The cutting-edge designer making clothes with a story to tell


A faint gust of wind finds its way in through a window left ajar. The surreptitious breath animates the wonderland that is Suzaan Heyns’ workshop. Dancing around the collage of whites, it gives moments of life to the fabric hanging on elegant bridal mannequins, before sighing out of existence on the floor. The scene of quiet satins and intricately-spun lace contrasts against the bustle of activity sounding from the back, where Heyns sketches, cuts and sews together her expressions of feminine individuality.

Now an internationally-acclaimed designer, she first encountered the art of fashion at its most rudimentary level. Heyns grew up watching her grandmother create clothing for dolls, which developed in her an appreciation for old-school style. She is adamant that there is still value in the feminine qualities of the classic fashion that influences her today – that wearing feminine clothing does not make a woman antifeminist. “To be free as a woman is to be completely free,” she says. As an artist Heyns weaves a mesmerising motif through her work around the idea that the old can be new.

The driving force behind her designs is story. Heyns hopes that the wearer of each of her garments feels a personal connection to the clothes. And since human beings are all so different, this objective pushes her into the unknown for the sake of each new creation. Heyns plays with patterns. Fiddles with new fabrics. And experiments with ideas, as though nothing is out of reach. Reward has followed her exploration. Her self-titled 2008 collection was named Most Creative Range at Africa Fashion Week. She also won Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa award in 2013. The curiosity that Heyns employs in her craft invites others to investigate their individuality, and to stand up for it no matter what.