African designers showcasing their collections at this week’s Lexus South African Menswear Week (Lexus SAMW) are incorporating international trends and capturing the current political uncertainty in a world where newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump’s eccentric approach to policies is unsettling.
In the Palms, in Woodstock, trench coats evocative of the “Dirty Thirties” period, an economically difficult time for those caught up in its maelstrom, appeared on the runway in different fabrics, styles, and colours.
Reflecting these turbulent times, the colours designers chose to work with were mainly dark. There were a few bold pops of colours assuring people that all would be well soon.
Nao Serati played with soft pink and powder blue hues in his collection bringing forth a slight disco feel with sequins segued in his collections in interesting places.
The sense of comfort and familiarity within uncertain borders was served up in the way designers played with fabrics such as denim, leather, and even gabardine while keeping lines beautifully structured and tailored.
Label Kim/Gush pushed boundaries slightly by ascribing to the feminine side of apparel in black leather skirts and thigh baring shorts.
Tokyo James’s entirely black range “End Times” was an interesting interpretation of a world that seems to be at a tipping edge. Models donned black riding caps and the outfits that included soft, yet structured leather trench coats throughout the range were embossed with crosses. A discerning observer would have seen a flux of messages coming through James’s range as James referenced policing states, soldiers ready to stride into war and the urgency to be watchful.
James told African News Agency (ANA) that while his range was classic with a twist his range was all about how people must be “ready for war” as Trump’s political stance is disturbing. “There is a lot of trauma in the world now and all the talks and actions around racism, against immigrants, and more scares me,” he said.
Shaldon Kopman’s label Naked Ape “Borrow Borrow” collection was a delightful palette of nudes, tans, browns, and patchworks. Kopman, who has worked in the fashion industry for 26 years as a creative director, stylist, and producer said he was attracted to designing clothes out of “curiosity”.
“I can see what has been done right and where the challenges are,” he told ANA.
“Designing is not about creating beautiful garments, it is about commercialising design and selling and producing it,” said Kopman.
If he could change one thing in the fashion industry it would be to “increase access to niche marketing facilities as we don’t have enough of that”.
He used tailoring as a point to illustrate this. “Tailoring should not be confined to a small space or be limited to a few; it should be broader than that,” he said.
The reason for this was because “tailoring is becoming more and more extinct and we need skills. We don’t have enough tailors and skills”.
Kopman said there hasn’t been a true transference of skills within the industry for three decades in South Africa and this is sorely needed to eliminate or lessen the need to “look beyond our borders for what we need to do what we need to do”.
He said he wanted to keep things proudly local and emphasised that fashion is a business, not a luxury as he, like other designers, need to “live, eat and look after family”.
He applauded the growth of the Lexus SAMW platform and said the platform has a few more years to go before they get to where it should be.
Designer Issa Lopez, who showcased his Issa Leo range at the show, agreed with Kopman on the need to keep manufacturing and skills local. Lopez’s ready-to-wear range brought a fresh, classic look to trench coats and leather jackets that fit the body well.
Passionate about South Africa and the African continent, Lopez said he is passionate about “creating good products that are locally made, yet looks international”.
“People need to stop thinking that local is bad and cheap and start learning to speak the international language that will take their designs to London and New York.”
Lopez pointed out that this approach to fashion, realising that not everything that comes out of Africa fashionwise has to be African print, is key to becoming successful.
Fashion is a business after all, he said, and it is important to represent South Africa and the continent with pride, knowing that what you are wearing is locally made and boosts the economy.
– African News Agency (ANA)