Why Chulaap sent 'faceless' models down the runway at SA Menswear Week

Chu Suwannapha, designer of CHULAAP, talks us through his winter 2018 collection which heroes African prints

18 February 2018 - 00:00 By Nothemba Mkhondo

Tell us about your latest collection.

CHULAAP is all about celebrating Africa. The main inspiration for my winter 2018 collection is Mapantsula dance and the idea of dapper vs boho = AFRICAN JOKER. It's tradition with a modern twist, so we mixed African prints with checks, tartans, diamond, argyle and circle prints, along with the quirkiness of my comb prints.

The styling was inspired by Phyllis Galembo's book Maske. [This book - pictured below - is a collection of the photographer's portraits of African people whose traditions are reflected in their cultural dress which often includes masks and body paint.]

Tell us about the accessories.

Made in SA is the main concept for the accessories. I collaborated with three designers; Simon and Mary for the mini peak hats, Ifele for the Zulu Sandals, and Rings And Things for all the finishing touches.

I played with a mix of textures like zebra skins with studs, African beads and shells neckties, crochets pins, origami necklace.

The talk of the collection was the faceless models with the knitted masks, I wanted to draw attention to the prints and the outfits instead of the models' expressions.

How do you use prints to tell a unique story with each collection?

Every print tells a story, it's like wearable art for me. I use at least 8-10 prints minimum in each collection. I experiment with printing my original prints over the existing African prints and play with different colours.

The cover of 'Maske' by Phyllis Galembo.
The cover of 'Maske' by Phyllis Galembo.
Image: Supplied

Why do you think prints are important and powerful in African fashion?

As an outsider, when I hear the word "AFRICA", I see bold prints and bold colour.

What do you love about African fashion?

I love the African prints and bold colour and textures, and I also love the "easy comes and easy goes" attitude and the fact that you can stick with one style and keep it forever.

What are five things we don't know about you?

  1. I can make a very good Thai Green Curry dish;
  2. Castle beer is my favourite drink;
  3. I'm addicted to chillies;
  4. I never swim because I cannot swim;
  5. I can't leave the house without praying to the Buddha.