Superbalist magazine presents Maps Maponyane, Nomalanga Shozi, Trevor Stuurman, Kwena Baloyi, Rich Mnisi, Manthe Ribane, Didi Simelane and Lulama Wolf
Traditionally a time to hibernate, for autumn-winter 2018 Superbalist published a magazine inspired by the concept – Show Them! Evident in the fashion found within the book and personified by those we selected for the covers, note the plural, because in the same spirit of "overmuchness" a single cover-star simply wouldn't do, and the eight that were chosen were selected on how they've taken charge of their image, express their values and wear their identity. If you haven't received your copy of the new Superbalist magazine yet, simply shop Superbalist and you'll get yours with your order. In the meantime, scroll down to get to know Maps Maponyane, Nomalanga Shozi, Trevor Stuurman, Kwena Baloyi, Rich Mnisi, Manthe Ribane, Didi Simelane and Lulama Wolf a little bit better.
It's to be expected that someone who describes themselves as a multidisciplinary artist would find their style mood board unbounded by only the world of fashion. Drawing ideas from everything from Zaha Hadid's architecture to Nike Lab's breathable technology and of course, Rei Kawakubo, Manthe Ribane's creative mind springs to attention in even the most banal conversation. "I choose not to limit myself. We live in a world of so many beautiful possibilities," she says as though she has repeated this to herself many times.
Often clad in dramatic outfits that challenge the audience to try not to stare in utter awe, it's surprising to learn that she is so familiar with fear. "What's the point of living if you're going to have fear blocking you? I think fear is the worst energy to bring upon yourself. It's important to breathe and understand your purpose." Working as a solo artist and as part of Dear Ribane with her beloved siblings, clothes are an important part of Manthe's creative armour. "I love black. I love layering. Velvet and leather are timeless fabrics for me." A natural in front of the camera with her body moving with a fluidity reserved for dancers, she is surprisingly shy in interviews hiding behind dark shades. This contradiction finds expression in her clothing choices too; with her love for androgynous pieces as well as softer voluminous layers creating a luxe look that feels closer to art than just fashion. Immune to boring anything – clothes, music, conversations – a simple question about style advice garners a reply resembling a Kanye West tweet. "Understand why you were born and take care of yourself. You can't be a replica of someone else."
Has any other South African fashion designer had such a disruptive influence on the industry as Rich Mnisi? His work since he rebranded as Rich Mnisi from OATH has seen accolades flying in from all over the world. His work has been shown in Vogue Italia, he has sent his creations down runways from Joburg to Moscow, he has spoken at Design Indaba and is a constant amongst major retailers' campaigns. He designs both men and women collections and despite the multitude of options offered by womenswear he finds menswear "Interesting, because menswear especially in South Africa has been so one note, but now there's so much room to try new things."
His personal style is an understated mix of primary colours and an eye-popping accessory. He says he designs not for the man he'd like to be but the man he already is, and is full of further style lessons. He likes the lack of choice offered by a wardrobe of consistency, it offers him more time to devote to other pursuits, but he always adds a personal touch. He likes minimalism, you'll see him in a polo or turtle neck paired with slim cropped trousers. Appropriately, his favourite item from the shoot was the white shirt he wore. But look a little bit closer and you'll notice the stockings, or the clip-on piercings, and begin to wonder what else is he hiding? It's a fun way to wear clothes, an inside joke of sorts. One that allows him to impart a small part of his identity upon a uniform.
"Afrocentric". That's Trevor Stuurman in his own words. Contemplative, quiet and confident, Trevor believes in the strength of Africa. He's constantly seeking to find new ways to depict the people of the continent. And he's been successful, very successful. He's been to the famous trade show of Pitti Uomo, his photography has featured in Vogue and he's an ambassador for G-Star Raw, putting him with such rarefied company as Pharrell Williams.
Your Instagram explore page is probably filled with, if not his pictures, then with pictures of himself in his eye-catching outfits. He favours not only the bright prints that have enraptured international designers, but increasingly the story that each garment tells. The process that each item has gone through, from not only the production side but the stories people have imbued the items with over generations and how people today interact with the clothes. He's ultimately a story teller, one that uses an array of mediums to present his vision. Denim above all, ranks as the item of the modern era and because of this, he appreciates the democratic nature of denim. "The CEO to the everyday man all wear denim and that's where it's strength lies".
Making light work of the difficult task of being just as interesting as her bold Instagram persona, Kwena Baloyi bubbles with kinetic energy if you're lucky enough to chat with her. "My style is quite deep, sometimes I surprise myself," she says when asked about the source of her seemingly endless creativity. Shying away from the superficial, the 29-year-old from Limpopo believes in the transformative power of fashion. "I fight my battles through style," she says with a sincerity that suggests that her self-ordained title of "style therapist" isn't just for the sake of a cool bio.
Working as a sought-after stylist, Kwena uses clothes as a channel for self-acceptance. "You can only win by knowing yourself," she repeats throughout the interview, and with a tangible confidence, you pretty much have to believe her. A quintessential "liker of things" Kwena see inspiration everywhere, "From the Boys of Soweto to the way people eat" there's little that doesn't lure her curiosity. "I'm inspired by the streets, I'm inspired by my people," she says, her words gaining speed the more she speaks about her lifelong love for fashion, which dates back to watching her GQ-worthy uncles floss their style. "I can't be one thing, it's boring. It's important to live many lives." Wearing her heart on her sleeve, Kwena uses her wardrobe of investment pieces to express her emotions. Exposing her true feels for everyone to see, she also sees clothes as a way to show solidarity with other. "I will wear things for people who can't wear them. My clothes are a tribute to so many things."
