We’ve seen it on the streets of the major collections in Europe, North America and Far East for a few years now, however what it takes to be worthy of acclaimed street photographers of the likes of Bill Cunningham, Scott Schuman or even my friend Trevor Stuurman seems to be ignored by the crowd at this year’s fourth and final day of SA Menswear Week AW ’16. My disdain for the “dress to shock and awe” crowd seems to be gathering more and more steam from #FirstThursdays to #SAMW and I shudder to think where it will end. This rant aside, the fourth and final day of #SAMW was a marvelous opportunity to catch-up with Jo’burg based industry heavyweights Allana Foster-Finley (@adfinley) and Nicola Cooper (@nicolacoop) and as always, the ever charming and witty Alexis Chaffe Mey (@alexischaffe) and Maria Kroes (@maria_kroes) whom I haven’t seen in a while. Noticeably absent from the event, given that this was Mens’ Fashion, after all, were GQ’s editorial and fashion duo Yati Khumalo (@YatiKhumalo) and Jason Basson (@jabasson). I mean if it isn’t tweeted and featured in GQ, did it really happen?

Standing Ovations …

Kim Gush (@Kim_Gush)

“I always feel like I need a shower after Kim’s show, one-sided” said one influential fashion blogger as we exited our #FROW seats heading towards the bar in the back. But Kim Gush, true to her minimalistic and monochromatic fetish-esque streetwear collection delivered her strongest signature collection to date. With staple PVC, cotton and faux-fur forming the base of the collection Kim delivered a powerful and original presence and whether giving voice to a previously inchoate generation or provoking a controversy with the slashed onsie exposing bare ass cheeks the audience, fashion- and celebrity-obsessed alike were dragged into a one-sided looking-glass of an alternative society with Die Antwoord playing Pied Piper with their bass thumping soundtrack. “Know what you stand for, and know your brand from the get go. If you cannot embody that in every collection or garment you put out there, then who are you doing it for? stated Kim previously and the aesthetic of this collection spoke to my current sartorial choices although it took everyone to a much darker place where you can easily imagine fame and terrorism and family and politics are inextricably linked and sometimes indistinguishable. The collection provided no escape to anyone in the audience who did not appreciate her vision but no one can disagree that her #AW16 collection is definitely matching her ambition with artistic maturity.

Tokyo James (@TOKYOJAMESS)

When British Nigerian super stylist and fashion editor Iniye James, better known as Tokyo James launched  last year you could see that he had refined his craftsmanship over the past 15 years of conceptualizing, dreaming and day dreaming, practising and learning the ropes. Bringing a level of detail to his eponymous fashion brand that is seldom seen by such a new-comer to the industry, Iniye managed to artfully find a way to infuse his personal eclectic sense of style while keeping a commercial appeal to the collection. He creates clothes not just for the modern African Dandy but makes the lives of Fashion Editors and Directors alike that much easier. Everything that came down the catwalk on Saturday night looked photo-ready for the editorial pages of GQ Style, Gaschette Magazine or The Rake. “I design for the man who loves simplicity with a bit of edge; the man that is a go getter and creates the reality he wants to live in; the man who believes anything is possible with determination and sheer confidence,” said Iniye of his creative process and this is evident from start to finish. With a strong combination of textures that make for interesting combinations, the jackets of faux-crocodile and wool were tailored within an inch of perfection, embroidered shirts and fur finished three-quarter jackets ensured this collection catered to the needs of the more traditional dresser but kept elements for the fashionable blokes who loves to take risks. Though this was my first collection I’ve seen presented by Tokyo James I certainly hope that it isn’t the last.

 

Can do better …

CHULAAP by Chu Suwannapha (@chuswannapha) x (@pichulik)

When one of South Africa’s most prolific fashion directors decides to produce a collection, people take notice, it was said in the media last year. Known to many for his own unique sense of style and love for prints, Chu’s third collection was everything I expected. For those who have never had the privilege (and I mean that sincerely because having dinner with Chu should be regarded as such) this collection took a horrific 2013/2014 trend of pattern clashing and merged it with others to create something which I felt I’d seen before in one of Laduma Ngxokolo’s MAXHOSA shows. Chu’s latest collection merely updated his love for bold, bright patterns with a military bias and graphic prints layered in traditional styling. Though this collection our Prince of Pattern managed to recycle something old into something new and speaks to the mise en scène bubbling  under the consciousness of the South African electorate, it was another form of cultural appropriation that will be difficult to translate into mainstream commercial viability. Though you could be forgiven for imagining many a politician wearing CHULAAP to SONA this coming week, even with the accessories by Pichulik, this is not something that has appeal outside the Fashion Elite who lunch and drink on Bree Str.

Disappointing …

Magents (@magents)

I walked out the Magent’s show amped and on a high only to crash back to earth when I read a tweet that my good friend Clouds Drummond (@cloudsdrummond) had put out during the show: “Putting it out there. @magents claims we all bleed the same colour but only used black models. Dafaq? #SAMW”. I hadn’t noticed that until it was said. And to reference the founders and creatives at Magents ‘A wise man once said, “It doesn’t fit in the head but fits perfectly in the heart”.’ And I guess that says a lot about how I feel about the brand now. Though the show was everything that I expected from this Proudly African brand: energetic, on trend with skilful tailoring and styled with just enough street cred for someone like me to get away with without appearing like I’m trying too hard to fit in it somehow felt both contrived and itself trying too hard to make a statement of trying to reclaim its #Afrikanism while being commercially retailed internationally (read Europe, Japan and Canada). I’m all for ‘supporting local’ however the closing show for this season’s #SAMW became apparent when I researched the brand just a little more and found an interview on CapeTalk a few days prior, Didier De Villiers, Magents founder and creative director had this to say “We’re back with a bang and ready to share some love with our brothers and sisters here.” From the spectacularly produced piece of street culture that masqueraded as a fashion show, his bold fashion statement clearly means I’m neither to Didier.

 

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