Electric South

Open Call for the Design Futures Lab 2023

After a successful inaugural Design Futures Lab 2022, an application call for a second edition of the lab is now open.

The lab allows for the worlds of fashion and immersive technology to merge in a radical exploration of storytelling, world-building, and reimagining futures by combining the skillsets of fashion practitioners and digital technologists.

The Design Futures Lab 2023 creates a space for new narratives at the intersection of immersive technology and sustainable fashion and design by combining the worlds of fashion and new media.

“The great thing about this technology is that it is immersive, so it can take abstract ideas and represent them visually, emotionally, and sonically. The moment we start physically and emotionally resonating with the problems we are facing, is when we will start to really care about the solutions,” says multi-disciplinary artist Natalie Paneng, one of 18 creators selected to participate in the inaugural edition of the Design Futures Lab, which took place in 2022. 

This creative economy project, supported by the British Council #SouthernAfricaArts, is now in its second year and in 2023 offers 12 South African and Zimbabwean content creators an opportunity to develop experiential, provocative and immersive digital narratives about sustainable fashion and design. 

“It’s a perfect example of how we can foster hope through collaboration and connection through trying global times,” says Holly Bell Beaton, one of the selected artists to the first edition of the programme. 

British Council, Electric South, Twyg, Korokoza and Crossover Labs are excited to invite dynamic digital and fashion, (including accessories and footwear) designers to apply for the Design Futures Lab 2023.

Design Futures Lab
Call for Applications

The 2nd edition of the Design Futures Lab will take place in Cape Town from 9 – 12 May 2023.

We are looking for six teams (12 artists in total working in creative pairs) – three teams from South Africa and three from Zimbabwe – to create immersive media prototypes of sustainable fashion practices.

Immersive media refers to forms of media such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) that provides a sense of presence and immersion by allowing a user to enter and interact with a simulated or augmented environment in a seemingly real way.

Think: a highly interactive and engaging experience for the user, that blurs the line between the physical and digital world.

Each team will be awarded a grant of R60,000.00 to develop their digital prototype/proof of concept.

The programme will include both a sustainable fashion workshop and a digital lab that will challenge successful applicants to explore and expand their digital production skills in XR (extended reality) including VR and AR.

Using new creative technologies and software, accessing international distribution channels and exhibition platforms, the lab will facilitate access to new markets for sustainable livelihoods.

About the Lab

What we will do

When does the Lab take place?

In-person from 21 – 24 April 2023 in Cape Town (full-time).

Prototyping will take place from May – August 2023.

Market access feedback will take place virtually in September 2023.

Who can apply?

Applicants must:

How to apply?

The application form requires that you:

Project ideas must:

Be a digital prototype/proof of concept with immersive narratives around themes of sustainable fashion practices along the entire value chain (from soil to landfill) and which address issues pertaining to the environment, and regenerative solutions. 

Use immersive technologies, such as Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR). This could include 360 filmmaking, volumetric capture, worldbuilding, interactive worlds, avatar creation, animation, artificial intelligence, projection mapping, hybrid forms, and beyond.

Important dates

Any questions? Please refer to the FAQ Section or contact info@electricsouth.org

Note: All applicants who aspire towards entrepreneurship in creative industries like fashion, music, film, photography and digital arts are being offered the chance to join an e-learning programme launched by the British Council. This forms part of a collection of free courses for the next generation of African leaders to support them through their creative business journey. All successful applicants will be required to complete this self-directed course work up to Intermediate Level. Link found here.

The Partners

Electric South has an award-winning track record in producing storytelling expressed in an immersive format. We run labs and workshops for creators, demonstrating cutting edge work and growing their practical skill set. We provide ongoing creative and technical mentorship to our artists in production. We regularly exhibit work and give talks at local and international festivals and events to evangelise new digital immersive media. Through our digital platforms, we share knowledge, tools and resources. Our aim is to grow the ecosystem of artists using new immersive technologies for storytelling in Africa and to facilitate collaborative information exchanges on the African continent. Electric South, a non-profit providing support and mentorship to digital visual storytellers, will implement a 4-day in-person lab in Cape Town for the 2nd edition of the Design Futures Lab. The focus will be on supporting participants to develop digital prototype/proof of concept ideas brought to the lab. Electric South will explore a number of different creative approaches including 360 filmmaking, volumetric capture, worldbuilding, avatar creation, virtual and augmented reality.

