Artivism at its Best: South African Designer Vanessa Gounden Showcases Her Latest Designs that Highlight the Ravaging Effects of Breast Cancer and its Treatments

A collaboration between artist Amita Makan, designer Vanessa Gounden and Reach for Recovery (a vital breast cancer support group), has lead to a range of exquisite fashion items that communicate a woman’s fight against breast cancer.

The dresses were revealed at Vanessa Gounden’s flagship boutique in Mayfair, London in an exhibit coined “A stitch in time”.

Vanessa, who grew-up under South Africa’s apartheid government, learnt to fight for what she believes in. In addition to her political efforts, she has had to battle many a glass ceiling in the workplace to achieve her goals and in doing so, has inspired so many women. Vanessa has since grown an empire in the mining, retail and fashion sectors and uses this success to aid those in need.

Vanessa Gounden
Vanessa, wearing one of her own ‘Ravaged Butterfly’ dresses, spoke passionately about ‘artivism’

Vanessa, dressed in one of her own “Ravaged Butterfly” dresses, spoke proudly of her collection and what it aims to achieve by raising awareness about breast cancer and promoting early detection. The butterfly dress itself symbolises how a woman is emotionally and figuratively torn apart by breast cancer and the ensuing therapies. The delicate butterfly details are made to look as if they are made of the same gauze that is used as a wound dressing after a mastectomy. Each piece is designed iso that even after a woman has had the invasive surgery, she can wear these elegant garments, without accentuating her chest and feel whole again.


Inspired by her own political achievements and beliefs, artist Amita Makan joined forces with Gounden in this powerful exhibition, to create pieces out of lush fabrics with colours and designs reminiscent of our culturally vibrant homeland.One of the most powerful pieces is a knee-length pink dress with a 3D print translated from an artwork by Amita Makan. The depiction shows a woman anxiously clutching her handbag whilst awaiting the results of a mammogram. The original artwork is a hand-embroidered piece that is no bigger than 15 centimetres and has been photographed and printed onto a soft fabric.

Sunday Times' fashion editor Tiffany Darke
Sunday Times’ fashion editor Tiffany Darke

Tiffany Darke, Sunday Times fashion editor prompted Vanessa to elaborate on her inspiration for the collection. V.G. explained her passion for “artivism”, a term used to describe art that supports activism. Her goal is to create fashion that stimulates emotion by telling a story which will provoke thought and ultimately, will result in action.


Written by How Africa

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