative agencies, what do you hope would be the differentiating factor for your agency?
What sets us as DNA apart from already established agencies is the work we do is not simply about business and creating content, it's more about creating content that speaks for itself and resonates with our generation today. It surpasses the point of capitalist thinking, our work is joy-based and if the cheque comes our way in the process that’s a bonus, but overall our work, whether we are shooting an editorial or playing around with film it’s all about igniting everlasting impact. And fortunately for us we have been groomed and mentored by people with the same mindset which gives us a greater advantage and leeway to do whatever we want without sacrificing our craft – which is a predicament most creative agencies find themselves in because the business is run and influenced by corporates who do not understand the concept and idealization of creativity and in it for the profits.
Fashion is often viewed as a fickle and frivolous industry, what is your take on this? And are there any people that you feel are challenging this stereotype?
We have these debates all the time, and not only has the industry become unpredictable and ever changing its also become uninspiring. Back when Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo showed in Paris for the first time, people were excited and collections from Balenciaga, Azzedine Alaia started exuding that same enthusiasm. Over the years we just recycling what was done, and occasionally get inspired by Donatella. But in contrast to it all, in South Africa, it’s becoming a time where there are designers who are trying to ignite that impact again. And people who are pushing and challenging this stereotype and societal norms for us today are those that we have mentioned above and throughout this interview.
Siyanda Mdledle - 1/2 of Champagne69
Popularly known as Siyangena69 one-half of trap duo Champagne69, rapper, anime fanatic, and gamer Siyanda Mdledle was born in Cape Town and raised in Johannesburg.
Social media plays a big role in creating awareness for your brand, does it influence your choices in terms of your style and your brand identity?
Not necessarily, it’s more a platform for me to avail my ideas to people and share my interpretation of what I see on the internet and around me.
Creating music started off as a parody for you, since then what has the vision of your rap duo evolved to?
Making music that people can draw energy from, music that incites an emotion and suits a mood, lastly, music that will mean something to someone.
Your music has caught on very quickly since your first single release, what about it do you think resonates with people the most?
I think the fact that we’re not from a musical background makes it in a sense easier to share experiences and stories without complicating it, making it easy to relate to, but also putting concepts and context to music is key for us and that brings forth the product you hear.
Lesego Seoketsa (Azania) - Photographer and Storyteller
Fashion design student, self-taught photographer and storyteller Lesego Seoketsa widely known as Azania is originally from Springs but is currently residing in Randburg. In her work, Lesego focuses on themes such as womanhood and learning more about modern African cultures
What influenced you to create Azania magazine? And how did your journey begin?
I've always wanted to document my thoughts/ideas and visual art, a magazine seems to be a good start for me. I enjoy reading magazines and going through editorials so I thought why not create my own. I haven't launched it yet because I am still editing and finding ways to refine the content. My creative journey began through blogging via Tumblr, I then moved to Blogspot for more intimate and personal posts. I have always known that I love visual art, however, it wasn't easy pursuing my passions because I was too afraid of taking the "unconventional" route of art instead of being a lawyer or doctor. My parents were worried in the beginning, but they have opened up to my journey now.
You are a self-taught photographer and Editor. What have been some of the steep learning curves with regards to both industries?
Being a self-taught photographer means that I have to constantly search for knowledge on how to improve my images. I am currently being taught how to edit images without removing the message that the image is communicating. I have learned to accept positive criticism from people who know more than I do. It's important for me to remain open and willing to learn and to understand people as well as my surroundings, this helps me to refine my work as a looming editor. Curating a magazine is a lot of work and this industry is very cutthroat, not many survive, however, I am focusing on telling my stories the best way I can.
Your photography questions contemporary issues a young South African black woman has to face. What do you think are the biggest issues that South African women are facing at the moment?
There are many issues that South African black women are facing and I believe they are all worth noting, some, of course, are more prominent and intense than others. South Africa has the highest rates in the world of sexual crimes done to women; with patriarchy being so prevalent black women are in danger. We live in a conservative yet unruly society, a country that contradicts itself, a place that claims to love black women yet shames, abuses and kills them for using free will. Inequality and poverty are realities that over half of our population have to face, it is even more saddening to know that women will suffer from the rife culture of misogyny on top of the inequality and poverty.
Lorenzo Plaatjies - Illustrator
Johannesburg based illustrator and developer, Lorenzo Platjiess describes himself as not complex or interesting but as having an insatiable obsession with art and visual content.
Conveying specific emotions is a recurring theme in your work. Can you specify which are the most prevalent emotions your work focuses on and why?
Yes, emotion plays heavily into my focus when I create a piece, usually I'm trying to reflect a certain mood in the work and often I focus on heartbreak or longing, these moods were pivotal in my development as an artist because a lot of people could relate and would use my art everywhere, so that's when I began to realize that I should be creating for others and not as much myself.
These days I try to find an equilibrium of pain & pleasure in my work, I feel like when these two contrasting emotions work together they can make for some very interesting artwork. So the pleasure is in the beauty or the materials and the pain is in the mood of the artwork that forces someone to really look.
Tell us about your mobile game "God Level"
God Level is a 2D action platform for the kids, its the first South African game that focuses on South African kids, the street and the internet culture here and South African entrepreneurs. I just wanted to create something for us, about our environment that kids can play and know is for them, made by someone like them, So when they turn on the game they see someone who looks like them and dresses like them, lives where they live, as a hero and a playable character.
It plays and feels just like retro games we all love and know, but with the wackiest and craziest themes and designs that I think are unique to this game.
Its due for a Beta release in December.
What do you think are the most profound moments in your life that have led you to be doing the work that you do?
I think going to college. In my first year in college, I really witnessed and studied so much greatness.It pushed me to create more and made me realize that thoughts and ideas can always be executed. Also, my first exhibition really challenged me to partake in exhibitions that challenge the norm or what is seen as traditional.
Photography: Anthony Bila
Interview & Production: Phendu Kuta
Styling: Silke Holzschuher
Styling and Production Assistant: Sinalo Mkaza
Styling Assistants: Don Zondo and Amy Zama
Stockists: Wanda Lephoto, Juun J, Rich Mnisi, Y-3, Tsepho Tsotetsi, Christian Dior, Thebe Magugu, Uniconz, RHTC, MRP
Location: The Tennis Club