From the front row: The best of SA Menswear Week
The third annual South African Menswear Week (SAMW) was held in Cape Town Stadium last week. These are our highlights from the shows.
The event hosted 26 top menswear designers from South Africa and the rest of the continent including Nigeria and Tanzania. Proof that the rapidly developing menswear sector in fashion retail is booming as much as aboard, as it is at home.
I was lucky enough to attend most of the shows, and designers wowed the fashion force each night. On the importance of a Menswear Week in South Africa, co-founder of SAMW Ryan Beswick says "the goal of developing the South African menswear space remains at the forefront of what we are aiming to do, the platform and wide media exposure."
Fellow co-founder Simon Denier added that "it's about educating consumers in South Africa about the truly viable choice in locally designed and made menswear versus imported brands. Whether street wear or suiting and in between."
AKJP, or Adriaan Kuiters x Jodi Paulsen Collective, showed an extensive 36 look collection, using 12 looks shown in January at Milan's Uomo Pitti as a basis. Duo Keith Henning and Jodi Paulsen translated the work and personal style of artist Georgina Gratrix into fashion. As a unisex design house, the show also included 12 womenswear looks in what they call their 'tomboy look'.
Mdingi x Coutts is another menswear design duo who merged their unique aesthetics with finesse. Showing as a team for the first time, oversized knits and reproportioned basics unified the functional collection.
Tvzi Karp has always been a wild card. The artist's first fashion collection in three seasons was pop culture blend of his Jewish heritage with influences from the S&M underground and 80s club kids. A headwear collaboration with milliner Crystal Birch included oversized Russian kubanka style in faux fur and piled by teddy bears took the look to the next level. Karp's 'walk' down the ramp was actually a skip before some vougeing and twerking that set the crowd alight.
A young designer who has quickly cemented himself as the local industry's wunderkind is Rich Mnisi. This season his signature minimal interpretations were inspired by the Zulu nation and incorporated shapes previously associated with ladies wear like plunging v-neck jumpsuits.
Missing the Chulaap show was pretty devastating for me. SAMW co-founder and event organiser Simon Denier gave me insider knowledge on the painted camouflage military fort and the perfect framing of Table Mountain in the distance for the finale.
But this collection must be mentioned, because Chu Suwannapha has played with and perfected African prints in previous shows. On Saturday evening he opened the final day of SAMW with a mixture of military design details and camo print against his beloved African textiles, and iconic machine gun silhouettes on Basotho blankets.
It's an apt message considering the civil wars and terrorist attacks across our continent that aren't receiving worldwide coverage as well as the horrifying, everyday violence many Africans face.
A special trends talk on The Rise of Menswear by Nicola Cooper, a trend analyst for the likes of Flux Trends, Truworths and Markhams, took place on Friday morning. The report focused on breaking down the broader subject of menswear including changing gender roles, gender fluidity and transgender models.
It's interesting to note that 2015's menswear retail figures have overtaken womenswear and that it's currently the fastest growing online sector, outstripping traditionally masculine items like beers and spirits, and tech buys. Cooper went into the physiology behind this shift in spending and how it reflects an overall shift in patriarchal society as a whole.
Menswear is heading in an uplifting and exciting direction, we can only hope that retail strategists and buyers, as well as they customers they entice follow suit soon.
About the author
Sheena Bagshawe is currently Sunday Times Fashion Weekly's Contributing Fashion Editor. She works as a fashion stylist, creative consultant, writer and blogger at thestylistsnotebook.co.za. She has worked with local fashion designers, advertising and modelling agencies and print and online magazines.
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