Gavin Rajah celebrates ten years of ultra-luxe couture with Spring/Summer 2013 collection with Pirelli PZero trench coats opening the show.

Pirelli Fashion

The illustrious unveiling of Rajah’s “LUMINESCENT LUXURY” took place at Cape Town Fashion Week 2012, o 26 July at 20:30. Cape Town Fashion Week was founded by Gavin Rajah and this year the event proudly celebrates ten years since its inception.

The collection was inspired by the love poetry of Boccaccio, the ‘language of flowers’ and the 1950’s ‘la dolce vita’ mood of Italy. Cropped 50’s bra corsets, pristine pencil skirts with flourishes on back panels, gentle peplum tops and multi-paneled dresses with concealed pleats and visible dart detail featured strongly in his new collection.

“The focus is on detail, and more detail, with fabrics that are sensuous to the touch. The pieces are deceptively simple but involve intricate construction and seaming,” says Rajah.

A special collaboration with PZero fabrics by Pirelli added laminated linens and taffetas to the collection to create trench coats with cape details to ward off evening Summer showers, using the latest innovation in fibres and plastic lamination.

Pirelli’s history in technology and innovation and a spirit of functionality and practicality have found an elegance of style through fashion over the last century.


Pirelli traces its history in clothing and fashion back over a century.  As a line of business it started in 1873, one year after the company was formed, with its first technical articles in rubber.  Already in 1877 its “health wear and haberdashery” products were on the market. They included waterproof clothing: rubber soles, heels, and galoshes, as well as bathing caps and “bathing buoyancy rings”.  While very much in the spirit of functionality and practicality, elegance and style were not lacking, as shown in Pirelli’s graceful selection of ladies overcoats.  Technology, too, was a constant feature of products by the company, which in 1901 patented its first tyre. The 1920s saw the development of special treatments for waterproofing fabrics and in the 1930s output began of “Lastex”, a tough, elastic rubber latex yarn that was thin enough to be woven like normal yarn.  It was in the years after the Second World War, however, that Pirelli clothing really took off.

Since the post-1945 period Pirelli has also led the way in ready-to-wear clothing. In Arona it opened a new manufacturing facility for raincoats and overcoats. Its research into materials yielded groundbreaking patents. These showed through in the innovations it brought to the market for waterproof fabrics:  its “elastomerized wool”, which included a thin core strata of vulcanized synthetic and natural rubber between two air-filled cotton strata;  its “sporting” item, wool tweed with velvety rubber; and  its “wool rub”, obtained by processing two types of wool with a special treatment.

Lastex, dubbed in the company’s promotion as “a marvel of a yarn”, is used in the production of corsets and bathing costumes that enhance the female shape but at the same time are practical and comfortable. A fitting endorsement came from an exceptional source:  in 1952, Marilyn Monroe, then a very beautiful model and an actress yet to make her name, posed in advertisements for bathing costumes in Pirelli Lastex yarn.  During the economic boom years Pirelli rubber was a fixture of the trips to the seaside made by Italians: swimming masks, flippers, aqualungs, diving suits, bathing caps, inflatable toys, water mattresses, boats, and inflatable dinghies.  Pirelli was synonymous with the sea – in its myriad aspects, including sailing.

The Pirelli logo badged boat wear in water-resistant fabric. In 1971, in co-operation with the fashion designer, Eva Sabbatini, a new fabric was launched – “Dova”, a waterproofed linen that combined tear resistance with great softness and was used by Sabbatini in a series of models (for powerboats, yachts, water skiing) notable for their futuristic styling, ease of wear for sports activities, and refinement.  The above exemplify the use by Pirelli of original technologies in creating clothing that has quality and elegance. Even today these are the characteristics that distinguish Pirelli Pzero, the brand it devised 125 years ago following the production of its first rubberized raincoat and an industrial design project driven by an experimental zeal in which engineering and performance find a dimension where they can lay claims to glamour.

About Gavin Rajah

Rajah is an entrepreneur in the world of fashion and marketing, his brand has become synonymous with discerning style, and has established itself as a luxury label.  Collaboration with micro-economic projects specialising in traditional skills and crafts are his passion and he is constantly seeking ways in which to promote this to the rest of the world

Gavin’s work has featured in international publications such as L’Officiel, Milano Finanza, icon, Luna, Avant Garde, Harper’s & Queen, Uomo Collezioni, London Sunday Times, London Financial Times, The Face, Donna, Citizen K, BBC, CNN and the Los Angeles Times. He has been a strong champion of South African design which lead him to being invited by the Federation Française de la Couture to show in Paris in July 2006. Gavin regularly presents his work internationally. Gavin founded and started Cape Town Fashion Week and serves as a board member on the Cape Town Fashion Council.

The United Nations has appointed him a UNICEF Ambassador for the work he has done to uplift the lives of vulnerable communities in South Africa and with this appointment he joins the ranks of Roger Federer, Shakira, Ricky Martin and Angelique Kidjo in working for children’s causes. FinWeek has listed him as one of the top 40 most influential leaders in the country. Gavin’s work extends to a broad base of discerning clients around the world and he works out of his studio in Cape Town. He is passionate about couture and his clothing reflects this in the finish, the craftsmanship, the breathtaking fabrics and construction. He is inspired by art, theatre, music and his constant need to travel to new destinations.