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 …

TOWNSHIP FASHION GOES GLOBAL: BOYS OF SOWETO FOR BEN SHERMAN

To promote its 2015 Autumn Winter collection, Ben Sherman released a fashion film shot in Johannesburg in collaboration with a team of African talents. These include South African American director Meja Shoba, the Congolese musician Pierre Kwenders, and the Johannesburg-based collective Boys of Soweto (BOS), featuring as protagonists and stylists. The two-minute film takes place on a sports field, where three …

ANTHONY BILA: BLACK HISTORY MARCH. WHEN FASHION PLEASES TO TEACH EMPOWERMENT

Last week South African photographer and video-maker Anthony Bila released a new volume of his yearly series “Black History March.” The 3-minute video features the fashion duo Sartists and pays homage to 1950s fashion with beautiful visuals and the dandies’s classic styling. Following a project that they have been pursuing for some time and independently of each other, Bila and the Sartists join forces to …

THE SARTISTS: NOSTALGIA FOR THE SUIT

The Sartists are a couple of “sartorial-artists” from Johannesburg who have been enjoying significant visibility worldwide since appearing in a Coca-Cola commercial in 2013 and on the South African trendsetting page Flux. Their style mixes vintage and contemporary elements, in the fashion of gentleman revivalism made popular by Sam Lambert and Shaka Maidoh of Art Comes first. In their blog, the Sartists collect visual cues of a nostalgic reworking of classic …