SA Menswear Week, highlights so far.

FB Pic 1  Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha showcased at Season 1..jpg

A Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha design  showcased at Season 1. Photo by SIMON DEINER/SDR

Seeing a gap in the fast-growing category of menswear, fashion photographer Simon Deiner and businessman Ryan Beswick developed a platform that is now responsible for promoting menswear designers in Africa. Entering its fifth season, the LEXUS SA Menswear Week (Lexus SAMW AW’17) is the only menswear-focused fashion week on the continent.

Over the past four seasons, we have had an opportunity to witness some of the best in menswear by both emerging and established designers from around Africa, some of whom have gone on to gain international exposure. Rich Mnis, Jenevieve Lyons, Chu Suwannapha, Craig Jacobs, Orange Culture and Laduma Ngxokolo are now recognised internationally.
My highlights include the debut range of Chulaap by Chu Suwannapha showcased at season one. The styling, design and the prints show Suwannapha’s artistic aesthetic and his love for the colourful African continent.

Lukhanyo Mdingi’s androgynous collection of dark navy, blue and black made up of sheer silk and denim separates from season two remain fresh in my mind. The range brought forth the growing trend of gender-fluid fashion. The collaboration of Adriaan Kuiters and Jod Paulsen (AKJP) from season three showed that a meeting of two creative minds can lead to magic.

Lukhanyo Mdingi
A design by Lukhanyo Mdingi. Picture by : SIMON DEINER/SDR PHOTO
For Deiner, there have been many highlights: “I remember the first season where we did a team photo at the end and there were about 50 people involved. And when we took the group photo at the SS17 collections last July we had just over 150 people in the pic. “Other highlights have been watching our young designers shine and grow into proper household names and along the way start businesses. I have also enjoyed seeing how men in general now perceive the concept of wearing locally made clothing as something they are proud to do,” Deiner says.
A lot of hard work and dedication are necessary for a designer to stand out from a saturated industry competing against cheap imports and fast fashion. Funding, production and affordable and quality fabrics are just some of the challenges that our young designers are facing, which play a hand in preventing them from maintaining profitable businesses.
Kim Gush
Kim Gush by SIMON DEINER/SDR PHOTO
Kim Gush, owner and designer of Kim Gush apparel, adds: “I think local consumers still love to compare designers to big retailers, especially where price is concerned. We are still constantly faced with the snub at our price tags… consumers forget that the items aren’t mass produced, therefore you are receiving a unique piece. And at the same time you are supporting our local manufacturing industry – which to be honest, needs every tiny purchase to try to revive it.
“Buying local means you are helping in developing and bringing our industry to those ‘international’ levels you so dearly desire as well as keeping jobs going,” she says. “Take the time to get to know all those brands you watch at fashion week. A lot of people are just there for the social, but they forget the heart and soul that goes into every garment presented, the dreams the designers have for this industry to flourish,” she says. 
For Suwannapha, who will not be showcasing at Lexus SAMW AW’17, the fabrication and the manufacturing are problematic. “Hopefully, some of the courier companies will work with fabrics agencies towards bringing fabrics to minimal costs, or I might have to live with the high labour costs as long as I’m producing in South Africa,” he says. “(This year) is all about expanding and building my brand. Collaboration will be a part of my brand’s personality, which will be coming soon and will be available online in South Africa,” Suwannapha says.
FB  Pic 3  The collaboration of Adriaan Kuiters x Jod Paulsen from season 3.jpg
The collaboration of Adriaan Kuiters and Jod Paulsen from season three. Picture: SIMON DEINER/SDR PHOTO
One of the youngest showcasing designers, Mzukisi Mbane of Imprint, adds: “When it comes to fashion week, I think we all take away what we want from it.“The fashion week benefits should always extend beyond the applause after a runway show. For instance, you get an opportunity to sell yourself to a wide audience that you wouldn’t normally be able to reach. “After my first runway show, I got invited to go to Ghana then Nigeria… I was instantly not just a South African brand, but a recognised African brand,”says Mbane.
Imprint
A Imprint by Mzukisi Mbane design. Picture by SIMON DEINER/SDR PHOTO
On what to expect at his showcase next week: “The collection is based on a fictional character I created. It’s an Ndebele man who decided to leave home and travel the world.
“The collection includes a lot of colour, oversized silhouettes, genderfluid pieces. Which is truly the Imprint Afro futuristic aesthetic… it expresses a free spirit which challenges made-up perfection. “As the collection is titled “I couldn’t be bothered”, one will take away whatever they want from the collection… and that will be okay,” he adds.
LEXUS SA Menswear Week will take place at The Palms in Woodstock on February 3 and 4 2017.
Tickets are available at http://www.webtickets.co.za.For a full schedule see : http://www.menswearweek.co.za/
See more of my work here: http://www.iol.co.za/lifestyle/style

Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter: @Nontando58 https://www.instagram.com/nontando58/?hl=en

This piece was first published in the Weekend Argus (Sunday) on January 29 2017. 

