The look-book has evolved into an important tool for a designer wanting to showcase their design aesthetic. Marrying photography, styling and art, the collections of photographs are used to convey the feel or story of a brand. No longer do look-books feature a series of models posing and staring down at the camera. Instead designers are producing unique ways of combining art and fashion. We talk to Craig Jacobs of the Afro sports luxe label, Fundudzi Man about his AW16 collection and associated look-book, “The Gathering of a Warrior”
What sparked your interest in fashion? It really was purely by chance. I left journalism way back in 2004 and wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be doing. Then out of the blue I got a call from the UK, asking me if I’d like to go shopping with a supermodel. The supermodel was Jodie Kidd and it was for a programme which aired on The Style Network, called Fashion Avenue. To cut a long story short, Kidd was really taken by a really simple Xhosa skirt (even though it was two sizes too big for her!) and said to me, “I want to wear something I can’t find in the high streets of London” and that was pretty much the lightbulb moment for me.
I am more interested in telling African stories and I use clothing as conduit for that. We have such a rich tapestry of life on our continent and it is time we showcased that to the world.
What made you take fashion more seriously and make a career of it? I must admit I didn’t take having a label too seriously until my co-founder left the business at the end of 2006. I was stuck with having to create an entire collection in less than three weeks and I figured: Okay, let me see what I can do.
The day after I presented the collection I ended up being selected by Gavin Rajah, SA Tourism and Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe to showcase in Paris and that is I guess when the rollercoaster really kicked off.
How has your work evolved since you began your own label? The funny thing is that I grew closer to the ethos of why I started the label only two years ago.
The problem was engaging with mass retail in South Africa, which I did for a few years – stocking my range in one of the country’s biggest retailers. Trying to figure out what shoppers want – and feeding them that, ended up being super soul destroying. So last year, when I decided to launch my menswear collection I decided to go back to the beginning and craft items which are modern but infused with an undeniably African aesthetic.
Three seasons down and my label has become more successful than it has ever been – and the recognition has been even more phenomenal overseas. It is ironic, because I am finding overseas people are more interested in wearing African designs than we are back here in South Africa.
If you had any doubt, all you need to do is look at local fashion magazines and blogs – all they do is regurgitate international trends and spew up fast fashion.
What is your creative process like? It all starts with a mood or a concept I want to explore, and then I go out and seek African prints which can reflect that ethos. That really is the beginning. From there I love mood boarding things, mapping out silhouettes and key features, and then speaking to my team of technicians – the samplists, pattern makers and makers of the garments – to help me realise that vision.
What are you fascinated by at the moment and how does it feed into your work? Art and traditional techniques are such a strong fountain of inspiration for me. Last season it was all about Senegalese graphic designer Barro Sare, and this season a brilliant artist Unathi Mkonto really triggered the creative source of the collection for AW16.
Do you have a specific research process when you start a new collection? I am a research nerd, so I love looking at old anthropological journals, books set in a certain era – and anything really. A building could inspire me or the way nature plays with colours.
Tell us about “The Gathering of a warrior” collection? The Gathering was really an opportunity for the tribe to come together. I wanted to delve into the mythology of the bewitched forests near Lake Fundudzi and then add a few elements of African ichnography, such as spears, in an abstract way.
What is the biggest lesson that you have learned since you started your brand? My biggest lesson has been to keep trying. From the beginning, things were not easy. Not only because I didn’t have the skills or the experience, but because many people felt that I hadn’t put in the hard slog, not having studied fashion formally. But it has taught me to never take anything for granted and to not be afraid of asking questions, even super silly ones, to figure things out.
How would you describe your design aesthetic? My label is Afro sports luxe, undeniably rooted in Africa.
What inspires you? Books, art, nature, architecture – these are all sources.
Describe the person you have in mind when designing? I don’t think of one particular person, but if I were to say who it is, it’s someone who sees the true power of Africa but is a modernist who sees the beauty of tradition but understands that for us to succeed as a continent we can’t be tied to the ills of the past.
What’s your motto? Clothing with a conscience is the Fundudzi mantra!
What’s next? I am working on my forthcoming SS17 collection for SA Menswear Week, which hopefully I will manage to get organised in-between a hectic European schedule. Fundudzi by Craig Jacobs will be holding our very first international pop-up next month in Paris. The pop-up takes place in Androuet Street in Montmartre and my menswear Spring Summer 2016 will be sold alongside a range of brands across five pop-up stores as part of the very first Africa Montmartre Festival which blends fashion, music and art in the French capital’s artist area.
Designer Craig Jacobs
* Fundudzi Man AW16 is available online and at Space Man in Rosebank, @TheZone in Joburg and Gateway in Umhlanga.
For more details visit http://www.facebook.com/fundudzibycraigjacobs, @Fundudzi on Instagram and Twitter, or http://www.fundudzi.com
Pic Credits: Photography by Aart Verrips
Story by RICH MNISI
Makeup and hair by Kelly-Jean Gilbert.
This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on June 1st 2016. Find me on Snapchat and Instagram @Nontando58