When the bible of fashion, WWD names Lexus South African Menswear Week (SAMW) “the continent’s most credible fashion week platform” it’s about time that those of sartorial interest sit up and take notice. What started out in 2015 as the other, other, other fashion week has now grown to be a fashionable destination in its own right, taking full advantage of the rising appreciation in men’s fashion — an industry that when SAMW started was worth R390-billion globally and is predicted to grow to R445-billion by 2020, according to Euromonitor International, the world's most comprehensive market research indicators on the menswear industry.
“What it comes down to ultimately is that men are feeling more comfortable buying clothes or paying more attention to their own image than they did 10 or 15 years ago,” says Jorge Martin, apparel and footwear project manager at Euromonitor.
Leading to Businessoffashion.com — fashions other other bible — stating that men really are the new women.
However, 2013 Elle Rising Star Finalist and respected menswear designer, Jenevieve Lyons has a difference of opinion, stating that it’s not about specifying gender. She believes that South Africa has been in long need of a platform that not only supports local designers at its heart but continuously strives towards global relevance and feels that SAMW is the ideal platform.
“African fashion is a current, as well as forecasted, interest internationally. Now this is both good as well as a threat,” states Lyons. “More than ever we as African designers need to unite in order to showcase African fashion’s identity in a relatable and united way.”
The young designer’s newest range, titled 'de·frag·mented [undated]' promises unexpected pieces that attempt to evoke a feeling what you have experienced before and yet reworks the clichéd identity of ‘ethnic’ and print often seen in African fashion to a more modernistic view that can be “placed next to an international brand and be understood globally".
Lyons is not the only designer showing at SAMW that is reinterpreting the past to explore modern themes. Hot up-and-comer Martelle Ludik’s fascination with the current shift in traditional gender and gender rigidity within society lead him into the world of glam rock and the new romantic movement seen in London in the early 80’s. Through his collection, 'Baroquey Horror' the catwalk shall be assaulted with rebellious undertones, print clashing and wet look coated knits.
With an occasional bishop sleeve and many a frill, Ludik says that he likes to design for risk takers who rebel against societal constructs in any way, shape or form and feels that it’s time that menswear is given the chance to take those risks. “I feel that menswear has so much potential for growth, in terms of concept, pushing boundaries and capitalizing on menswear as a whole, as much as its womenswear counterpart has had throughout history.”
Jason Storey, CEO of fashion label Unknown Union, feels that same way and believes that through focusing on a specific style — be it men’s fashion — designers are forced to push the boundaries within that scope.
“The result of which is garments and styles available to men become broader and more varied,” says Storey. “I think menswear needs that kind of attention and I think African designers have a great deal to offer in that regard.”
Unknown Union will present clothes “made for daily life” in their collection, 'Season Zero'. Creative director Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and art director Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz looked into the Mandombe language, Chokwe sand drawings, and various fabrics that they feel “are able to tell a story” to produce an array of classic menswear pieces, from tailored jackets to loose-fitting pants, which celebrate the diverse art, cultures and traditions on this planet.
From the looks of things you can expect a jam-packed three days of interesting silhouettes, bold statement pieces and smart colour choices that will solidify South Africa’s place in the rising world of men’s fashion, one twirl on the catwalk at a time.
Catch Jenevieve Lyons, Martelle Ludik and Unknown Union as well as 30 other designers at the Lexus South African Menswear Week at The Palms in Woodstock from the 2nd to the 5th of February. Tickets available at webticket.