Fash­ion­ing it inim­itably for Africa

It’s time for SA Menswear Week, Africa’s only stan­dalone plat­form ded­i­cated to the de­vel­op­ment of menswear. YAZEED KAMALDIEN and SINOLWAZI APRIL speak to two of the de­sign­ers in­volved

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jack­ets and then peo­ple say they love it. But no­body gets back to me.

“Peo­ple ask where can they buy it. But when I pro­duce it then no­body buys it. Peo­ple don’t want to spend money. That’s re­al­ity. I don’t want my cash sit­ting in my stock.”

Thai­land-born Suwan­napha, who has lived in Cape Town for al­most 14 years, started his la­bel a year ago when he was in­vited to cre­ate a col­lec­tion for the in­au­gu­ral South African Menswear Week.

Menswear Week’s third show­case of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional de­sign­ers in Cape Town, its home base, runs from Thurs­day to Satur­day at Cape Town Sta­dium.

Suwan­napha is pre­par­ing his third col­lec­tion, with a fo­cus on spring/sum­mer.

“It’s a mix of the south. The prints will be bright and bold.

“The prints will be trop­i­cal. You’re go­ing to see some­thing ro­man­tic,” he said of his vi­sion.

“I’m do­ing Hawai­ian short-sleeved shorts, less tai­lored and looser. I’m also mak­ing sum­mer trench coats and street style. Chu­laap is all about cel­e­brat­ing South Africa and there’s in­spi­ra­tion from the streets,” he said, adding that there would also be sum­mer shorts – “some su­per short”.

Suwan­napha is feel­ing the pres­sure, though, to get his col­lec­tion ready for open­ing night on Wed­nes­day.

Work­ing full-time as a fash­ion di­rec­tor for three lo­cal mag­a­zines means Chu­laap gets at­ten­tion only after hours.

“It’s stress­ful be­cause I have a full-time job. At the same time I have to make a plan to run my own busi­ness. It’s not easy to do two jobs at the same time.”

For now Suwan­napha is in a re­search phase too, find­ing out “who is re­ally buy­ing my stuff ”.

“I don’t want to go too big too soon. I look at the num­bers, at the cost of my jer­seys and what the price is of other jer­seys,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean I don’t want my stuff ac­ces­si­ble. I am just man­ag­ing my growth. That’s very im­por­tant for busi­ness.”

Some in the lo­cal fash­ion in­dus­try were sur­prised Suwan­napha launched his own la­bel as he had al­ways been part of the me­dia pack that cri­tiqued and pro­moted the work of fash­ion de­sign­ers.

Suwan­napha re­sponded: “I have al­ways been a fash­ion de­signer. I was a fash­ion de­signer be­fore I came here.

“I was liv­ing in Paris for 10 years. I was do­ing menswear, wom­enswear and kidswear.”

The down­side has been the hate mail and even ac­cu­sa­tions that his African in­flu­ences are sim­i­lar to what others in the field have done.

“It’s a funny thing when a de­signer thinks I’m copy­ing their work. I’m do­ing my own thing,” he said.

“But I don’t take per­son­ally what other de­sign­ers or me­dia think about what I’m do­ing. I ap­pre­ci­ate the kind­ness of peo­ple who have given me feed­back.”

The up­side of it all has been an ex­cit­ing in­jec­tion from a de­signer who goes where very few go.

He is not play­ing it safe with colours, cuts or even gen­der-de­fined style.

“My range is not ex­actly menswear. it’s uni­sex,” said Suwan­napha.

“My de­sign is about cel­e­brat­ing Africa, us­ing lots of prints, tex­tures and colour. In my last col­lec­tion I used seven dif­fer­ent prints and 15 dif­fer­ent colours.

“I’m us­ing dif­fer­ent styles and tex­tures of prints, I’m just adding fresh­ness. Mak­ing it more in­ter­est­ing.”

South African Menswear Week runs from Wed­nes­day to Satur­day at Cape Town Sta­dium. Among the col­lec­tions on show are those from Ma­gents, Jenevieve Lyons, Craig Port, CSquared, and Rich Mnisi. For more in­for­ma­tion, go to www.menswear­week. co.za yazeed.kamaldien@inl.co.za

PIC­TURES: SI­MON DEINER / SDR PHOTO

Cape Town de­signer Chu Suwan­napha has ce­mented his aes­thetic of bold colours and in­trigu­ing prints on the lo­cal menswear fash­ion scene. He shows his cre­ations at the third SA Menswear Week at Cape Town Sta­dium this week.

JULY 2 2016

Bold colours and hats are sig­na­ture ad­di­tions in Suwan­napha’s col­lec­tion.

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