Fashion lessons to learn from the cutthroat corporate world of 'Scandal!'

Looking for fresh inspiration for your work wardrobe? Take your cue from the characters of this popular soap

17 June 2020 - 14:02 By Thango Ntwasa
Bongile Mantsai as Mthunzi Mayiza and Natasha Sutherland as Layla McKenzie in 'Scandal!'
Bongile Mantsai as Mthunzi Mayiza and Natasha Sutherland as Layla McKenzie in 'Scandal!'
Image: Supplied/ETV

With more people returning to their offices, it's time to dig out those suits, ties and heels. If you're looking for fresh inspiration for your work wardrobe, no local show does corporate wear quite like Scandal!, where much of the drama plays out in the headquarters of media company Nyathi Family Holdings (NFH).

Actress-turned-producer Grace Mahlaba, who is responsible for dressing the cutthroat characters of the popular soap, says that each one's look is inspired by their upbringing, social class, and the influential celebrities that would have an impact on the way they dress.

She tells us more:

Fans were rocked by femme fatale Thembeka Shezi’s death on the show. Tell us what went into putting together the looks for this character, who was played by Masasa Mbangeni?

Shezi grew up loving beautiful things. As a young journalist, her world was all about talking to people and having to go to events at the spur of the moment. So whatever she wore during the day she needed to be able to go out and have drinks in. [We'd make her looks transition from day to night by dressing them up with jewellery.]

Masasa Mbangeni as Thembeka Shezi and Bongile Mantsai as Mthunzi Mayisa in 'Scandal!'
Masasa Mbangeni as Thembeka Shezi and Bongile Mantsai as Mthunzi Mayisa in 'Scandal!'
Image: Supplied/SowetanLive

And what about one of the show’s biggest villains, Mthunzi Mayiza, played by Bongile Mantsai?

The corporate world forces him to dress formally, but when we meet him he is an impostor. He knows that when you are formally dressed people buy your story more than when you come in casual clothing — unfortunately that's the stereotype, you see a man in a fitted suit and you don’t think he will con you.

We also kept him in darker colours, as brighter shades might take away from what we are trying to tell about his story. 

With a character like Layla McKenzie, played by Natasha Sutherland, how do you keep her looking fresh and interesting to the show’s audience?

Layla works at NFH; she’s also Quinton Nyathi’s (Brighton Ngoma) mother and she’s a yummy grandmother who is still dating. [Through her wardrobe] we are trying to show people you don’t have to be shy and wear age inappropriate clothes to be sexy.

For women who like looking conservative, we’ve got a character like Grace Medupe (Bathabile Mashigo), but depending on what is happening in her life, she wants to put some sexiness [into her look] and there is nothing wrong with that.

What fashion advice can you give fans of the show who are heading back to work in the corporate world? 

There is so much you can do with winter; you can be so stylish and still keep warm — especially men. I don’t see a lot of South African men wearing those three quarter coats with scarves and I love those. And with winter being so gloomy it’s nice to go for those burnt orange colours, whether it’s a jersey or a scarf you throw on with your suit.

More South African men need to try being adventurous and go for bright colours over their darker suits, as we are coming from a very depressing time and entering a very depressing season.

Lockdown has made a lot of people comfortable with dressing down and keeping it simple. With this trend set to continue? How can they best accessorise their more minimal look?

Handbags can play a big role, whether it’s a big bag or the smaller ones you can sling across your body.

Women are also lucky because of their [many choices of hairstyle]; I know it’s tough now because salons have been closed for so long that some of us are starting to look weird, but play around with your hair. What I like about the time we’re in right now is that African hairstyles are back; you can add decorative pieces to your hair if you’ve got plaits or braids.