Twyg is a content platform that creates stories and events to support a transition to sustainable living. One of its projects, the Twyg Sustainable Fashion Awards connects the consumer market to sustainable fashion designers with the aim to grow and green the fashion industry in South Africa. With partners Luleke Zepe in Khayelitsha and Refashion Lab, Twyg is experimenting with new markets and business models that involve recycling, upcycling, mending and secondhand clothes. Twyg also partners with Afrika Tikkun, a youth employment agency, which is committed to positively impacting South Africa for the long term. For the Design Futures Lab, Twyg is designing a programme about sustainability, decoloniality and regeneration as it relates to growing, making, wearing and wasting of fashion in South Africa. By challenging participants to reflect on the fashion industry, Twyg will introduce ideas that will germinate stories about the future of fashion.

Korokoza is a creative media organisation focused on providing skills development, networking, and market access for artists, designers, writers, and technologists in Zimbabwe. We emphasise using emerging media to enable African creatives to address their core hopes, concerns, and values.

Crossover Labs are immersive media specialists, experts in the curation and creation of cutting-edge projects that combine technical innovation and storytelling. We like to collaborate with artists and technologists to present immersive, interactive work that will resonate with audiences around the world. Our series of eight live cinema documentaries combine stunning archive footage from the past century with contemporary soundtracks composed by popular musicians. In our labs, Crossover works with top industry mentors, incorporating design thinking and bespoke methodologies in order to encourage meaningful collaborations between different creative artists and technologists. We run workshops on Immersive Media development, VR and 360 video production and photogrammetry. Our workshops focus on the development of project ideas centred on story and audience development and routes to market. Crossover Labs will facilitate market access and feedback for the selected teams of the Design Futures Lab 2023.

All selected concepts will gain access to South African and UK markets with a keen focus on grants, funding and festival strategies.

The British Council’s Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Arts programme works in the diverse and varied countries of Sub-Saharan Africa and the U.K. Individually, each country and art sector has much to offer and exchange — collectively they tell multi-layered stories of contemporary Sub-Saharan Africa and the U.K. Our arts programmes are underpinned by research, focused on young people, and are committed to supporting the creation of new art and sharing this art to audiences both online and in-person, sharing skills and knowledge between creative communities in the countries of SSA and the U.K and creating new connections between young people. Our programmes are delivered by partners (artists, arts professionals, arts organisations, collectives, hubs) who have the vision and understanding of their creative communities and are best placed to lead and tell the stories of their local art sectors. With our partners, we stimulate new ways of connecting with and understanding each other through the arts. Design Futures Lab 2023 forms part of our Creative Economy programme in South Africa and aims to support young creatives with skills, opportunities, and knowledge that they need to build sustainable creative enterprises, build rich and provocative digital content and facilitate greater access to markets. 


Immersive media refers to forms of media such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) that create a highly interactive and engaging experience for the user.

This type of media provides a sense of presence and immersion by allowing the user to enter and interact with a simulated or augmented environment in a seemingly real way.

The goal of immersive media is to create a more lifelike and interactive experience that blurs the line between the physical and digital world. 

Sustainable fashion refers to the practice of designing, producing, and purchasing clothing, accessories, and other fashion items in a way that minimises harm to people and the environment. This involves using environmentally friendly materials, ethical manufacturing processes, and reducing waste throughout the entire life-cycle of the product. It also involves designing clothing that is durable and has a long lifespan, rather than being designed for short-term use. The goal of sustainable fashion is to create a more responsible and environmentally conscious fashion industry that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This includes reducing the use of harmful chemicals and resources, promoting fair labour practices, and creating closed-loop systems that reduce waste and promote circularity. 

XR refers to the collective term for Extended Reality (XR), which encompasses Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR).
Virtual Reality (VR) is a simulated 3D environment that enables users to explore and interact with virtual surroundings. It typically involves wearing a VR headset and complete immersion in a 360 virtual world/space.
Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital information and virtual objects onto the physical world. AR adds layers of digital information, such as graphics, text, audio, and video, to the perceived physical environment. AR experiences are delivered through devices such as smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices. They are often triggered by specific markers or objects in the physical environment.
You need to have an eagerness to learn and engage with some new creative practices that extend your existing knowledge. Prior experience in digital and interactive media such as photography, videography, digital design, virtual and augmented reality will be useful.

Any further questions? Please contact info@electricsouth.org


British Council, Electric South, Twyg, Korokoza, Crossover Labs