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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Bold colours and hats are signature additions in Suwannapha’s collection.