Designers who wear (and make) the pants

2012-03-23 14:31

There are few dedicated menswear designers in South Africa. While some designers play around by adding a few menswear items to their collections, there aren’t many who dedicate their whole fashion labels to dressing men.

Some, like Stiaan Louw, moved from designing womenswear to creating menswear ranges, a move that paid off when he was named best menswear designer in Africa at the African Fashion Awards in 2010. But last year this category was omitted from the programme.

According to Neil Doveton, the former fashion director of Men’s Health and current head of 36 Man, a menswear shopping and lifestyle website that launches in May, there has not been a large market for designer menswear in the past.

“But now the guys are ready, so it’s time for the designers to step up. Menswear has sadly been neglected because most backers go for designers who dress women.”

He believes that the fashion industry needs to start building a formidable menswear culture and aesthetic that can compete internationally.

“I have been curating some local brands for the website and I must say, we have some brilliant local designers. This is the kind of talent we need to nurture if we want a strong menswear presence in our fashion industry,” adds Doveton.

The founder of SA Fashion Week, Lucilla Booyzen, says: “Although SA Fashion Week has shown menswear brands from its inception in 1997, it took the menswear brands much longer to develop. In 2010 we started focusing on building the relationships within the menswear supply chain: from designer to media, retailer and end consumer.”

Booyzen believes that the South African man is opening up to experimenting, but is still far from experiencing fashion in the same way they do abroad.

“The South African man still relies on his partner to do the choosing and purchasing. But I believe there is a future and profitability in the designer menswear market. Men are looking to be different, to be individual and they have the means to purchase that item that will give them the look they want.”

For SA Fashion Week, which takes place from Thursday to Sunday at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rosebank, there are four designers carrying the torch for menswear: Ole Ledimo (House of Ole), Ephraim Molingoana (Ephymol), Shaldon Kopman (Naked Ape) and Paledi Segapo (Palse Homme).

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