18.08.2015

Didi Simelane

Meet the pastel pink prince of the Johannesburg street scene

 

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga

 

“There’s something about pastel. Don’t know how to say it. It’s more a feeling. Like, woah bro, it’s like pastel, man. It’s too dope, especially in winter when everyone is in all black and grey, and then I’m in pink. Swag. I’m still working on other colours, but that’s my vibe, that’s what I’m really feeling. I just really love pink, man.”

Tshepang Mollison aka Twiggy Moli turned us onto Didi Monsta, aka Didi Simelane, when she included him in her Follow Friday post as one of the relevant peeps that we should acquaint ourselves with. We recognized the homey from the Boss Zonke video and from the Sol-Sol look book and then also from some of our favourite rapper’s Instagram feeds. All these cameos make sense when you consider that the stylist, designer and influencer has been pivotal in pushing both his unique style and a new South African aesthetic that for the first time isn’t merely borrowing from overseas.

Then you notice all the other dudes borrowing his looks – the dreadlocks, the old school Vans, the biker gear and the pastel – you can’t help but agree that guy’s a bona-fide style icon.

“It’s not like I need to stand out, it just comes naturally to me and is what I enjoy doing. This isn’t a front, it’s my every day, just me being me.”

I ask if, because he’s so experimental, he ever makes mistakes and will sometimes look back and cringe at some of the looks he’s put together in the past.

“Its’ actually crazy. Seeing what I’ve been putting together. Different looks. Stuff nobody has seen. There’s stuff that I started doing long ago that guys are only catching up to now. Not everyone understands immediately. Some might understand. I live in the future.”

Back to the future and I am chilling in the front seat, Okmalumkoolkat is Didi’s mentor and style icon, and speaking to Okmalumkoolkat later that day, the Zulu Compurer aka Smart Mampara aka Future Mfana, says:

“Didi Monsta, he’s a guy who's so out there. He’s been rocking the pink for, like, six months now? And then last month I saw the Pigalle collection in Paris and all the stuff Didi was rocking, like, four months ago, they actually had the same patterns. He’s not really influenced by online and when he does something he goes Rambo.”

Didi goes on to call Boyznbucks his “big brothers” and credit them with giving him a lot of knowledge, saying that he’s always learning from them. He mentions Okmalumkoolkat specifically.

“For me is not just the clothes, it’s your personality, your style. You need to be a complete package. Sometimes you dig a person’s style and when you meet them what you initially thought about them changes. Okmalumkoolkat, he’s doing his thing. Because of his personality. His style. Fashion changes. I’m for style. Stylish forever.”

Despite having such a positive energy and general vibe, as well as compliments from the abovementioned street culture royalty, Didi does have his detractors, as one would expect when walking the mean Jozi streets in pastel pink outfits. Still, he takes these in his stride.

“It’s really chilling. I’m very different from every body. I’m not scared of any opinions. Don’t care what anyone thinks. I follow myself. You have to. You’ll never push forward otherwise. Just got to be you, man. I really don’t care what people say. Listening to somebody is the last thing I’ll do. I don’t listen to nobody. I got support from my parents. They know who I am. If someone laughs or doesn’t understand or whatever he’s a follower, I couldn’t ever be a follower.”

And it would seem that those who aren’t laughing are being lead; the only original style thought they have being to don a balaclava and rob Didi’s looks.

“You can see that guys are following. The guys are saying, ‘Look at this guy, he just jumped on your hair.’ So many people jumping on the dreadlocks because of me. 90% of the kids started dreadlocks because of me. The old Vans Skate Hi’s... Guys tearing up their pants… I started doing that long ago. Guys are catching up. Not everyone understands immediately. But now, some are catching up.”

And those guys who really understand are pulling Didi in to collaborate.

“Adriaan Louw hit me up. ‘Yo man, we want to see you in the video.’ I said as long as we pushing the culture forward we can do it. Riky is also my homie. The shoot I did for Sol-Sol, I flew down to Cape Town and we did it. Sol-Sol is a very unique brand in South Africa. Straight forward. Swag.”

And what about his own design work and styling?

“The stuff I design is for different cats. I’m living my brand. I design clothes for people who have style. Who love clothing. I’ve never following anybody. Just myself. Coming with different vibes. Crazy.”

So what’s the brand called?

“3am Life Was Never The Same. Because at 3am the weirdest things are coming into my mind. Getting influenced by art. Different trends. Animals. Trees. Just crazy man. My life wasn’t the same at 3am. Even though a lot of people were scared about 3am, for me, a lot of good stuff was happening.”

If that sounds crazy it’s because it is. About as crazy as Didi’s wardrobe. It should also be mentioned that everything that Didi is wearing for our shoot, save for the Air Force Ones, is something that Didi designed himself.

“It’s funny man, my wardrobe isn’t huge. I don’t have a lot of clothes. I wear something and then I get tired of it and move on. I’ll feel something, love my pastel pink pants, make some different looks, make a suit, a two piece suit, pants and a jacket, using different material, that’s all pink, because that’s how I feel. Until I get bored and have a new vibe. That’s how I am. Even shoes. Right now I’m feeling the old school Vans. I get a bunch. Paint them. Make them suit my personality. Probably only have 30 pairs of kicks, the old school Vans, the Air Forces, the Stan Smiths, but then also those shoes you won’t get anywhere else. That’s my vibe. Swag.”