CHULAAP caters for the woman

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Fashion Designer Chu Suwannapha debuted his label CHULAAP about two years ago at the inaugural South African Menswear Week (SAMW). The unisex range was a meeting of his Eastern (Suwannapha is from Thailand) and African roots (he is based in Cape Town).

Resulting in a kaleidoscope of beautifully tailored clashing African prints in origami-like shapes. The collection was a hit that received rave reviews both locally and internationally. His creative eye for design and experience in the fashion industry is evident in each piece, making his carefully curated runway shows stand out. Suwannapha who is affectionately known as the “Prince of Prints” launched his debut ready-to-wear womenswear collection this week. I speak to him about the collection.

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So Chu, what pieces make up the collection for CHULAAP’s Cruise? Well, for a start I’m not working with the Wax Prints as I usually do. The prints I have used for this collection are more contemporary and graphic – they’re Afro Pop.

“The prints are 3D and create an optical illusion with a lot of depth and dimension. I love to play with graphic lines, like the diamond shapes and the Op Art bubbles which make each piece come to life. And the colour palette I’ve chosen is monochrome and shades of blue”

The collection comprises of 17 styles including skirts, a shirtdress, trenchcoat, culottes and more – of which all are timeless and effortless pieces which will suit all different occasions. It’s a mix of feminine styles plus boy meets girl, which is both clean and modern.

What are the designs inspired by? This ready-to-wear womenswear collection is inspired by the everyday African woman, and combines a 1950s feminine silhouette and graphic prints with an oriental twist. Each piece can be worn separately or combined to make a modern statement with head-to-toe prints.

 

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“Fashion should always be effortless and practical and that’s why I’ve designed beautiful garments to flatter and celebrate the African woman, who is looking for key pieces that highlight both her spirit and individuality with vibrant flair”

Why the move to womenswear? Is the approach, design-wise, different for designing womenswear than menswear clothing? I’ve wanted to create a womenswear collection for a while now, and now seemed like the perfect opportunity. My designs are always very straight forward with a twist of oriental – I like that what you see, is what you get. And my philosophy is that dressing is not about impressing the person next to you. It should be about adding personality and confidence to oneself. So my signature style didn’t change at all – you can still tell that it’s the same ‘men’s’ designer who has created this womenswear range. The only differences are the Lady Like 1950s-inspired top, dresses and skirts.

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Who is the CHULAAP Cruise Collection woman? The CHULAAP Cruise Collection is aiming for the broader audiences and who’s not afraid to wear graphic prints. It’s bold but basic. I want my audience to feel pretty and sophisticated with a sense of modern femininity and sexiness when they are wearing CHULAAP.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you take design cues from outside the fashion world? I get inspired from what I see or hear around me every day such as art, culture, architecture, politics and nature. I don’t stick to one thing. I mix them together to be one story.

“Sometimes you need to create your own inspirations, like making a story board”

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Last words? I’m so excited to bring my womenswear collection to market. As a designer, you put your all into your range and it’s been an incredible journey – one that I’m very proud of. Who knows what’s next. I heard someone the other day comment that it would be great to own some CHULAAP Homeware watch this space.

* Shop the CHUULAAP’s Cruise Collection by Chu Suwannapha at https://www.spree.co.za./

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58: https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style-beauty/fashion-trends-for-summer-inspired-by-local-designers-2044424

 

Moonchild Sanelly says she kicked doors when they didn’t open

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TENACITY: Moonchild Sanelly Picture: Jim Herrtage

The blue-haired pop star, has made impressive moves in her young career. Performing with Busi Mhlongo and Madala Kunene, she is a beaming light that will illuminate for many years to come.I caught up with her this week while she was in town to record at the Red Bull Cape Town S tudios, where she spoke about her career and her upcoming performance at the Oppikoppi Festival in October. 

When you completed high school, was music the trajectory you expected for your career? When I left school, the stage was definitely the vision. Performance and my mom allowed me to be expressive, so lights, camera, and action was my life’s theme.