Is there any man that embodies the South African male more than Maps Maponyane? Actually, is there any man who embodies what every South African male would like to be more than Maps? He's been successful in everything he touches for what seems like forever. Can you remember a period where Maps wasn't on your TV screen, giving you style lessons or increasingly, on the silver screen? He has the aforementioned professional success, which by the way has allowed him to recently purchase a G-Class, which he brushes off as "It's been a good few years", but also the personal success, his partner is South Africa's favourite actress Nomzamo Mbatha. Despite all of this mana from the gods, Maps is down to earth and talking to him feels like talking to an older brother or close friend. In many ways he's like Drake, and just like the Canadian rapper he's fun to be around, geeky (in the best possible way), doesn't take himself too seriously and is easy with his laughs. All of that though belies a hardworking and enterprising ethos, one that has taken him to the heights of the South African entertainment industry.
His personal style encapsulates all this, it's indicative of a man who is completely at ease with himself. It's confident without being flashy, he favours traditional menswear but is not averse to taking risks or to following his own path. It's fluid and despite being known for a traditionally masculine look, he actually doesn't live his life in a suit, his influences run the gamut from indie hip-hop to punk band Fuzigish to Scandinavian minimalism. It's an approach he implores South African men to follow "I know that most South African men refuse to experiment and always stay the same but I'm always tried to evolve and to do that you need to take risks, which is something I challenge myself on. Being static is a way towards being irrelevant".
"It's a good thing they take me seriously. I own power dressing," Nomalanga Shozi says deadpan before exploding into a laugh that makes you feel like you've been chatting with your best friend. A natural-born performer, when this Durban beauty isn't acting or on the radio, she can be found shape-shifting in a conversation near you.
Swinging between Cardi B-inspired vocal gymnastics, "I'm tryna be on the cover of Superbalist, duh!" to dropping clues of hidden layers, "When you dress according to your mood, you give too much away." Nomalanga Shozi is one part comedienne, one part magic and a whole lotta sexy. "There's so much power in being a woman," she says when asked about her eclectic approach to style. Whether she's wearing jeans and a t-shirt or rocking a soul-snatching bodycon, she beams innate confidence. "Girl, it's that personality," she offers as an explanation and you immediately believe her if you've enjoyed her company for even five minutes. Not content to be only one thing, whether it's in her career or in the way she dresses, it's no surprise that she favours pairing soft, pretty fabrics with masculine silhouettes. "I'm a winter baby so layering is everything. I mean, look at Rihanna!" When asked about her tips for online shopping, she drops sage advice, "Always buy things that you know you can get away with if they're too big or too small. And if you can wear it in ten years, buy it."
"Delicious" is how Didi Simelane describes himself, which if you've spent any time in his company is not an untrue assessment. He's drips fun, he leads you down ever stranger and curious tangents, that always have a nugget of truth, you just have to listen and hopefully not be confused by his dense slang. You've seen him, you may not know what his name is or what he does but Didi and his crew, Spova Gang, represent the crux of what is New Johannesburg. Wondering why kids in Braamfontein are dyeing their hair every shade of the rainbow? Why their slang is so strange? Or why they have Instagram handles with sad boy themes like lifewasneverthesame or create what they call "post break-up fashion"? Look for Didi's influence.
His style is a dizzying assortment of the high and the low, "the Supreme with the Celine" all thrown through the blender of his desire to "serve humanity". Didi doesn't care what others think of him. He wears his sneakers as a literal representation of his heart, and appropriately sees the street as his natural home. It's where he feels alive and where he can be himself, which is why when international tastemakers like A$AP FERG or Travis Scott come to perform down south, Didi Simelane is there to greet them as the doyen of Johannesburg street culture. His taste in sneakers run from the classic Air Jordan 1's (OG Chicago if you're wondering) to the avant-garde; Raf Simons Ozweego. But, he doesn't want everyone to dress like him "A million Didi's would be boring, all over Joburg? Nah man be yourself".
It's not easy to take what's considered timeless minimalist style and make it seem as though it's yours and yours alone. But that's exactly what Lulama Wolf does one Instagram grid at a time, and it not by chance. Her life has been a masterclass in classic dressing with her mom's uncluttered style being her first fashion template.
An Instagram muse most likely to be found in a monochromatic number, Lulama's imagination is anything but black and white. Describing herself as a "learning artist", Lulama speaks about fashion and art interchangeably, which hints at her creativity when it comes to personal style. Treating her body like a blank canvas, she says that she has experimented with clothes but chooses modern classics as her signature form of self-expression. "When we think of bold style, we automatically think of what shouts at us and what's in our face. But for me, being bold means being comfortable with your decision." Despite her outward ease and enviable ability to own her look, she admits that she wasn't always like this. More comfortable with her own complexity now, Lulama says that she is both shy and confident, and patient and impatient. This duality manifests itself in her approach to dressing which she describes as "bipolar". If you browse her blog, it's obvious that she plays in a space beyond fast-fashion trends, but that doesn't mean that she's oblivious. "I'm aware of trends, but I'm aware of what stays," she says, but in the same breath adds that this season's pointy boots "just do something to me, man!" Serious, playful, vulnerable and real. Lulama Wolf is many things, but mostly she's just plain stylish.
Profiles by Heather Clancy and Tommy Dennis | Photography by Jonathan Kope (Nomalanga Shozi portrait by Justin McGee) | Fashion: Jason Basson