TALENTS: IN CONVERSATION WITH SIZE MBIZA

“Talents” is a space to showcase and learn about the work of emerging creatives in the fields of black fashion, photography, and fine art. *** This month I have the pleasure to post a conversation with Size Mbiza. Hailing from South Africa, Siza is an all-around artist who works in photography, creative direction, and fashion. His works capture the new African cool, visually shaping urban …

WINNIE: THE MERCURIAL FASHION ICON

The passing of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has saddened the world. Messages of grief are pouring in, reflecting the esteem and respect she inspired in millions the world over. Ever the fearless activist and campaigner for racial equality and freedom, Winnie was also an icon of style, albeit an unlikely one, for some. Since meeting Nelson in 1957 aged 22, her entire …

MAKING THE PAST RELEVANT: SIMON AND MARY’S “50/50” FEAT. THE SARTISTS

Simon and Mary is a South African headwear company, established in Johannesburg in the 1930s by Mordechai Wozniak, a Polish immigrant, and run today by his great-great grandson Dean. The factory, which was originally called “Supreme Hat and Cap Manufacturers”, launched the actual brand “Simon and Mary” in 2014. It produces wool felt hats using original machinery from the 1960s. …

ON THE #DOEKGATE AND THE CULTURAL RELEVANCE OF THE HEADWRAP

Social media users, have you come across the #RespekTheDoek campaign yet? It began ten days ago on Twitter, when the South African network eNCA removed a video package from its TV channel on the grounds that reporter Nontobeko Sibisi shot it wearing a headwrap – or doek, as it is called in Afrikaans. eNCA’s policy, which claims to “be in line with [South Africa’s] corporate and national values”, deems headgear inappropriate. Since …

PROBLEMATIC BLACK ICONICITY: THE SWENKAS

The swenkas are Zulu migrant laborers living in Johannesburg’s poor areas who have been turning heads with their elegant style and dance skills since the mid 1900s. In the apartheid decades, swenking preserved Zulu culture and pride. The swenkas favoured a formal dress code inspired by jazz-age refinement. Their tailored suits came with brimmed hats and leather shoes, as well as a variety of accessories, including eyewear, …

ICONOGRAPHIES OF THE PRESENT-FUTURE WITH KHUMBULA AND THE SARTISTS

South Africa is a hotbed of sartorial creativity and a fashion powerhouse. Like other emerging voices from the (former) margins of the global scene, its contributions self-consciously engage with accepted stereotypes and truisms of fashionability. Most South African designers engage with the industry’s bulimic need to absorb all difference while dictating what accepted “difference” should be by creating the sort of familiar exoticism that can be both a …

AFRICAN FASHION YOUNGPRENEURS: LADUMA NGXOKOLO

Laduma Ngxokolo is a prominent new designer from Port Elizabeth, South Africa. MaXhosa, his brand of men and women’s knitwear made with locally-sourced materials, is showcased at major fashion weeks in the continent and can be purchased at stores in South Africa, Namibia, the UK, France, and the Netherlands. Market projections are positive and so is the feedback from consumers and international actors, including Mercedes Benz and the Norwegian …

STYLE DIGEST: NEWS FROM THE AFROSARTORIALIST UNIVERSE

Designers Africa Fashion Guide covers Adele Dejak’s latest collection of accessories named after the least valuable currency of Nigeria, Kobo. The accessories come in black and gold, respectively Dejak’s brand colour and a symbol of happiness, and are affordable, from $10 to 50. “Kobo represents urban culture and is for edgy people everywhere who want to stand out, who are …

TONESOCIETY: RECLAIMING URBAN SPACE FOR SOUTH AFRICAN SARTORIALISTS

Afro-centric styles are often visually represented as a conquest of the urban space. I have written about blipsters who perform cool as a “proactive occupation” of the streets of the Western metropolis, and about South African sartorialists who collaborate with international brands to showcase township fashion’s message of emancipation. I have also sketched an analysis of the aesthetic of the township street style here and here, contending that the limiting geography of the township is an …

H&M LAUNCHES FIRST SUB-SAHARAN SHOP IN CAPE TOWN

H&M, Europe’s second fashion retailer, has launched its first store in sub-Saharan Africa in Cape Town and plans to open more in Johannesburg, following an increase in the local demand for top international brands. Promoting itself as a purveyor of “sustainable” and “democratic” fashion, the brand caters to the aspirational market of the South African middle class, as well as to “people who might …