The R&B and pop landscape has changed a lot since you came out. What are your feelings on the scene today? I respect the power of reinvention, like Beyoncé. I think it’s one of those things where you learn ways of staying true to your art yet are creative enough for young ones to jump on and appreciate, without calling it a throwback.

At this point in your career, what would you like to accomplish? A song with US record producer, rapper, singer Diplo. My fashion school and that is after I scoop my awards in every genre that I pitch for! I plan on winning in everything I embark on. I’m patient too.

 

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Picture supplied. 

If you had to select a new artist to collaborate with on a song or album, who would it be? It would be this dope male rapper and art director Oarabile Mahole aka Jay Cubed SA, from Mafikeng. Every song is conceptual and he deals with branding artists as an artist and I love Die Antwoord with my life. Aka and Anatii are fire galore. The queen Thandiswa Mazwai. There are so many Nicci Saint Bruce is a Yassssssss!

Tell us about your experience at Primavera Pro in Spain?

Life life life! You are shown over there that music is a language of its own. The appreciation, the posters as I walked into festival they love our craft. I wish we all thought super big with our careers no matter what we do.

You have been fortunate enough to perform with SA’s well respected artists. Did you think you would get to this point? Tell us about some of the highlights while working with high profile names? I was this kid who was always eager and kicked doors when they didn’t open. It’s always a tick off the bucket list of your career. I am still that character. As an artist, with each achievement there’s hope that something better is coming. I felt that with every year in my 12 years on stage. I think patience is by default as you don’t think negatively when there’s light seeping little by little. It was an honour and the journey continues.Mama Busi said to me…“ngane yam umuhle, don’t change” (My child, you are beautiful. Don’t ever change.) Can you imagine this rock star telling a young fired-up red-haired girl that!

You will be performing at Oppikoppie? How do you feel about this and what can the audience expect? New music from my ep called #1stmillion which I’ve just recorded at Red Bull Studios in Cape Town. I’ll also be sharing the stage with Luma and The Kiffness, so I am all over. You’re a pretty stylish and fashion forward individual. How important do you think image and style is when it comes to the music you’re making, as well as performing in general?Image to me is everything. You must spark an interest for people to find out what you do, before you deliver. That’s what I tell my clients. I cannot live with being invisible, the eyes are awesome.

What advice do you have for artists who are interested in producing, writing and performing but might have a hard time balancing and focusing their efforts? Believe in your art. Listen to wise counsel, in fact you may seek it. When you have a vision, you are the first one who needs to be motivated enough to hustle it t hrough. Your product is the reason for performing, so don’t lose focus, ever.

* Connect with Moonchild on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/moonchildsanelly/?hl=en

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58  https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style-beauty/fashion/chulaap-caters-for-the-woman-10346031

Kwena Baloyi hair photography series titled “Afrikan Krowns”

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Kwena Baloyi . Picture by Trevor Stuurman

For a long time the controversial issue of black women’s hair has been debated on mainstream media. Even though arguments continue as to whether it is correct or not to have relaxed hair and wear weaves and wigs, I am excited to see a shift in the narrative. The internet and social media are at the forefront in driving the story of “my hair, my crown”. I spoke to fashion stylist Kwena Baloyi, whose Instagram photography series of beautiful hairstyles celebrating black hair caught my eye.

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Kween Kwena. Picture by Nonzunzo Gxekwa 

Tell us about yourself? My friends and industry peers fondly call me “Kween Kwena”. I’m a vivacious, high-spirited and fun person (or so I’m told). I’m from Moletjie Ga-Makibelo in Limpopo. I’m a professional, on-demand TV, magazine and personal stylist. I’m also a fashion adventurist, who explores different clothes to come up with unique styles. I consider myself a fashion therapist because I help people find their fashion identity. I’m low-key obsessed with hair too.

Tell us about your interest in hair? Like every young woman I have come a long way with my hair.

