African Men Rewrite Fashion Rules

By: Banzi Mehlo

While we celebrate Africa month, it is only fair that we acknowledge and give props to designers who are breaking boundaries in the fashion industry and telling African stories to the world. We’ve always known the industry for being female dominated, however, since the 2000s, we’ve seen male designers breaking these walls. They have made it clear that anyone can rewrite the rules of fashion.

Like most people, I’ve only known David Tlale and Gert Johan Coetzee, to be the top male designers in South Africa. The late 2010s was an era where we witnessed the rise of more male fashion creators coming through the scene and making a name for themselves. I used “creators” because fashion had a new face, it was no longer just about creating garments but also involving visuals and other forms of media to tell a story through fashion.

For instance, the trailblazing Laduma Ngxokolo, creator of MaXhosa, the  internationally acclaimed knitwear brand, came to the game in 2010 guns blazing with his colourful patterned knitwear range. This received massive positive feedback in South Africa and all over the world. Since then, he went on to dress big names such as Enhle Mbali, John Kani, Alicia Keys and Beyoncé. With the major success of his brand, he has ventured into beanies, socks and even pillows. The brand is proof of how African culture can be preserved and shared to the world, in his case through fashion.

We can’t talk about fashion pioneers without mentioning the ground-breaking, Rich Mnisi. He had his big break in 2015, when he was deemed African Fashion International Young designer at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa. The self titled range explores the treasures within Africa and the world of modern culture and heritage. He does this by producing merchandise that displays craftsmanship of a minimalistic perspective. Through designs that maintain a contemporary outlook and stand firm in an aesthetic that tell an African story of the new generation, his brand is visually pleasing . Rich Mnisi is not only fashion, it also travels to realms of  film, music and art.

As fashion goes beyond just making garments, Trevor Stuurman has earned the title of being a game changer, for being a fashion photographer that has produced eye catching exhibitions that reshape the face of Africa. As style reporter for Elle South Africa, he had his breakthrough for exhibiting the country’s street style. Stuurman has had quite the attention since and continued to have successful exhibitions, telling stories of South Africa and Africa as a whole, through the lens of fashion. His latest big moment was capturing Beyoncé’s looks for the Global Citizen concert in 2018.

Fashion has definitely transitioned from the usual haute couture to garments and content that lean more towards the proudly African aesthetics. Our fashion industry has proven to be more inclusive and open to breaking stereotypes. More of us are taking charge globally and rewriting our stories.

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