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The story of the man in suits

WELL-SUITED: Brian Lehang sports an ensemble at the biannual menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Italy this year. PICTURES: FABRIAZIO DI PAOLO

WELL-SUITED: Brian Lehang sports an ensemble at the biannual menswear trade show Pitti Uomo in Italy this year. PICTURES: FABRIAZIO DI PAOLO

THESuitableMan, Brian Lehang’s story began at Retlile Primary School in Soweto, when he and a group of friends decided to dress like gentlemen to impress their peers and teachers.

“We used to be naughty boys at school and just before graduating we realised that we needed to do something that would get our names into the school’s good books,” he explains.

Brian Lehang 1

Dressed in black trousers, khaki shirts and ties – Lehang’s tweed was borrowed from his uncle – the effort earned the group a spot in the principal’s good books.

“I suggested that we wear ties with our uniforms so we would look more like gentlemen than naughty boys. Mine had sentimental value as my uncle had inherited it from his father. Even before we got to school, people at the bus stop were already giving us strange looks.

Brian Lehang 5

“That day the principal gave us a smile for the first time,” he says.
I first noticed Lehang at the inaugural SA Menswear Week (SAMW) last year.

He was dressed in a classic “five-piece suit” – a pants, jacket, waistcoat that also included a shirt and tie (or bowtie).

Dressing up for a fashion week is not uncommon as most people are there to be seen and show off their outfits. However, wearing a suit these days without good reason, such as to a wedding or a black-tie event, is rare, unlike the early to mid-20th century, when the suit was an acceptable look for day and night.

Lehang’s sartorial look – complete with a matching pocket square, hat and clutch bag – therefore raises as many eyebrows as it draws stares.

Brian Lehang Golf

Introducing himself as a professional golf player, Lehang says his journey to becoming The SuitableMan was established on the golf course. After trying a number of sports at high school, including running, swimming and soccer, he fell in love with golf after seeing a neighbour practise the sport in a backyard.

“I immediately thought: ‘This is the sport for me’. I was drawn to its uniqueness at the time… no black kid in Soweto played the sport. I started playing with my neighbour after school and I did everything to learn about the game, from reading about the sport to visiting golf courses,” says Lehang.

“Playing golf is expensive so in Grade 10 I started working at a golf club in Roodepoort as a caddy in return for golf gear, equipment and a place to play.

“A new era began. I gave away all my denim jeans as I only wore formal pants or chinos and golf shirts to work. I became popular in my community… people were curious about the young boy catching a taxi with a golf bag.

My golf was not that great at the time, but I very much looked the part.”

Brian Lehang 4

Growing up in a female-dominated home, Lehang’s only source of style inspiration came from magazines and books, and from studying what golf pros such as Tiger Woods wore on and off the course.

“There was no father figure to show me how to wear a tie,” he says. Lehang says fashion and golf are interconnected.

“I fell in love with fashion as much as I fell in love with golf, to a point where I started looking at how men used to wear suits in the old days.

“I have spoken to old men who used to live in Sophiatown and Meadowlands, and they told me fascinating stories of how they only wore suits on pay day.

“I fell in love with suits and started buying them at jumble sales.
“A neighbour would alter them to make them the perfect fit,” he explains.

Now fashion has become a serious business for him. Not only is he a permanent feature on the fashion scene, but he has made it his goal to visit the world’s top fashion capitals, such as Paris and New York to learn from the masters.

At the recent biannual menswear trade show, Pitti Uomo in Florence, Italy,Lehang was among the most photographed people there.

“I felt like I was at home in Florence. People were not looking at me with raised eyebrows, like they sometimes do here.

“It’s not just a place where people go to be photographed. I met tailors and shoemakers from around the world since I am trying to learn as much as possible in terms of how to put together a suit and where it comes from. It was a magical time”

“As much as they say that fashion is unrestricted there is certain etiquette that a gentleman has to know when it comes to suits.

“Such as if you are wearing braces or suspenders you can’t put a belt on as the braces were meant to hold up the trousers.

“Or when you are wearing a slim fit tie, you wear it with a slim fit tie clip for it to look more proper. There are also rules on how you wear your hat.

“I believe in being a traditionalist when it comes to suits… keeping it sartorial all the time,” Lehang says.

Brian Lehang 3

Brian Lehang’s style tips

●Buy a suit off the rack and have it tailored to fit.
●Do your homework. There are many shops that sell suits, so take
your time and compare prices and quality.
●Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most sales people are very helpful,
so don’t shy away from asking for information even if you’re not planning to buy at the time.

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on March 31 2016.