Most of us, as black women, have had a contentious relationship with the kink in our coily hair and it’s been influenced by what society tells us is “acceptable”

I’ve been through that phase where my hair needed to be straight because I thought that was “appropriate”. My natural hair was called “untidy” or was not appreciated by those around me, so I thought it would be better to straighten or shave it. The older I got, the more I appreciated what my hair meant to me and what it represented to me as a woman in a society with so many negative connotations about African people’s hair. Now I wear my hair how I like because it’s an extension of who I am. It expresses my personality more than any item of clothing could.

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What inspired your social media hair photo series? Being a stylist affords me the opportunity to travel to different parts of the country and to meet many different characters. Each person I have met has always had an interesting aspect of their hair. Some stand out for being unique, while some simply intrigue me because they choose to be “regular” for the sake of fitting in. Experiencing this variety of people sparked the notion of how people relate to their “crown” – which is what your hair is essentially. You can choose to have it bold and in your face, or like other hairstyles considered “generic” or “normal”.

 

I’ve also been attracted to how different tribes around the continent wear their hair – particularly in West Africa.

There is a lot of documentation by history scholars and international artists about black people and their hair. The natives of Ugogo, whose hair traditions are exceptional, are one of a few. There are also the Fante women of Elmina (Edina) in Ghana, who had beautiful thick hair and their hairstyles were always so intricate and crafted to perfection. In fact, my current coiffure hairstyle is inspired by women in West Africa. The hairstyle was later made popular by our beloved mama Miriam Makeba. South Africa also has threading and plaiting techniques that are unique and allow us to express our personalities.

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Who is responsible for creating the beautiful hairstyles? My go-to stylist is Ncumisa “Mimi” Duma. She’s a talented hair magician and understands the importance of treating natural hair with care. Can you believe my hair has not seen a hair dryer or endured any artificial heat since I started growing it? It’s the healthiest my natural hair has been in ages!

Does your series have a title? Yes. It’s called “Afrikan Krowns”. We are each Afrikan and each have a Krown. Your Krown is an extension of who you are and an expression of your personality/character. The series looks at how each person chooses to wear their Krown with pride.

 

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Can you tell us what triggered your hair interest? This will sound so clichéd, but do you know the song I am not my hair, by India Arie? It’s always been one of my favourites jams, but it wasn’t until years after I heard it that I began to understand what she was really saying. Often as young girls we sing along to a song without really understanding what its purpose or message is. The way India describes her “hair story” in the first verse is how my hair chronicles kinda went. You start with whatever hair your parents decide you need to have. Then you become a little girl who does certain hairstyles because that’s what the school deems acceptable. From there you become a teenager, get influenced by pop culture and base your hairstyles on what’s “trending”. Then you become an adult and still get peer pressured into doing what your circle finds palatable. Eventually, your hair starts to fall out because you’ve either put way too many chemicals in it or braided it for too long or sewn on too many weaves.

How do you see natural hair empowering women? For me it says you’re slowly, but surely, getting to a point where society’s standards of beauty don’t define who you are. You no longer feel forced to relax your hair or wear a weave just because the expectation to have straight hair weighs you down.

You are ready to celebrate your hair and turn it into whichever shape of krown you desire because it’s an extension of who you are, but by no means defines who you are. In many ways, I hope black women feel free to be whoever they choose to be through their krowns.

Any last words? Women need to understand that the type of hair they choose to wear is not linked to who they are or who other people assume them to be. Whether you’re into braids, weave, wigs, fades, cheese kop, dreadlocks, afro, or anything else you find appealing, remember your hair is your krown.

No one can dictate what it should look like nor what it should mean to you. What matters is that you love it, nurture it and make the most of it.

 

*Connect with Kwena on Instagram: @kwenasays

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en and find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in the Top of The Times on June 9 2017

What drives a designer?

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When it comes to clothing brands, sometimes all it takes is a clean and distinct design aesthetic that will set you apart from the saturated market. Streetwear brand Unknown Union (UU) is one of a few South African labels which have managed to stand out with its distinct tracksuits and separates like T-shirts, caps, socks and jackets

I get to know the founder of the brand, Jason Storey.

