Designer Nicholas Coutts’ death is a great loss to the fashion industry

The South African fashion and textile industry has lost one of its talented designers, Nicholas Coutts. The reason for his death has not been made public. A memorial will be held for him tomorrow afternoon at Bakoven Beach in Cape Town.

Coutts entered the fashion scene in 2013 after winning the Elle Rising Star Award and has since been featured in several local and international runways. He died at the peak of his career, after showcasing at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia last month.

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SA Menswear Week (SAMW) Autumn and Winter 2017. Picture by Simon Deiner / SDR Photo.

I remember his SA Menswear Week (SAMW) Autumn and Winter 2017 season like it was yesterday. It was his transitional collection where Coutts seemed to have found solid ground. The designs, the fabrics, the presentation, fit and models – everything was well thought out and executed to perfection.

He told me afterwards: “I work with a pattern-maker and a seamstress, and it’s quite lonely sometimes. It’s challenging as I have to do it all, from PR to overseeing garment construction to designing. However, in the end, the final product is very rewarding.”

His aesthetic was modern menswear and womenswear designs that come in highly textured handwoven textiles – weaving featured highly in his design, eye-catching colours and patterns. Although he enjoyed working with richly textured fabrics, he was always simply dressed in a solid colour cotton T-shirt, knee length shorts, shoes or sneakers paired with mid-length socks and the look topped off with a hat or cap.

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 His personality was as warm as the autumn colours and fabrics he frequently used. The last time I saw Coutts was in February at SA Menswear Week just before his showcase. We exchanged pleasantries in the media section and I asked him if he was ready for his show.

He simply flashed me a warm smile and nodded. We stood side by side and watched the show from the end of the runway. At that moment, he was a spectator. 

I didn’t know it then, but that is how he will be watching fashion shows from now on. Coutts’s presence at fashion weeks will be greatly missed and his mark in the industry will live forever.


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