Fashion in all of its possibilities remains a space for the expressive individual, whether it be of the restrained variety or be it swinging to the exuberant side of the pendulum.
There have been moments in history when the bold and outspoken, the Oscar Wilde’s of the day, have chosen to stand out from the crowd, and in so doing sparked new ways to view dress. Those singular moments in time, where visionaries broke forth from the rules of the milieu, and in so doing unearthed new ways and forms to envision a personal garderobe.
As we head south, we look to see what creative fertile grounds have sprouted new trends, and the people that have looked within themselves and beyond, to the intangible world of nostalgia to unfurl new sensibilities on how to dress.
Where womenswear has largely monopolised the limelight, new territories appear making menswear equally enchanting and filled with new possibilities. And so without reservation we go south, to find the new statement pieces, modes of thinking and the talents paving the way forward.
Photos | Laurenceairline & MaXhosa by Laduma Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo | Trine Lindegaard by Ivona Chrzastek.
Playing with pattern is either a territory for the colour blind or one for the most astute and self-aware individual. Patterns done well, contrast and amplify, and like the power of positive and negative spaces, can come together most magnificently to create a new balance.
Young labels LAURENCEAIRLINE, MaXhosa by Laduma and Trine Lindegaard intrepidly chart virgin territories, shining for their re-interpretations of traditional garb, with a penchant toward socially responsible design practices. Presenting new patterns of alliance.
Laurenceairline S | S 2013 Collection shot by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud has the authentic man, the modern explorer and dandy in mind when designing for her ready-to-wear label, Laurenceairline. She splits her time between Paris and Abidjan, both metropoles that the designer calls home and whose atmospheres she so eloquently infuses into her label that launched in 2010.
Offering timeless basic silhouettes in sumptuous textiles that play off clever details, Chauvin-Buthaud poses a deft hand and sharp eye. Each collection begins from her current textile obsessions; fabrics such as Bazin and Wax Hollandais give her brand a prominent west African influence. Though these materials line the fabric districts of Bamako, Dakar and Lagos, some of west Africa’s big cities, it’s the colour palettes, blocking techniques paired with inspiration as far flung as Moroccan frescoes and Japanese etchings that set her creations apart. And if that is not enough reason to love her, topping it off is her business ethos of trade not aid. She works closely with her team in Abidjan where the collection is produced.
MaXhosa by Laduma
MaXhosa Laduma A | W 2012 Collection shot by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
We head to Port Elizabeth, a bustling metropolis in South Africa to knitwear label MaXhosa by Laduma. Whilst patterns can be deliciously decorative, label designer Laduma Ngxokolo is keen to dig deeper.
MaXhosa (Xhosa people), like the brand’s namesake, takes its cues from the rich iconographic beadwork traditions of the Xhosa people. Their intricate patterns and colour palettes read as societal symbols and stories. The collections made from a blend of South African kid mohair and merino wool offer a contemporary re-interpretation of Xhosa heritage.
With rhythmic coloursways and patterns, Ngxokolo heralds his lineage. Originally designed for the young Xhosa man coming of age, MaXhosa by Laduma is garnering accolades beyond. Since launching in 2010, the collection is growing to include a line-up of premium socks and most recently, to a collaboration with South African luxury throws and blanket purveyor, Hinterveld.
Trine Lindegaard A | W 2013 Collection shot by Ivona Chrzastek
Kente cloth, a handwoven fabric reserved for royalty and the Asante/Akan aristocracy of yore, is one steeped in tradition. Each pattern, reads as a proverb, a visible yet unspoken language. The colour palette, carrying encoded messages of love, peace, spirituality, warnings, harmony but to name a few. Like many spheres within the world of luxury goods, it has since become accessible to a wider clientele not only within Ghana & the Ivory Coast but beyond.
London-based Danish designer Trine Lindegaard has taken the graphic properties of kente fabric, in particular to the Kita pattern, to new heights in collaboration with a small group of Accra-based artisanal weavers.
The 2013 Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections shout, some rules are simply meant to be broken. Far from the typical burnt orange hue prominent in many kente fabrics, her colourways break rank with palettes at times reminiscent of hard-boiled candy. Juxtaposing luxury with streetwear, traditional and contemporary, Lindegaard’s design sensibilities paired with Ghanian artisanship, showcase a collaboration gone right.
The urban dandy is no longer a domain simply for the bon ton. Modern day tribes like the metrosexual and hipster, helped along the way by the likes of films such as Tom Ford’s, A Single Man, and the rise in men’s day spa’s and grooming products allude to one fabulous truth – it has once again become socially acceptable en masse for men in the north to spend time grooming.
If you asked the nomadic Woodabe of Niger and the Sahel, they’d say that preening never went out of style. Werner Herzog’s 1989 film, Herdsmen of the Sun beautifully documents the sporadic Gerewol festival where they spend several days getting donned up. That is, only the men dress-up for the occasion whilst the women come as is.
Where Don Draper, and his band of fellow Mad Men echo a nostalgic sensibility of one ilk, the increasing notoriety of the Afro-dandy is shaping a new wave of inspiration. Images of celebrated 20th century studio era photographers, particularly those hailing from Bamako like Seydou Keïta, Malick Sidibé and Adama Kouyaté are taking leaps and bounds towards becoming household names. This is certainly the case amongst art and culture aficionados given the top tier exhibitions, fairs and museums such as New York’s Guggenheim, and Paris Photo that have prominently showcased their work. Moreover, the pristine quality of these images has no doubt led to their natural spill over into the re-blogging domain of social media. And with this diffusion, this wonder for yester-year, echoes a similar vernacular in the world of fashion where designers are eloquently informed by not only the zeitgeist but their own personal familial histories, heritage and treasure troves, the family album.