Tell us a bit about yourself. I wasn’t always a designer. I actually spent my early career as an in-house corporate attorney in New York, working around the clock on deal after deal. But I always had a passion for expression outside the field of law. I grew up surrounded by the study of art (my father was an art dealer).

Tell us about starting your label.Unknown Union was born from that passion, but it’s vision has changed significantly since its origins. My family and I have been travelling to South Africa since I was much younger and it is through that experience that I developed a deep affinity for the people, places and cultures here. UU originally was originally founded in 2010 and at that time we primarily imported brands from outside of South Africa, such as Obey, Levi’s Vintage, Pendleton, and Warriors of Radness.

We also were the first to officially introduce Top Shop to the African Market through our exclusive pop up shop. Around 2011, we began developing our in-house clothing brand, UU, which was inspired by local art and culture, and it didn’t take long before this became the primary focus of our shop. Today, you can find our range at our newest location in Cape Town CBD (44 Bloem Street), where our garments celebrate the rich cultural history of Lesotho and South Africa and several new design projects that touch Angola, Congo and Kenya.

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Model, Sanele Xaba is the face of UU. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

What’s it like being in the fashion industry? The fashion industry is fun, but challenging.

From the outside the industry can easily appear to be sexy and glamorous, but people don’t always see how much work and effort goes into the creation of each garment. From design to production it takes a team working meticulously around the clock to produce something worth buying.

 

How would you describe your brand? We believe that there is something that binds every person on this planet together. There is no name for that thing. There is no way to smell it, taste it, feel it, see it, etc. But we all intrinsically recognise that it exists. That’s one of the meanings behind our name, Unknown Union.

How difficult is it to remain original when streetwear brands seem to emerge daily nowadays? If you are pinning your originality on the uniqueness of your design, then few designers can meet that standard because almost every design you could think of to drape the human body has already been thought of or created.

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Is it important for the brand to have the clothing worn by celebrities? While we are thankful many celebrities have taken an interest in our brand, our clothing is designed for everyone .

How have you seen the role of social media develop for you as a brand?

Social has media has become more of a focus for the brand over the last year. Until recently, word of mouth and print were our primary marketing vehicles.

 

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What’s next for Unknown Union? Our UU family can expect to see new and innovative capsule collections from upcoming collaborations with local and international artists. Everyone is invited to come through our flagship Cape Town shop for the launch of our next exhibit: Fashion Art.

Connect with Unknown Union on Instagram @unknownunion https://www.instagram.com/unknownunion/

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en  

Find more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in The Mercury on June 9 2017. 

The designer who dresses the stars

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Media personality Bonang Matheba wears Orapuleng Modutle Style Avenue.

THE glamorous dresses worn by the likes of Bonang Matheba, Terry Pheto and Nandi Madida on red carpet events takes a lot of work.

They begin in the imagination of talented designers, who use celebrities as muses or brand ambassadors. South African couture designer Orapeleng Modutle is currently in the forefront when it comes to dressing some of our leading ladies for his label, Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue.

“I get to dress some of the country’s top celebrities, an opportunity that is not afforded to many young designers,” says Modutle

“I have always wanted to dress Bonang Matheba because she is one of the best dressed red carpet queens. I have dressed all the celebrities that I have wanted to dress locally such as Ayanda Thabethe, Minnie Dlamini.

 

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Artist Nandi Madida

“The women that I dress form in line with the product that I deliver and they get attracted to the quality of the style that I deliver. It’s really knowing how to stick to your clientele and quality and craftsmanship is also very important,” he says.

“Internationally, I would love to dress Jennifer Lopez and Kendall Jenner.”

I met Modutle before his African Fashion International Mercedes- Benz Fashion Week Cape Town showcase.

The collection, titled “Rose Garden Wedding”, features subliminal gowns in sequins, chiffon, satin, structured corsets.

