Gerrit Pienaar – the designer who abandoned law and forensic medicine for fashion



Fashion is about freedom of personal expression, it’s about creativity, it’s about accentuating beauty, it’s about sensuality and it’s about showing your personal power to the world.

Pretoria designer Gerrit Pienaar has been collaborating with women for three decades, emphasizing beauty in every stitch. And whether it’s a matric ball, the Met or July, her haute couture mesmerizes, and clients say they feel like goddesses when they do their work.

And as all good stories say, Pienaar never wanted to be a designer. After studying law and then majoring in forensics, he floated around for a couple of years until his folks turned off the cash tap. It was then that he started making clothes for a living.

“And six weeks after making my first piece of clothing, I got a job in the cloth trade. I ended up as a designer for a fashion house,” he said.

His marriage and subsequent divorce became defining moments in his life. The latter, the drive to start your own label and go it alone. Pienaar never ended up practicing law or forensics.

In conversation with Pienaar, one feels almost Warhol in his conviction, his passion and his relentless imagination that sometimes causes sentences to punctuate and stop in the dead center of a thought, after which he moves on comfortably the conversation to a new idea, a new idea. feel and direction.

Pienaar is an artist, a reluctant fashion visionary who focuses on his work. He shared an anecdote about a client who wore a matrix dance dress he designed for her more than a decade before she returned. She was getting married and wanted me to reproduce the dress, but she was dressed in white and ready to get married.

The fact that one of his pieces followed the life and romantic cycle of a customer, and that she wanted to marry one of his designs, custom-made for her 10 years earlier, moved him. He is that kind of person. His heart is in everything he does.

Gerrit Pienaar’s studio ‘Claris’ is located in the eastern suburbs of Pretoria and within its space, hundreds of pieces weigh on the railings. There are evening gowns, insanely sexy little black numbers and some day wear that will turn heads no matter where the wearer wears it.

Pienaar said trends come and go, but classics always stay green. The more conservative side of a suit, which he considers art, and which juxtaposes with some of the drama he said South Africans love.

“Big sleeves, puffy shapes and lots of layers. Everything creates drama, and you could almost say it’s a quintessential South African fashion statement. It never loses its flavor.”

Pienaar uses delicate fabrics such as Armani satin to express classic designs in a modern, comfortable and sensual way.

Contemporary haute couture, and Pienaar sees this trend as lasting for quite some time, is all about accentuating sensuality.

She said: “Sexy trash like the Kardashians gave us is a thing of the past. Now, it’s about femininity, about showing skin and not riding roughshod over your own sexuality. It’s about sensuality, mystery and secrets”.

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Sheer remains the uber fashion statement, she said, adding: “See through is subtle, it’s sultry and sexy and yet it’s elegant, classy and feminine. Layer it enough to reveal the notion of a chest, legs and thighs. That’s what it’s all about.”

Pantones, lilacs, guava, pinks and watermelons are all summer and late summer colors. Black, Pienaar said, has also made a major post-pandemic comeback through the seasons and believes it is here to stay.

Post-Covid, dressing up first meant covering up, and that was evident in July in Durban and at the Met, Pienaar said. But for the Cape Town race in January and later in Durban, he suggests fashion will return to the outrageous, naughty and sexy. The difference is that the focus will be on subtlety and femininity.

Pienaar cautions that while flamboyant is great, the dress should never be worn by the woman. It must be the other way around.

She said: “If the outfit makes a bigger statement than your personality, don’t wear it. It’s there to enhance who you are in the first place, it should reflect your character and your inner being.”

Plus, she added, showing more skin could turn a giant blemish on a dress into something shapely.

“We must not be afraid to show a bit of ourselves, with subtlety and class. A large piece of fabric doesn’t do that for anyone. It just remains what it is, a stain. Don’t hide behind the canvas.”

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