Words by Kendra Hunsley
In a world where eurocentrism dominates and filters through fashion, design and the arts at large, it is both paramount and necessary (more so now than ever) to have African voices and representation within those very spheres. Below are South African menswear designers who propel the African narrative in their creations and are making waves in the fashion industry, both locally and internationally.
Laduma Ngxokolo is a knitwear designer behind the brand Maxhosa by Laduma whose creations are inspired by the isiXhosa culture. Establishing his brand in 2011, Laduma saw a need for traditional isiXhosa regalia suitable for Amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). Primarily using mohair and wool, which he sourcelocally, the label comprises of exquisitely made isiXhosa inspired knitwear patterned pieces. Maxhosa by Laduma has expanded it’s brand into homeware; creating patterned rugs, cushions and blankets. A well revered designer in South Africa, Laduma has also has received international praise; in 2015 he won the Vogue Italia Scouting for Africa prize which saw hm showcase his collections at the Palazzo Morando Show in Milan, Italy. A shoutout from Beyonce, who featured his work on her website which was displayed in Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City surely didn’t hurt.
Founded in 2014, Rich Mnisi is an eponymous brand which embraces a minimal, gender-fluid contemporary aesthetic. The young designer was named the 2014 Africa Fashion Young Designer of the Year just 10 months after making the bold decision to start a brand- that speaks to the true artistry he possess and spills into his work. Mnisi has also appeared in magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire, Glossary UK, and Vogue Italia, to name a few.
Stemming from a small town in East London and took up Fashion Design at CPUT, Lukhanyo Mdingi is a young fashion design whose offerings go beyond garment making. His designs are contemporary and forward-thinking infused with African influences. Lukhanyo has had presentations at Pitti Uomo and British Fashion Council’s International Fashion showcase. His SS/16 offering titled ‘Taintless’ consisted of minimal and timeless pieces accompanied by a look book which included sublime images of two carefree Black boys in a ‘lost land’ which showcased the loosely fitted East Asian inspired looks superbly. Lukhanyo was also featured in The Fader and i-D.
Nao Serati is a contemporary athleisure JHB based label founded by Nao Serati Mofammerein. His designs are influenced by youth culture and challenge normative views of gender and sexuality. The intricate detailing, gender fluidity and free flow his garments possess has created a heap of discourse around much larger social issues faced by South African youth.
I first discovered Jenevieve Lyons back in 2013 as a contestant in Elle’s Rising Star competition, she became a personal favourite very early on. Her designs were continuous standouts. Since then, her avant-garde pieces and thought-provoking themes she uses as the backbone of her collections have made her one of the most acclaimed menswear designers in the country. Her design approach is enthralling, her collections are backed up by extensive research and concepts taken from various fields of study. Her aim is to “depict visual parables throughout her clothing.”
CPT Based menswear designer Stiaan Louw never fails to bring a provocative edge to his designs. In 2011, the designer debuted his collection comprising of earthy toned, easy and wearable ensembles accompanied by accessories from local brand Missibaba at London Fashion Week as part of the Ubuntu International Project. In a collaboration with french photographer duo Exterface, Louw introduced the fashion project EXSL which offers intimate underwear for men and is an amalgamation of photography and fashion design.
Young & Lazy by Anees Petersen
Locally produced and CPT based label Young & Lazy is a streetwear brand comprising of stand out prints and colors while still maintaining that classic effortless street cool aesthetic
Anees started his brand straight out of college and has now shifted the brand’s focus to skater wear. The brand was featured in The Fader, i-D as well as Highsnobiety as one of 12 African designers to watch.
Roman Handt has a adopted a more subversive approach to fashion, never following the ‘rule book’. Handt is best known for his dramatic and audacious designs and use of unexpected materials such as speaker cloth, industrial mesh and outdoor foil. He has embraced “Guerrilla Couture” as a term which he feels best suits his design aesthetic. This approach consists of one-of-a-kind pieces that take a fraction of the time to make as apposed to traditional couture pieces.
Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha
Chu, better known as “Prince of Prints”, is a Thai born and Paris trained creative director who served as Creative Director for You, Huisegenoot and Drum magazines for Media24. Chu debuted his first collection ‘Chulaap’ at SA Menswear Fashion Week and was met with a standing ovation. Inspired by South African street style, the collection consisted of an array of amazing African print fabrics but introduced a Japanese twist with Origami prints.