Q&A: Laurel Pantin
After nearly a decade spent climbing the ranks of New York’s fashion industry, stylist Laurel Pantin decamped to Cape Town and refashioned her life.
What inspired your move to South Africa? The short answer is that I moved with my boyfriend for his job. He works for a company that develops energy and infrastructure projects all around Africa. The long version is that this opportunity to come here came up at a time when I was feeling really frustrated with my life in New York, and kind of uninspired and stuck. I’ve always wanted to try living abroad, and coming to Cape Town was about as different as it gets while still being able to speak the language. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What has been the most profound way your life has changed since you moved? Seeing the way a huge percentage of the world’s population lives makes the things I was worried about in New York seem really stupid. Apartheid ended really recently here, and it’s staggering to see how much progress there still is to be made. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean I don’t still freak out and worry about the small stuff. It’s been interesting to see how the two sets of concerns—your own worries and the bigger-issue problems—interact and govern your everyday life here.
How do South Africans approach fashion? There’s incredible creative energy here and from my experience, most people I meet, photographers, hair and makeup artists, and set designers, just want to make cool, weird, new stuff in their free time. There’s definitely a feeling of possibility here and freedom that I wasn’t as tapped in to in New York.
How are you discovering young, local designers? Probably unsurprisingly, Instagram has been a huge help in discovering new designers! There are a few that I’m really into that I’ve discovered on Instagram like Nicholas Coutts, Lukhanyo Mdingi, and MaxHosa by Laduma. They’re all doing really incredible, interesting, and different work! Other than that, it’s been fun to just kind of wander around the shopping areas checking things out. It feels a little overwhelming to be learning the designers here from scratch, after feeling like I had a good handle on things back at home, but it’s been really fun and inspiring. A few other designers I really love here are Adriaan Kuiters, Anmari Honiball, and Joel Janse van Vuuren.
HOW did you pick the location for your shoot? We definitely wanted to use the natural landscape in and around Cape Town, so we started at some sand dunes just outside of the city. We couldn’t believe how lucky we were when two women came riding by on horses! But we loved the otherworldy feel of the dunes with all that sky. Then we went to a local beach, Llandudno, where a lot of shoots happen. The beach itself is gorgeous, and there are massive gray boulders that feel really specific to Cape Town that are so fun to shoot on—they’re a bit like caves—but as we were walking to the boulders we found these crazy little wooded areas that had thick vines, all kind of neat vegetation.
What has been your favorite discovery in your new town? The natural beauty. Between the beaches, the mountains, and the vegetation, this is the most beautiful city I’ve ever lived in. Also biltong is a big one for me! It’s the local version of beef jerky—it’s not exactly the same as beef jerky, but it’s delicious and I’ve probably eaten my body weight in it five times over at this point!