Art Comes First
[L} Sam Lambert [R] Shaka Maidoh shot by David Pattison.
Shaka Maidoh & Sam Lambert the London-based creative duo behind Art Comes First (ACF) may look like kin, but theirs is a kinship of sartor, alchemy and progression – words they swear by.
So why art? Adamantly, they are interested in beautifying things. Lambert wore his first bespoke suit, at the age of 5. His father a tailor, insisted on him dressing well much to his displeasure. Yet those early days in Angola have left an indelible mark on Lambert; mixing vintage with new, on most given days you’ll find him wearing a suit.
Lambert and Maidoh riff off each other’s histories. Their ACF tumblr, a mood board of sorts, gives hints as to their current inspiration. In one image, the caption (hand me down style) alludes to a recent photo of Lambert paired with a portrait of Shaka’s father ca. Ghana 1960s. Maidoh & Lambert, are the de facto modern incarnations of the Afro Dandy; momentum is on their side.
The Coal Project – ‘Pack Essential’ Photo by Bent René Synnevåg
The Coal project – ‘Pack Essential’, their latest fashion foray is a tightly edited collaboration and capsule collection created by 7 innovators. Envisioned as the ultimate travel kit, it includes beautifully crafted essentials: socks and shoes, hats with Super Duper Hats, shirt and tie with Eton Shirts, Stitchbook with Kalaf Angelo, glasses with Lotho eyewear and bag with T-Michael.
A.Sauvage S | S 2013 Collection.
‘Dress Easy’, the subtle truism of London-based designer Adrien Victor Sauvage. It’s about pairing simplicity with versatility, and style without fuss. The astute designer launched A.Sauvage in 2010, and so far has clothed numerous trendsetters and personalities like Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Jude Law, Spike Jonze and more.
His silhouettes always crisp, Sauvage’s attention to detail and craftsmanship pervades his well edited collections. Where the colour palettes show restraint, Sauvage is assertive and bold in his choice of patterns – whimsical and edgy, like a digitally printed dogstooth jacket, shirt and pant ensemble in the AW12 collection to this season’s latest triumph, the Asafo motif where the designer pays an eloquent nod to his Ghanian heritage and Fante ancestry. From the ‘Black Volta’ campaign shot in Ghana, to his collaboration with Doc Martins featuring a Kente fabric colourway, in each instance Sauvage finds that delicate balance to aptly suffuse his label with a refined and appointed element of heritage.
Adriaan Kuiters S | S 2013 Collection shot by Simon Deiner/ SDR Photo
It’s not unheard of for a ‘non-fashion’ designer to try their hand at designing clothes. That said, they are not always successful.
Keith Henning however is one such exception. The trained industrial/product designer decided to launch his label Adriaan Kuiters in 2010. What’s he’s trick? To treat cloth like another form of product design. That he’s already opened his own flagship boutique in Cape Town, is a telling tale of being at the right place at the right time.
Henning’s inspiration – his globetrotting grandfather for whom the label is named after. That and the 1950’s. This golden age of travel informs Henning’s aesthetic choices. With muted palettes and clean lines Adriaan Kuiters reads as a modern menswear line anchored on classical silhouettes, and stands out as one of the must-see shows during South Africa’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.
No authenticity, no credibility. Where better than on the streets do we see this in action. These next brands are tighter than tight, with good stories, and straight up good products.
2BOP launched by Anthony Smith and Bradley Abrahams began back in 2004 inspired by their love for video gaming culture. Mixing a retro-future aesthetic with a serious Cape Town swagger, this underground streetwear label is on the brink of becoming ‘discovered.’ But hey, you heard it first here.
A soulful sole, aptly describes vintage inspired sneaker label Sawa. With the outline of the African continent detailed in the rubber tread, and the tongue with vibrant red lettering marked Made In Africa, it’s pretty safe to say that this shoe label is proud to be manufactured in Ethiopia.
This summer Sawa will release their model, a special collaboration edition with none other than hip hop legends Public Enemy. The shoe’s name, suckers never wear me – a brilliant tongue in cheek riff on ‘Rebel Without A Pause.’ Yes, that was the first single that caused quite the ruckus back in ’88 on Public Enemy’s second album It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.
Photo Credit ( Left to Right) Deborah Benzaquen | Bandile Mukansi
The selfie, that almost obnoxious self-portrait, is taking a turn towards the creative. Set in motion by proto-bloggers like Tavi Gevinson’s, her self-styled and shot editorials amongst other talents catapulted her out of obscurity. One minute she was a Chicago teenager attending high school, the next she was wearing a Stephen Jones custom-made hat attending New York Fashion week. Though supernova’s are rare, a selection of fashion-able young lads causing a stir.
Funfere Koroye (Lagos, Nigeria & Milano, Florence, Italy)
Louis Phillipe Degagouge (Casablanca, Morocco)
Kabelo Kungwane (Soweto, South Africa)
Written by Missla Libsekal on behalf of Modern Weekly.
‘Go South, Young Man’ originally published in Issue No. 748 , April 20, 2013.
All images courtesy of the respective artists and brands. All rights reserved.