Shukrie Joel's designs mix workwear with Middle Eastern robes

31 August 2017 - 14:31
By Christa Dee
Shukrie Joel mixes practical workwear shapes with Middle Eastern influences in his designs.
Image: Anees Petersen Shukrie Joel mixes practical workwear shapes with Middle Eastern influences in his designs.

Early fashion influences?

I grew up in my father's tailoring workshop in Port Elizabeth. It bordered many factories and most days workers would sit outside our house during their lunch breaks. I was interested in their overalls and clothing.

Come Friday and it was like a fashion parade when they knocked off, all looking sharp as ever. My father, Ismail, was also their tailor.

The contrast and transformation was so refreshing - as a kid I wondered if they were the same people I saw working. These contrasting looks are prevalent in my work with a few additional influences.

I gravitate towards workwear, vintage military and Islamic or Middle Eastern robes and combine these influences with tailoring and old methods of shirt construction.

I'm trying to source and manufacture locally to an international standard to show the consumer that this can be done without needing to go out of the country.

Who wears your clothes?

I used to have an image of my consumer but since the release of my label, i & i, I've been surprised by the kind of person that likes it.

Some women prefer the men's cut. Most of my work starts off as a unisex concept but I leave it to the individual to choose what suits them.

Favourite fabrics?

Most of my latest collection is made in hemp twill and single jersey. I use natural, sustainable fabrics and divide them into articles of colour depending on how accessible the fabrics are.

Shukrie Joel uses natural, sustainable fabrics in his collections.
Image: Anees Petersen Shukrie Joel uses natural, sustainable fabrics in his collections.

Your approach to garment construction?

It's a strange process as I don't sketch. I visualise the item I intend to make then I obsess over it for days, sometimes weeks, constructing the pattern and exact details from cut, stitch, pocket position in my head until it's complete.

With most pieces I try to break the design down to its most basic form. I want people to think: ''Damn! That's so easy why didn't I think about it?" That's the best design no matter what the discipline is.

Inspiration for your latest shoot?

Every year so many publications come to Cape Town to shoot their editorials and catalogues and spend millions. It made me realise the awesome beauty of our natural surroundings, which could be used as a backdrop for the collection.

I worked with fellow designer Anees Petersen as photographer and with model Qiniso van Damme.

You work between South Africa and Canada. How does travelling feed into your creativity?

When I'm in Montreal, I pursue the i & i project, while working as a buying consultant for a boutique called Les Etoffe, which stocks my range. We travel to New York and visit some of the best showrooms in the city, which gives me a good understanding of what buyers and fashion lovers are interested in.

Shukrie Joel's designs.
Image: Anees Petersen Shukrie Joel's designs.


Next project?

A line with denim pieces, sweats and prints by Bradley Abrahams and Taariq Latiff, soft tailored pieces in hemp or linen for summer and a small range of kids' clothing.

There's also a leather project that I'm working on with Research Unit.

Anything else?

Maybe one gripe: retailers should stop their consignment strategy and focus on empowering local design.

It's a difficult industry with brands taking risks and paying production costs while some stores are fully stocked with consignment goods on a sale-or-return policy.

The retail industry here needs to find a better way of doing business with their stockists if they want to survive as a brick and mortar in a digital age. That being said nothing beats a tactile experience, especially when it comes to clothing. -

• This article was originally published in The Times.