She Makes Feathers Fashionable Again
Pascale Theron reinterprets the once popular ostrich feather as luxury commodity while being kind to animals too
South African born and raised designer Pascale Theron and Design Indaba Global Graduate 2019 speaker recently graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Her designs draw from her own cultural background and are inspired by memories, and the knowledge and experience of living in South Africa. ‘I delve deeply into my research and enjoy connecting with people from different backgrounds, attempting to create a bridge between cultures. I also enjoy working with soon-to-be-lost handmade crafts,’ she elaborates.
Her Feathered Fabrics project takes ostrich feathers and reinterprets this once highly prized commodity into covetable and decorative fabrics relevant to today’s consumer. Greatly valued during the 19th century as a fashion item for Victorian and Edwardian woman, the feather has lost its commercial value in current times. ‘My aim is to enhance the value of the ostrich feather, a very specialised product that comes out of a 150-year-old industry in Oudtshoorn. I want to go beyond the aesthetic and decorative and rather return it to its former glory in a more integrated and practical way, within the context of modern society where big feathered hats are no longer stylish,’ explains Theron. ‘Collecting feathers from the ostrich is the removal of dead material and is the equivalent to cutting fingernails causing no pain to the bird. It could be a very functional interior textile, as well as a solution for the fashion industry, as the new “fur”, without the cruelty associated.’
Currently in the ostrich farming industry, the animal’s main purpose is to be slaughtered after about a year for its meat. Theron spent time in Oudtshoorn talking to farmers and locals, and came to the conclusion that there needs to be change within the industry – and her product suggests that this entails extending the lifespan of the ostriches to include feather production.
‘By harnessing the qualities of the feathers and creating a new craft through these textiles, it could not only extend the animals’ lives, but also could revive the industry in Oudtshoorn. I believe it is of utmost importance to design meaningful products that not only use intuition, but are also sensitive and genuine. Creating cultural products that fall somewhere between art and design,’ she says.