Dressing up at SA Menswear Week AW20
Words: Daniël Geldenhuys | Images: SDR Photo, Good Good Good + Luke Kuisis
The new-generation man sees the value in dressing up. It’s a form of respect for himself and those around him, illustrated in its plurality by the best collections at South African Menswear Week AW20. Going into this new decade, occasion dressing feels especially important. Creating quality trend-free clothing that will thrive in a wardrobe for years is of global importance to the fashion industry. This is how South African designers are materialising it locally.
Sparklers in hand, models marched to the tune of Donna Summer’s Last Dance for the show finale. “Inspired by my parents' love for the 70s and disco, the story behind this season’s collection was a big return to glamorous fashion,” says Rome Wepener. Cue a lineup of appropriately styled sparkling tops and bombers, velour track trousers, a healthy dose of animal print and two whimsical crochet shawls. You can always count on Throwaway Twenty for an uplifting shot of escapist style, humanised by the designer’s romantic nostalgia. Although this collection is for the man, Wepener isn’t afraid to “embrace unrepentant raw statement pieces”. They’ve been designed in a way that feels accessible. The familiarity of a bomber jacket, for example, is an accessible portal into the designer’s glamorous narrative that replaces any trace of hesitation with a sense of excitement. Before long, the wearer will evolve into what Wepener describes as “the unapologetic individual who would be confident enough to sport a dash of glitter while grocery shopping”.
An anticipated moment of the season? Quiteria Kekana’s menswear debut. The designer’s reintroduction into the local fashion world was a blend of streetwear, formalwear and the avant-garde. He named it Metamorphosis, uniting its contents in a sharp, foundational monochrome palette. Kekana describes his quintessential man as the vanguard. “The guy who shapes and influences the spaces he’s in.” There’s a sense of showmanship woven into every piece, be it in exaggerated elements, frantic print or details for detail’s sake. “The guy wants to wear a big pocket on his back and doesn't have to use it, but still has it there as a working detail. [He] wants to wear a kimono that has no sleeves. It seems dysfunctional but… why not, you know?” If fashion is usually used as an access point to a certain social context, Kekana sees his collection an all-access, all-encompassing reflection of a lifestyle. “I believe that you should wear it every day,” he says. “I don’t see you leaving your comfort zone to get into this. This is who you are. I’m catering to myself as an artist, I’m catering to the next artist, the next designer. I’m catering to people in those spaces.”
Good Good Good
Just left of the runway, designer Daniel Sher hosted an exhibition-style installation that allowed guests to interact with his latest pieces and witness the production of his new season lookbook. Conscious fashion is Sher’s mantra now. To that end, the literature prided itself on transparency. The waffle jacket, for example, is 100% South African cotton milled by Mungo in Plettenberg Bay and manufactured at the Good Good Good family factory in Maitland by a team that’s 95% women. It’s details like this that add deeper value to the garment, trailblazing a standard of transparency that is set to define the 2020s. Said waffle jacket is the type of piece that elevates the wearer’s character to a place that’s perfect for scheduled interactions. “A friend told me yesterday they want to buy the black waffle cotton to wear to a wedding,” says Sher. “I often wear that same waffle outfit to dinners and business meetings.” Local music acts have been showing an interest in the brand over the past season – AW20 show day being no exception. “Immediately after our show, Durban Kwaito artist Sandy B performed a live show dressed in the Tsitsikamma Workwear jacket and trousers [also 100% South African cotton, milled at Mungo] at a party we threw in collaboration with the legendary Cape Town lifestyle restaurant, Hokey Poke,” says Sher.
“I’ve started exploring [the idea of] rent boys and how young men are making money,” says designer Neo Serati Mofammerein. Encasing the drapes, sparkles and a deliciously fluffy tote was a surprisingly sober tone. Usually a Mofammerein show envelops you in an exuberant moment. This season cultivated emotional distance that allowed the audience to observe from a more objective standpoint. “With the rise of sites like OnlyFans and the growing number of Grindr rent boys, I thought it was interesting to explore what people are willing to do for money.” Mofammerein has been showing meaningful representations of queer culture for years now. If there’s anyone who has the maturity and intelligence to take on one of its more serious facets, it’s him. Yes, these are the club-ready clothes you’ve come to expect from the label, but they’ve been imbued with a deeper meaning that expels any risk of frivolity. Each look belies a raw truth about its wearer while distracting from it. It’s necessary storytelling that rises to the occasion of digging a little deeper, beyond surface-level representation.
Known as Eli Gold, Amza Niyonzima’s original prints are inspired by “African strength, pride, beauty, freedom of movement and humility”. The dizzying multicolour layers of deconstructed puffers and minimally cut separates made a bold visual statement that drew attention to the urgent subject matter. This collection is titled Migration is Beautiful, Destroy all the Borders. “The collection was inspired by immigrants,” says Gold. “The tears in their eyes as they turn their backs on their homes. Broken hearts. Their villages sinking under rising seas or collapsing under the pressures of wars. Refugees of war caused by greed, running for their lives. Stories and memories of their villages. All that they carry is on their chests: dreams, hopes for a better future and the skills they accumulate on their home soil which become undervalued on the other side.” The models exited solo or in groups as fractured families: mother and daughter, father and sons. Interesting styling details such as double layers or the way puffers cut off at the same height as a life vest played strongly into the narrative, in addition to being in touch with a global style pulse. These are clothes you already know and love (with the addition of numerous unconventional outerwear pieces), heightened by bold prints. The pieces work to elevate any context in which they’re worn, because of the way their existence creates visual diversity. These are stand-out looks for, as Gold calls them, “the brave ones”.