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Pick n Pay’s futurewear incubator serves as a springboard for 20-year-old graphic designer

At just 20 years old, Kiav Mitoo, a graphic design student at Vega School in Cape Town, took an unexpected leap into the world of fashion and has now designed a unique range for one of South Africa's leading retailers.

Mitoo's journey began with a twist in his career path, shifting from his aspiration to become an aeronautical engineer to pursuing his passion for art and fashion. In the span of just one year, he has designed prints for two designer collections and launched his own range in Pick n Pay Clothing stores, a feat that many students his age can only dream of achieving.

Mitoo's remarkable journey is a testament to his artistic talent, determination, and mentorship provided through the Futurewear programme with renowned designer Gavin Rajah and Pick n Pay Clothing.

The incubator programme fosters the growth of emerging creatives by providing practical experience and mentorship, with the aim of helping them run and expand their businesses. Mitoo was one of three young designers selected to be in the programme this year, which sees each creative launch an exclusive clothing collection in stores and online.

Mitoo’s range is a crop top and oversized t-shirt, each in four different “streetwear” prints which are designed by him, merging art and fashion. “I got Pick n Pay’s attention by painting clothes. My art style is surrealist minimalist, and my clothes have a graffiti look to them, in bright summery colours.” The floral print has the words ‘Love Yourself’ across the body and onto the sleeve and is aimed at a younger demographic which is focused on self-expression and empowerment. “I am giving people an outlet for expressing themselves through fashion.”

“As we grow and nurture Futurewear, we are looking for diversity in styles and techniques so we can offer the customer something different with every capsule. Kiav’s strength in print direction certainly stood out and offered us an opportunity to give our customers something street and cool, alongside the other ranges which are more dressed up,” says Hazel Pillay, General Manager: Pick n Pay Clothing.

Mitoo’s journey wasn't without its challenges, as he juggled the demands of the Futurewear programme alongside his college commitments. While his marks dropped slightly, his lecturers had been very understanding “knowing how important this real-world working experience is”.

Getting practical experience with one of the country’s leading retailers while still at varsity has set Mitoo up for a successful future in the creative industry.

“Joining the programme last year taught me about trends and the sales and marketing side of fashion and retail. Gavin (Rajah) gives a lot of tough love, and I do my best work because he is inspiring. He has helped me shape my understanding of the entire process.”

The experience of dealing with concrete numbers in the retail space has significantly broadened Mitoo's appreciation of the depth and intricacies of the fashion industry, and he relishes the opportunity to engage with these realities first-hand.

“I have learnt the hard way that coming up with graphics is a vigorous process, with lots of changes from people in the collaborative design space, and you need to be on your feet as you agree on the best way forward for sales. Experiencing and learning these things is my favourite part – aside from designing my own work, of course,” Mitoo said.

Mitoo's involvement with the programme has paved the way for a successful future in the creative industry. “I see this experience as a launchpad spearhead projects that offer similar opportunities to aspiring designers.”

He also has aspirations to launch his own clothing brand and will debut his first collection for his personal brand at the Cape Town Resort Collections fashion show later this year. He also plans to exhibit his art in more galleries and establish a live music and art gallery venue that uplifts local artists and musicians.

“I am an artist and have had three pieces exhibited in a gallery, so designing prints for clothes is enjoyable for me. I have painted clothes, and that is one of my main goals, merging art and fashion further than they are already.”

Mitoo's story is an inspiring example of seizing opportunities and transforming a passion into a promising future within the vibrant world of fashion and art.

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