PHOTOS Pieter Vosloo PRODUCTION Suzaan Heyns and Sybrand Wiechers WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo
For Jozi-based fashion designer Suzaan Heyns and graphic designer Willem Kitshoff, their wedding in the Free State was as much a celebration of love as an expression of creativity.
The Suzaan Heyns fashion label has long had a link with architecture and sculpture. The eponymous designer’s Autumn Winter 2013 range took its inspiration from the Indian-style doors and labyrinthian alleyways of Zanzibar’s Stone Town. In 2012, her Re-imagine Concrete collaboration with cement manufacturer PPC revealed a marriage of fashion and sculpture that had the country’s most fashionable tongues wagging. So, when it came to wedding her partner of 14 years, this bride’s penchant for art and architecture took centre stage.
The venue was the 135-year-old Prynnsberg Estate in Clocolan in the Eastern Free State. Established in 1881, a century before both Willem and Suzaan’s birth year, the estate was the brainchild of Kimberley diamond magnate Charles Newberry, built in pursuit of creating an English country estate in Africa. It featured various buildings and facilities: two churches, a vicarage, a game-keeper’s lodge, barns and a cricket field. But its star feature was a grand Victorian sandstone manor. The house suffered generations of neglect, until the current owners bought it in 2003 and set about restoring it with the guidance of a master plan by architects Michael Scholes and Michael Rayne.
“The house has an eerie sensuality about it and, with murals painted by Rudyard Kipling, I found it incredibly unusual and visually appealing,” says Suzaan. “It resonated strongly with our aesthetic.”
Much like the house and in true Suzaan style, the wedding was no ordinary affair. First off, instead of flowers, the decorations consisted of white ceramics. The sculpture theme was pulled through to the decor and the wedding cake – doing away with the familiar figurines and instead featuring sculptures of Willem and Suzaan’s hands.
For the reception table, Suzaan got in touch with Rial Visagie, founder and creative director of Ceramic Factory. “I asked him for any pieces that weren’t perfect that we could repurpose. Ceramic Factory loved the idea and supplied beautiful slightly flawed items that found a new home in the shape of serving ‘dishes’. We took them to the local bakery with the instruction to cram as much dough into the shapes as possible and bake and see what happens. The process was very experimental but the result was food as art – bread over-flowed from ceramic pieces such as cups, cattle skulls, spindly deer, miniature dogs and dinosaur feet, purposely creating an interactive experience for people to literally break bread together.”
The couple invited about 60 wedding guests and took full advantage of the setting. Says Suzaan: “It was quite the event, with guests arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday. The idea was to have a full-blown weekend of fun for our closest friends and family. Surrealist adventure games, dressing up and, of course, flowing Champagne… The celebration felt like an opulent festival for the not-too-fussy. Although the manor house can accommodate only 24 guests, Prynnsberg has a glamping area set with canvas tents, where there was a lot of late-night dancing in the moonlight.”
Avant-garde, bizarre, inventive, boundary-pushing… These are all words that have been used to describe Suzaan’s work as a designer. We didn’t expect any less from her wedding, and she didn’t disappoint.