Shiraz Reddy is a familiar face on the local fashion scene. From fashion weeks to fashion soirées, Reddy is there, always impeccably dressed. His passion for supporting and celebrating local creatives and designers is infectious and sets him apart from his peers. Having his hands in different pots – such as PR and events co-ordinating, broadcasting, blogging and styling – makes him a fashion and entertainment all-rounder.
“There is a lot of organic growth in the fashion industry at the moment. And instead of fashioning your brand to be like the next ‘top US retail brand’, South African designers and the industry as a whole are going back to our African roots, taking what we’ve grown and exhibiting it in the clothes we wear and the conversations we have about fashion. Also the trending fashion phrase is ‘prints is the new black’,” he says.
This is evident in Reddy’s latest fashion editorial titled Print Party, which features a mesh of bold and clashing prints and textures. The editorial currently on his blog, The Boy on the Park Bench was shot at the University of Cape Town with model Lesala Mampa.
“The editorial was inspired by the rich prints, textiles and the artistic flair I saw on the runways of SA Menswear Week and Cape Town Fashion week. The amazing African prints and textures on show took my love for prints to the next level.For the shoot I created wearable and attainable looks.“
“I always aim to educate my readers about ‘how to wear prints’ and the art of wearing ‘print-on-print’. I chose the UCT upper campus because of the negativity that has surrounded the campus of late… I saw it as a way of highlighting the greatness that still lives among those trees and walls,” says Reddy.
Also always try to keep the garments within their natural beauty as far as possible without losing the essence of the design and the location we’re shooting at,” he says.
The Boy on the Park Bench is the story of a boy sitting on the park bench observing his surroundings and sharing what he sees, explains Reddy, a Varsity College Pretoria graduate.
“I started the blog in 2010 as a way of expressing how I felt during a trying time of finding my feet in Cape Town and my chosen career path. It was a cold winter day and I was sitting in a park around the corner from my then flat in the southern suburbs.
“I decided that it was time for me to express myself and share my thoughts as a way of ‘dealing’ with what I was going through.
“I made the conscious decision to use it (blogging) as a way of expressing my honest opinion on fashion, the industry and its ever-changing dynamics that I get to experience first-hand on a daily basis. I blog for those who appreciate it but don’t have the time or resources to actively be a part of it,” Reddy says.
Describing himself as a braveheart because he is not afraid to take risks and to go where where others are too scared to go, the 28-year-old Reddy’s love for the creatives started at a young age.
“My parents always ensured we looked good and never skimped on buying my siblings and I the best clothes. I always appreciated new shoes and the opportunity to get all dressed up and to show off amongst my peers. At around age 9 I already knew the importance of a crisp white shirt and what it could do for your school uniform and any outfit in-general;” he says
“I’ve always enjoyed styling myself, planning outfits with my sisters and friends days before wearing them… I still do this to this day,” he says.
Reddy is inspired by photographers Trevor Stuurman and Theodore Afrika’s ability to capture beautiful imagery, as well as recording artist and producer Pharrell Williams’s sense of style and work within the fashion industry.
His list of notable fashion designers include Mzukisi Mabane of Imprint, Adriaan Kuiters, Craig Port and hip hop artist Kanye West.
“They push the envelope to spite stereotypes. I am also inspired by nature… how letting something grow organically can turn into a beautiful living thing. And the streets of Cape Town, how people here aren’t afraid to express their creative personalities through fashion,” says Reddy.
One of the key things to making it as a creative in South Africa is to stay true to yourself, he says.
“Being adventurous when no one trusts you and trusting your own gut will go a long way. “Also, it’s not easy to get individuals and brands to invest in your creativity because most are influenced by international trends and many are reluctant to help you pioneer new trends and ways of doing things;
“These for me are definite challenges. However, sticking to your guns, working like a beast and not forgetting the struggles and what you want to achieve and, that if you don’t do the work, no one else will, should lead you to maintaining a successful creative career.”
His message for aspiring fashion stylists is: “Never doubt yourself because then the client and team will doubt you too. Trial and error is okay… learn to accept mistakes but do your research well in advance and as detailed as possible… because God is in the detail.”
●Reddy’s blog link: https://theboyontheparkbench. wordpress.com
This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on October 9 2015