Standout shows from South African Menswear Week SS20
Words: Daniël Geldenhuys | Photography: SDR Photo
Menswear Week used to be known for a sense of raw fresh talent. The brands that characterised that freshness have graduated to a more established place and a new challenge: fostering the familiarity necessary for a local fashion brand’s success, while still providing a sense of freshness to move the narrative forward. Four brands rose to that challenge, conjuring convincing moods supported by desirable, wearable pieces that transcend gender and hold their own in today’s globalised fashion context.
The attention to detail in designer Rome Wepener’s shows, down to the stems of baby’s breath in the models’ socks, belies the fact that his brand is only four years old and this is his third runway event. Clad in a mix of botanical prints grounded by earthy block-colour separates and relaxed stripes, the lads marched to the tunes of You Sexy Thing (I Believe in Miracles) and Love Is All You Need. “It’s about love and solidarity in a time of hate, loss of hope and pessimism,” says Wepener.
It makes sense for Wepener to add that the collection was built around a “deliberate take on heart-warming clichés”, given his talent for updating everyday menswear staples to a bolder, more energised place. It’s a much-needed summer of optimism with pieces you’ve seen before, unlike you’ve ever seen them.
Team ALC was in the process of moving their studio while creating this collection. Going through old boxes and discovering long-forgotten patterns prompted a process of self-reflection. Designer Brendan Sturrock described it as “respecting yourself and sharing that in a positive way to influence other people to feel the same kind of thing.”
Lately, the house has gotten into the groove of buying its signature shweshwe fabrics in a creamy base hue, customised by dying it into specific colourways. This season’s purple-y taupe and petrol shweshwe mingled seamlessly with stone linens and sheer white parachute — with the sporty presence of the latter punctuating the collection.
Here’s a design team that recognises the luxury in the laid-back. It’s a sensibility that feels perfectly in tune with the recently concluded international menswear collections in Paris. The collection taps into this mood without sacrificing its sense of identity and originality. Spring/Summer 2020 is a meaningful local contribution to the international narrative.
Mathew Kieser’s goal of trying new things while not “straying too far from the norm” materialised as a comprehensive modern wardrobe. Opening with a beautifully simple off-white linen suit, Sol-Sol served every aspect of a contemporary streetwear enthusiast’s life, progressing into a tracksuit, shackets, cropped trousers, loose shorts, tees, a splash of leopard print and a really great fluffy hoodie.
It was a fabric feast: Kieser rendered a rich maroon in melton, velour, cotton, teddy and nylon. “New Balance’s 990 sneaker was a massive influence in the kind of weekend, relaxed-dad look.” The collection felt suited not only to different facets of a man’s life, but also to the widening age range of Sol-Sol fans. Overall, the collection was successful in the highly sought-after exercise of serving a wide range of tastes, while remaining true to its brand values.
Designer Daniel Sher is on a sustainability trip – literally. He visited Bali’s largest all-natural dye workshop where he sourced and dyed some of the fabrics in this collection. And thank goodness, because “Where do these clothes come from?” is a question that local brands should easily be able to answer in detail. Sher can now attest to the Bali connection. There was also a collaboration with Cape Town-based textile designer Benjamin Nivison, who provided tartans in 100% merino wool from the Himalayas. And since good things come in threes, the collection also included rejected fabrics from South African textile mill Mungo, cut in a way that bypassed their flaws to make top quality products.
The collection is vibrant, idiosyncratic and looks ultra comfortable, as always. Shown on friends of the brand who broke out into dance moves mid-walk, walked a dog or buzzed down the runway on a Segway, it was an absolute masterclass in character building and honest branding. It’s a level of excellence that transcends fashion.