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Introducing Public Forum | Sustainable Design Reflecting the Vibrancy of Joburg

Public Forum is a women's wear brand created by Luke Radloff, it is the second clothing brand from the Johannesburg-based designer who is also the founder of UNI FORM, luxury women's wear.

Public Forum explores everyday shapes and easy fabrication that echo the UNI FORM DNA but stand alone in accessibility. Announced in September, Public Forum officially revealed its first collection last month. Creator Luke Radloff shares some insights into the brand.

How did the founding of Public Forum come about?

Public Forum was a concept I had always thought about doing, but time did not allow it in the past. Since the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, as with many people, I found plenty of time to dream up things, and Public Forum is the manifestation of one of those dreams. I had specific themes and ideas formulated, but once I started working, it became more clear that this was going to be an opportunity to explore another side of myself and to be more ‘free’ to experiment, especially with colour and print. I don’t want PF to have a prescribed narrative or concept, I just want it to be fluid in that way.

Tell us about your first and current collection, as well as the look book.

The first collection is an organic exploration of colour, print and proportion. I didn’t want to limit myself in any way and rather wanted to see what manifested naturally, given different factors, like local fabric variety and availability, which in turn, dictated the outcome. The lookbook is another example of letting go of any pre-conceived notions I had of what this collection would or should be. Rather, I spontaneously collaborated with creators, and the images of the lookbook are the result of everyone's energy and input.

Public Forum draws from aspects of local culture, particularly Johannesburg. What inspires you about this city?

I think I just naturally draw from my location, which happens to be Johannesburg now, and I’m really grateful it is because there is so much visually that excites me in this city. I used some of what I consider, the ‘iconic’ Johannesburg elements, like the Jacaranda trees, commuter taxis and industrial objects. It's a very dusty, concrete jungle and it feels like colours are particularly vivid here against the grey backdrop and I love that contrast. 

How do the design philosophies of UNI FORM and Public Forum reflect your identity and (or) your background?

I think as long as you are true to yourself and not copying something, whatever you create cannot be dissociated from your identity, they’re somewhat mutually exclusive in that way. So anything I create I feel is somehow connected to me or a part of me.  

What is the best fashion business advice you have received? And do you follow it?

Work for your heroes before starting your own brand/business and learn as much as you can first. I followed this advice and I don’t think I’d be the designer I am if I hadn’t first watched and learned from other designers or brands I admire. 

Are sustainable textiles part of UNI FORM and Public Forum's brand identities and tell us why that matters to you?

Sustainability is crucial for me, but it’s all about education and I’m learning everyday, a lot of  brands throw that term around because they feel pressured, without really being sustainable, which is a problem. Independent brands are pressured into leading the charge for sustainability but are given little to no help where this is concerned and we need to start looking higher up for answers and accountability and hopefully work together with government institutions to help improve sustainable practices within this industry long term. 

What can the consumers expect from Public Forum in future?

It’ll be a surprise to them and me, I hope. When it becomes predictable is when it won’t feel right anymore. 


Brand: Public Forum - @publicforums

Photographer: Zander Opperman - @uglybruv

Creative direction: Chloe Andrea - @chloe_andrea_the_creator

Beauty: Tammi Mbambo - @artfortammi

Hair: Saadique Ryklief - @saadique

Model: Juliana Kakembo - @juan_kakembo

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