The designs are complemented by embellishments such as flowers, pearls, lace, feathers and hats by Anita Ferreira designs. The theme of the collection says

“Royalty is getting married and they have invited their elite family members and friends. The collection caters for the attendees, the mother of the bride and bridal party”. 

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Modutle said: “It’s a day of fun, people are wearing hats, butterflies on their hair and big gowns… taking couture to another level.

“Our previous collection was very playful, our clientele was very young, she wore crop tops and shorts.

“The couture fashion scene in SA still need to grow, we need to educate our clients about the design and production process, the craftsmanship and the behind-the scenes that goes into creating a couture garment.

“Some of my favourite international designers that I look up to for inspiration includes Tom Ford and Elie Saab and locally Gavin Rajah and Gert-Johan Coetzee are amazing at couture,”he says.

 

Modutle, the Tshwane University of Technology fashion graduate, developed his love for fashion and attention for details while watching his mother and grandmother do needle work.

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“I used to watch them hand stitching and that caught my attention from when I was about eight- years-old – that’s when I also developed my love for sketching.

“The first item I made in varsity was a pencil skirt, which took me a whole two weeks to make. My big break came when I interned with Khensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherie. That was an amazing experience and she is the pillar of where I am now.

“I learnt a lot about how she ran her business. She taught me that fashion is not all about the glitz and the glam,” he says.

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Describe the Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue woman?

“She is between the ages of 20 and 60. She is a romantic. She exudes opulence and luxury. She is the kind of woman that will wear a pencil skirt with a slit paired with with a feather jacket to work,” he says.

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His advice for aspiring designers:

“You need to learn the skill of design, your talent is not enough. Once you know the skill get an internship. It’s very important because you will be working with other people who have been in the industry longer than you.”

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● Connect with Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue on instagram @Orapelengmodutle.

Photography Credits: Creative direction: Rich Mnisi. Styling: Bee Diamondhead Photographer: Apart Verrips. Hats: Anita Ferreiradesigns. Make-Up Artist: Muzi Zuma. Flowers: Amor Flowers South Africa.

Connect with me on Instagram @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

Read more of my work at http://www.IOL.co.za http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

This piece was first published in Top of The Times on May 29 2017.

 

Habits recently exhibited at Pure London

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Habits recently exhibited at Pure London, the UK’s favourite fashion-buying event, where they showcased their locally produced Travel Collection. Jenny chats to us about the journey and her Pure London showcase.

Habits has been around for a while, surviving these days of fast fashion and cheap imports, what has contributed to your longevity? From small beginnings when I started with only one person working with me, I have increased my staff complement to numerous sales assistants, PAs, managing directors and an online team.

The first lesson that gets drummed into their heads is service, service, service. Before Habits I had been appalled by bad customer relations, so my top priority has always been that personal service is paramount. I feel this is a dying art in store but also online.

 

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My biggest asset is my team who provide the personal service that sets us apart. This extends to having a huge comfy sofa for bored husbands, with plenty of chilled De Grendel wine and the latest magazines on hand.

Many of my staff have been with me for a long time which allows them to build relationships and trust with our clients.

Tell us a little about the collection you showcased at Pure London? It was a difficult collection to do since I was sitting in the sweltering 33º heat of Cape Town while I was designing the AW18 range for a European winter.

We have shown at Pure London once before, when we went as part of the South African delegation with the KZN Fashion Council, exhibiting our best-selling Travel Range. Made from non-crease jersey Lycra, it rolls up in a ball, is non-crease and makes packing so simple – I knew it was a good seller, summer or winter.

Fortunately, I suddenly had a really good feel for velvet, and not just my favourite colours of black, grey and navy, but beautiful jewel tones – we all need a bit of cheering up.

I know about harsh European winters, and for a huge fan of layering, these washable velvet pieces are as perfect for African winters as they are for the English ones.

I’ve included a sort of Diane Keaton/ Annie Hall masculine three-piece suit complete with waistcoat – it’s a masculine look but hasn’t steered me away from the long, full-flowing opera coat, which is not just an easy piece to wear but it suits everybody.

