With SPICE focused on a love of all things fashion this month, how could we overlook the male point of view, and all the urgent designs coming from the continent?
In the ‘restrictive’ business of menswear (suits, shirts, tees, repeat) fashion has gone from baggy and dull, slim and colourful to super skinny and short. And, while some have kept it traditional with classic tailoring, others have taken an explorative route, experimenting with fabrics, silhouettes, colour and aesthetics – thus, there’s a new day in menswear and freedom, it seems, is definitely the new expression!
With the industry growing rapidly in China, London, Milan and Paris, Africa is not one to be left behind – in fact, in its rapidly growing market, there is a new generation of designers changing the face of menswear on the continent and bringing something new to fashion’s table.
See below, in no particular order, our top five African menswear designers that you, like us, should be watching;
Adriaan Kuiters by Keith Henning (of South Africa)
Known for its classic tailoring and minimalist aesthetic, Adriaan Kuiters is a Cape Town-based brand that first launched as a menswear label in 2011, before venturing into women’s wear in 2013. In contrast to its earlier collections, which were muted and slim-fitted, the brand seems to have found a new identity, with its recent range specialising in oversized fits and cool, bold graphics.
Last year, in 2013 Henning showcased his first collection in collaboration with Cape Town artist Jody Paulsen, and the pair haven’t looked back ever since, now working as a design duo.
Sharp tailoring – check! Minimalism – check! Relatable references – check! Functional design – check, check and check!
What more could a man want from his wardrobe?
Laurence Airline by Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud (of Ivory Coast)
It’s not easy working with African-inspired prints and patterns, without creating garments that we’ve seen before or that look similar to traditional clothing. But that’s no problem for Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud, who manages to execute a well-constructed, luxurious and high fashion aesthetic, despite the heavy use of bold, printed fabric.
In addition to her role as creative director of her brand, Chauvin was also part of the Studio Africa campaign, an initiative featuring some of Africa’s top innovators, inspired by the Diesel+Edun Spring/Summer’13 denim collection, which was manufactured in Africa. And, with African and European influences, Ms Chauvin’s brand mixes the best of both ends of the world, explaining in a 2013 interview;
“I spend half the year in Côte d’Ivoire designing and producing the collections, and half year in Paris to promote and sell the collection.”
Fans of the brand include musicians Mos Def and Stromae – as well as, of course, us at SPICE.
Orange Culture by Adebayo Oke-Lawal (of Nigeria)
Orange Culture has come a long way since its launch with “The Boy with the Colourful Disposition.” From its “Summer Quirk” collection in 2011 to the current Resort‘15 range “Dovetail,” which was showcased at Pitti Imagine in Italy this past June, the brand’s growth is utterly visible as the designer explores with more risqué structures and modern use of fabrics.
But the young designer’s not just made waves in Nigeria and Italy, either. In February 2014, Oke-Lawal beat hundreds of young designers from across the world to make the Top 30 shortlist in the LVMH Prize competition, in which Adebayo got to showcase his designs in Paris and interact with some of the most influential names in fashion, including founder of the Business of Fashion (BoF), Imran Amed, Style.com’s editor at large, Tim Blanks and the infamously known top designer, Karl Lagerfeld.
With Oke-Lawal’s talent being recognised all over the world, we’re super pleased to say he’s repping our corner of it so ridiculously well.
Kenneth Izedonmwem (of Nigeria)
Ambiguous is one word used to describe Kenneth Ize’s creations, with his gender-bending debut collection “Son Souffle” having raised eyebrows all over and perhaps even ruffled a few feathers. Inspired by Lagos, freedom and sunny weather, the range consisted of jumpsuits, platform sandals, pyjama cuts and shiny fabrics, as well as a long t-shirt-structured garment that was worn with an equally long jacket and rubber sandals.
His “Bio Phase Iv” collection though, showcased recently at SPICE’s Runway Fiesta Season 2, is a whole other fabulous thing. Inspired by the highlife of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the collection is a celebration of legends like King Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obe, with a subdued palette of grays, whites, beige and rust combining on a fusion of Western-wear meeting traditional African pieces.
Overall, the brand channels female references into menswear, and with his distinct technique, Mr Ize fuses feminine silhouettes and fabrics into his menswear, telling a story that goes much deeper than just fashion and trends. Not just satisfied with our love of his work though, earlier this year, the designer also flew to New York for a six month internship at Edun – a sure indication of his determination to succeed and that even better things from Ize are still to come.
Mille Collines by Ines Cuatrecasas & Marc Olivier (of Rwanda)
It didn’t take more than a quick glance to notice and appreciate this Rwandan brand. The design duo first launched their fashion house in 2009, designing women’s clothing. Thankfully for guys though, four years later in 2013, the brand expanded, tapping into the menswear market.
The aesthetic of their debut men’s collection was about nomadic, Taureng-inspired silhouettes; muted prints with astrology references, light layering and soft, airy textures. A relaxed vibe was felt throughout the showcase.
Since then, Mille Collines has gathered four flagship stores – three in Kenya and one in Rwanda, with South Africa next in line for their expansion plans – as well as a legion of fans, with Team SPICE clearly included.
We suggest you go find yourself a Mille Collines piece before we go find them all.
Written by Innocent Ndlovu