01.01.2020

ON THE JOB: GARRETH VAN NIEKERK

What the super-stylish story editor wears to work

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Words: Nhlanhla Masemola | Images: Supplied + Graeme Wyllie

To mark the start of a brand new year and to spare a thought for those of us who’ve kissed the holidays goodbye and are slowly trickling back into the workplace, we’ve selected some of the men whose style inspires us daily. Whether dressed in a suit and tie or slightly less formal chinos and shirts, workwear has arguably gone through a major shift in the last decade – and in the right direction. In this edition of our men’s workwear series, we take a moment to speak to House and Leisure senior story editor Garreth Van Niekerk. With his eye for detail and a passion for interior decor, architecture and art, Garreth’s workwear reflects his creative interests while remaining professional.

What’s a typical day at work like for you?

It’s never the same, which is part of the reason I love it. But that also means I have to find ways to give myself a routine. Typically, a day begins quite early in the morning, when I try and write three pages of “unthinking” text. It helps me clear my head, but I also find it an extremely useful tool (that I would recommend to any sort of creative person) for distilling your thoughts down to their most honest form. Then I can carry on with writing the features I do for the magazine, commissioning people to do their own text and then editing it. A large part of my job is managing, styling and sourcing for shoots, so I’m normally on the go doing that. And then, like everyone else, I spend a stupid amount of time on Instagram stalking people to see who’s doing what, what’s cool and whether I should really go to that exhibition I’ve been meaning to check out. My day normally ends with a walk around the park with my dogs and partner and then, hopefully not too often, I have a function in the evening.

And how do you usually get dressed for work? What are the items that you reach for first?

I normally start with bottoms. From there I find it easier to build the look I’m going for based on what I have to do for that day. But it takes me a lot of time to get dressed, which normally means a wardrobe cleanout is on the horizon.

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Does functionality play a role in how you get dressed?

Definitely. When your everyday schedule changes as frequently as mine does, you have to really consider what you need to be wearing to get the job done. Sometimes my shoots start really early in the morning and finish late at night, so good footwear is becoming increasingly important for me not to become grumpy. You can’t do a hundred trips up the stairs in stiff brogues, you know?

And do you find that working in the creative field informs how you dress to work?

Absolutely. I had an architecture lecturer a long time ago who thought that people who chose to express themselves with their clothes weren’t “real” creatives, but I never really understood that perspective. I think there is so much exciting design out there at the moment that if you don’t choose to buy things that are interesting or well-made, then maybe you don’t have the commitment to design that you think you do. At the end of the day I think the last power we have left to us is to vote with our money and I choose to support people who are committed to design with whatever means I have available to me.

What would you never wear to work?

Shorts. I know it gets hot in SA, but honestly a pair of shorter-length tapered pants in the office is as breezy as a pair of cargos.

What are your thoughts on dressing in a personal uniform? Would it be a relief or a loss of options for you?

I dream of having some sort of one-look-fits-all approach, but really I’m a bit impulsive when it comes to buying things, so I can never exercise the sort of restraint you need to pull that philosophy off. But I have recently discovered the shacket, which I have found to be super useful in the weather we have here. I also bought a pair of rubber-soled lace-ups in Milan that go with pretty much anything, so those are fail-safes if I have a shoe identity crisis.

With business dress codes becoming more relaxed, do you still see the suit as relevant in the workplace?

I love a suit, but I never wear the ones I own unless I’m going to a wedding or awards ceremony. I tried a very relaxed shirt, blazer, trousers suit-ish combo for work for a while, but I always got colleagues coming up to me asking, “Where are you going?”. So I don’t know if the suit is relevant anymore, especially in the creative field. But they are beautiful things and I admire a person who can wear them with confidence on the daily.

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Do you have any personal style icons who you look to when getting dressed?

Trevor Stuurman gets a lot of his clothes made for him, which I think is super visionary and always makes his look feel 100% polished. Rich Mnisi is really so brave, which I admire. Aart Verrips makes wearing uber-lush labels feel incredibly relaxed, which I think takes real style. My editor Charl Edwards also makes monochrome feel effortless. And then both my parents have always believed in quality over quantity, which I try to keep with me as much as possible.

What would you say is distinctive about your style?

I keep the basics simple, but stop myself feeling basic by adding something special by a local designer.

Lastly, sneakers or loafers?

Sneakers, even if you’re on a boat.

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