This year we took a huge leap of faith and booked a stand at Pure London on our own – the only South African women’s wear label exhibiting. I have a factory of 25 people to keep in jobs in a challenging economic climate, and to be honest, it’s difficult to keep going. The only way I could see that I could keep a full-blown factory running was to dive in at the deep end, take a chance and put my money where my mouth was.

It’s frightening, but I have learnt you have to take risks in order to grow in a sustainable way.

It takes a lot of hard work but we have huge faith in our team, who exceeded our expectations, and we’re really proud of our results.

Our customer base has grown and we’ve committed to exhibiting at the next Pure London show in July. We’re proud to be flying the flag for South Africa at the show with our “proudly made in Cape Town” range, and visitors loved our stand, complete with a beaded rhino all the way from Cape Town. Local is lekker!

 

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Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? Absolutely not! I normally leave it late and have to panic through the last few weeks of delivering a collection, but I think I work best under pressure.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned since you started Habits? The biggest lesson is not to stand still. I went from a one-man band in 1986 to the next step of buying a building in Claremont, to expanding my team, to having my first Joburg Trunk Show 22 years ago, to opening a factory, to launching South Africa’s first online fashion store in 2002. The brand has to keep reinventing itself.

What advice would you give to young designers? Attach yourself to a known designer and learn as much as you can.

Be prepared to put in the hours and get paid very little. If you start your own business, be prepared that you will not make money in the first two years.

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How important is Fashion Week for you? Showing off is part of the business and I can’t stress how important it is showing at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town (MBFWCT). It’s expensive, but when you think about the organisers African Fashion International put in, it’s a drop in the ocean. In fact, when I started out, I used to share shows with other designers to save money.

To demonstrate how important it is, in the weeks following MBFWCT, our figures go up and it’s not just our regular customers, but a lot of new clients. Fashion Week is a platform not just to show what sells, but to give you the opportunity to really extend what you do in real life, go a bit over the top and have some fun.

Without giving too much away, our theme for this year’s Fashion Week this month is “It’s complicated”, but that’s all I’m saying.

How would you describe the Habits woman? We aspire to having customers from aged 18 to 80. Our clients are busy women on the move, especially our online customers, who trust the brand. We have women who may be insecure with clothes and they appreciate that we don’t just sell frocks – our staff are trained to give honest advice on anything from packing and colours to wardrobe management and styles.

* The Habits Fashion Boutique is in Cavendish Close, Claremont.

Visit Habits at: http://www.habits.co.za/

Twitter: @HabitsFashion

Facebook: HabitsFashion

Instagram: habitsfashion_sa

* The Mercedes Benz Fashion Week will take place from March 23-25 in Camps Bay. Visit: http://africanfashioninternational.com/

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus and The Star on March 10 2017. For more of my work visithttp://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style/fashion

Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter: @Nontando58

Lexus SA Menswear Week A/W’17

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Jenevieve Lyons, Collection name: de-frag-mented (undated) picture by  by Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

Africa’s only menswear-focused fashion showcase, the fifth edition of the Lexus SA Menswear Week, took place this month at The Palms in Woodstock. I chatted to three designers whose work was among those that stood out, about their collections and inspiration.

Jenevieve Lyons (South Africa)

Collection name: de-frag-mented (undated)

Tell us about the concept behind your collection? The collection was an amalgamation of my two previous collections: Macula Autumn/Winter 2016 and Deferential Spring/Summer 2017.Both these collections carry immense relevance internationally , allowing us to showcase Macula Autumn/Winter 2016 in Helsinki, in Finland, at the end of last year.We felt that a revisit would be pertinent, thus seeing the opportunity for de-frag-mented to arise as a collection.The collection was therefore presented in the manner of an artistic installation showcasing a concise, five-look collection featuring all the campaign models from our previous two collections.They were initially disguised behind a stocking, which was later cut open to reveal their faces, and this was intended to tell a visual parable to intrigue fashion-lovers, compelling them to think, wonder and ponder about the reasoning and also reminisce along with us, all three stories in one.

