STREET STYLE: Designer Ara Kani. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo
STREET STYLE: Designer Ara Kani. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo
Designer Chu Suwannapha of CHULAAP. Picture by Half and Halve.
Designer Chu Suwannapha of CHULAAP. Picture by Half and Halve.

The Autumn and Winter 2018 (A/W’18) season of SA Menswear Week (#SAMW) was a combination of hits and misses. It was held at the City Hall last month and we watched some of Africa’s top menswear designers present their collections over two days. Launched in February 2015, the platform positions itself as the only standalone one dedicated to the promotion and development of menswear within the African continent.

I have been there from the beginning and this season left much to be desired, seeing that the affair took place in a building that is rich in history and matched by architectural brilliance. I expected more from organisers in terms of the production and innovation. Nevertheless, it’s the designers and not the venue that have to take centre stage.

Over 20 designers were featured and designers such as Imprint and Kim Gush opted to do on-site presentations rather than have models walk down the runway, while others presented collections that were not new, nor properly fitted or styled.

This was disappointing, as many young designers who are clamouring just to have their foot in the door would give just about anything for a slot to introduce their brands.

About a handful of designers were memorable for me:

STREET STYLE: Designer Ara Kani. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

1. Ara Kani: This streetwear brand aesthetic is street style that is versatile and impresses with intricate detailing inspired by the designer’s Zimbabwean and Zulu roots. I loved the hooded denim jackets and the styling.

ATHLEISURE: Designer Augustine. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

2. Augustine: This designer excels with exceptional tailoring paired with minimalist designs and quality fabrics, as well as well-thought-out styling. The athleisure collection was a beautiful mixture of separates in pants, T-shirts and jackets.

STAND OUT: Designer House of St Luke. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

3. House of St Luke: Durban-based designer Mxolisi Luke Mkize is one of KwaZulu-Natal’s shining young stars. And having won the 2017 Durban Fashion Fair Best Menswear Designer collection, he has a lot to prove. His #SAMW showcase, inspired by the Namibian dunes, came in white, brown and blood red. This printed utility jacket stood out because of the relevant message.

SUITED: Designer Tokyo James. Picture: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo

4. Tokyo James: Season after season you can count on this British-Nigerian to deliver designs and styling that comes with a wow factor. Creativity and consistency are Tokyo James’s impressive selling points. Collaborating with the designers and producers of wax fabrics, Vlisco, the collection offered beautiful prints and tailoring paired with galaxy make-up.

CHULAAP. Picture by Half and Halve.

5. Chu Suwannapha of CHULAAP: With the collection titled “Afro Joker”, this was by far the best-styled collection of the season. Faceless models strutted the runway in a kaleidoscope of patterned and printed pants, coats, jackets, sweaters and shirts. The prints came in shades of red and pink, yellow and orange, as well as neutrals to monochrome.

I spoke to Chu  about the thought process behind the collection.

He says “CHULAAP is all about celebrating Africa, keeping it bold, current and contemporary. The Pantsula dance (the highly energetic street-dance form that came to prominence in the townships in the 1980s) was the main inspiration for my collection.

“This season for me was about loosening up the traditional preppy dressing with bold styling, or in another words, the look is very boho dapper with the mixes of interesting textures, like layering of knits over de-constructed coats and jackets. My finishing touch, the styling, was inspired by portrait photographer Phyllis Galembo’s book titled Maske,"he says 

Suwannapha collaborated with Durban-based luxury sandal brand iFele, jewellery designers Rings and Things, as well as hat-makers Simon and Mary for the collection. I asked how important such team work was in the industry. “In this industry, not many of us are good at everything and not everybody will be given the same opportunities. That is why I believe in sharing the opportunity, the platforms and the exposure I am given with other creatives so they can shine as well.

* Shop CHULAAP at Merchants on Long, Cape Town, and OXOXI.COM in New York.