Journey to fashion success

2013-08-30 00:00

ONE of the most fascinating collections on show at South African Fashion Week in April was Journey of a Travelling  Man, produced by Naked Ape Fashion Consulting.

The man behind it was Pietermaritzburg-born designer and stylist Shaldon Kopman.

In Kopman’s creation for fashion week, the models posed in various installations — lifting weights, reading, walking, washing their hands and simply dressing and undressing in front of a mirror.

As they moved from pose to pose, a film was played, showing a young man moving from his home in a rural area to the city, and the different people and situations he encounters on his journey.

The whole concept was inspired by the migrant workers of the fifties and the film itself took roughly two days to make.

Asked what had prompted this very different offering at an event crowded with runway collections, Kopman said: “I couldn’t afford to produce a full collection, but I liked the idea of doing an installation.

“Clive Rundell [who also hosted a fashion installation at the event] is also one of my mentors. “He has been a great inspiration in my life and I really admire his work, so it was nice being able to share a space with him.”

All the clothes on show were part of a collection Kopman showed in the United Kingdom in 2012. They were made from natural fabrics, including hand-woven bamboo, organic cotton and hemp, accented and layered with fine, perforated leather.

In addition to his much-talked-about installation at SA Fashion Week, Kopman has also seen his clothes adorn Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson, who was in South Africa earlier this year to film scenes for his new movie, Kite.

Kopman provided the clothes that Jackson uses in the movie and also styled the actor for the cover of the May 2013 issue of GQ magazine.

For the latter, he photographed pictures of beautiful South African beads and then printed them onto fabric to create his own print.

“I used the eco-friendly material called Bamboo, which is made up of 70% bamboo plant and 30% cotton. The material is not only a great way to reduce the carbon footprint, but it also has a way of regulating one’s body temperature, which is ideal for all seasons,’’ said Kopman.

As for Jackson himself, Kopman described the American star of films such as Pulp Fiction, The Avengers, Star Wars and Django Unchained, as a “gentleman”.

“He knows what he wants. He’s tall, stylish and he knows his style. He liked Naked Ape and told me he would wear whatever I put him in,” the designer said.

Originally from Woodlands, Kopman has fond memories of going to Raisethorpe Primary School.

He recalls being less than happy when his mother moved to Johannesburg.

“I thought it was a dreadful place and wanted to go back to Pietermaritzburg. But after about a year, my mum managed to get me into a better school, first St John Bosco College and then St Barnabas, so things got better,” he said.

After leaving school, Kopman worked as a model for designers such as Giorgio Armani, gaining the experience of the fashion industry that he needed to start his own label in 1997.

“Initially, it wasn’t a proper label, but rather a way for me to channel all my styling,” he said.

“In 2005, the label came into being while I was working as a fashion editor for Elle. But it only really got going in 2010 after extensive research and sampling.

“I didn’t go to design school and am self-taught in many ways, and you need to get the confidence to be able to go out there and do something.”

Since launching Naked Ape, however, Kopman has established a reputation for quality and the use of natural fibres such as cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo and wool.

“The only way to show sustainability in an international industry is to create quality garments,” he said, adding that he’s keen to showcase South African mohair in his next collection, due to be shown in October.

“It’s a luxury brand in places such as Italy, France, Germany and Japan, but here it’s considered scratchy stuff,” the designer said.

• Check out images of Naked Ape’s collections and video at http://www.safashion

week.co.za/?cat=12 or http://vimeo.com/63905244.

• arts@witness.co.za

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