How important is Fashion Week for you? The mission of our brand is to tell parables through our fashion – to take it so much further than just clothes.As a South African designer uniting to build our industry and African fashion’s identity; and to pull this clichéd identity of “ethnic” and print to a more modernistic view that can be placed next to an international brand and be understood globally.So the importance of realising cultural, social, political and environmental issues within a fashion context to educate and build renewed perspectives on the African fashion industry is imperative.

Where do you go to seek artistic inspiration? I am aware of my surroundings at all times – politically, socially, news-driven, culturally – all in all to be tapped into the zeitgeist every day, at every moment. I find inspiration in organic places.I will experience or witness something or someone that will spark interest, and this interest links up within my fashion forecasting stream.

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Nicholas Coutts  picture by  by Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

 

Nicholas Coutts (South Africa)

Tell us about your A/W17 collection you presented at the Lexus SA Menswear Week? For this collection, I drew inspiration from South Africa’s diverse culture combined with a strong 1970s influence.I aimed to create fresh and dynamic garments that the contemporary man can wear while making a subtle impact.There are glimpses of metallic touches of texture running through the collection. The colours give a warm and happy atmosphere, and sophisticated tailoring.

My collaboration with House of Grace design (macrame bags) and milliner Crystal Birsch for the hats added a vibrant and innovative mood which energised the collection.Styling for the collection was by Peter Georgiades. He brought a fresh approach to the styling and another point of view to the collection.It was important for me to collaborate this season to empower both myself and those that I collaborated with.

What were the first steps you took in the fashion world? My interest in fashion was sparked from an early age. I come from a creative family who have been supportive in my career from the beginning.After studying fashion design for three years, I worked learning different aspects of fashion industry before starting my own brand.

What is it like working for yourself and who is your dream client? I work with a pattern maker and a seamtress, and it’s quite lonely sometimes. It’s challenging as I have to do it all, from PR to overseeing garment construction to designing. However, in the end, the final product is very rewarding.

ST Verve Fashion Pic 2 Mai Atafo.jpg Mai Atafo Atalier picture by  by Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

  Mai Atafo Atalier (Nigeria)

Collection name: Me

Tell us about your Lexus SA Menswear AW’17 showcase? Me is a collection that describes my journey from when I was 19 years to this present day. In my early years, hand-downs from my siblings and shopping second-hands because one couldn’t afford cool new clothes made up my wardrobe.Added to this was my need to stand out by reinventing these pieces through reconstructing or sometime deconstructing them.Hand print by Dricky_ helps tell a literal story (my first fashion collaboration). The base of all this was my love for denim, velvet, corduroy (ridged velvet) suede and camouflage print.

I also used houndstooth (a pattern with notched corners suggestive of a canine tooth) which I consider to be the most technical check pattern, which could be fun and serious at the same time.Tie and dye for character and the obvious knitwear just because it’s Autumn/Winter and Verraomo is amazing as she knits herself.

In the past few years, my love for tuxedos led to a path where I can respect the dress-code and also give it twist, which is subtly visible by the velvet taping on the trousers matching the jacket fabric (velvet) rather than the conventional trouser tapping matching the lapel of the tuxedo jacket.

Not to forget the smoking jacket with our trademark shawl peck lapel (like all the tuxedos in the collection) with houndstooth trousers rather than the traditional tartan checks.

“For once, the collection wasn’t about predicting consumer trends but one that’s truly me and what I love”

The fashion industry is very competitive. What sets your brand apart?As bespoke tailor and fashion designer, what sets me apart is fine tailoring, fit, quality and ability to create garments that incorporate this with edge and fashion forward design, which sets us apart.

This piece was first published in the Cape Times arts and lifestyle supplement Top of The Times on February 17 2017.

See more of my work at : http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style/fashion/menswear-revisited-7804232

Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter @Nontando58