Unique menswear - made locally

A leatherman: Oscar Ncube and his pet dog Zion post up outside his intriguing Dry bone co. store at Victoria Yards in Johannesburg
pictures: Cebile Ntuli
A leatherman: Oscar Ncube and his pet dog Zion post up outside his intriguing Dry bone co. store at Victoria Yards in Johannesburg pictures: Cebile Ntuli

As a man, shopping for clothing can be frustrating. We’re limited to chain stores that want us all to wear the same mass-produced shirt in different colours. Phumlani S Langa speaks to two local designers who are making unique threads for men.

Dry bone Co.

There are those of us who want a grungier look, channeling the dark rage associated with rock. Oscar Ncube has just that at his store.

“I always found myself giving my mom tips on how to put her outfits together. Eventually she started dragging me along when shopping for fabrics that she’d take to a friend who was a dressmaker. I’d help her out with that too. One day I decided to make an outfit for myself – then I was hooked.”

Ncube uses a lot of black in his clothes and store decor, which links to his creative fascination with death, a driving force behind the identity of his brand. “The name dry bone is attached to the concept of death, a dry bone is the ultimate symbol of death, yet that fossil still has decorative use past its previous life. My brand takes that philosophy and injects it into the fashion industry, we take clothing that has seen better days and give it new life,” he says.

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Hard rock and death: His fascination with death and rock n roll has given rise to a quality collection with a high price tag. pictures :Cebile Ntuli

He does sandals and interesting flowing garments that look almost androgynous. But it is his leather jackets that are the signature garments in his store. These are meticulously made and at times he takes old leather pants and deconstructs and reconfigures them into the design. Ncube says the process is an extensive labour of love.

His entry level jackets go for R1 250. The men’s biker jackets are R6 500 and the women’s R5 500. I ask him what his fashion inspiration is. “Locally, I am inspired by Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung and Thebe Magugu. Not so much because of their aesthetics but how they are breaking into the international scene.” He’s also eyeing foreign markets and enjoys the work of Alexander Wang, Hedi Slimane and Rick Owens.

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“We are going to have a dominant online retail offering in the months to come. I have a two-year plan on breaking into the international market, namely New York.”

We’re all here for it.

. Studio 7F3 Victoria Yards, Lorentzville, or convoyshop.co

Tshepo The Jeanmaker

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The don of denim: Tshepo Mohlala is thinking about more than just generating profits for his expanding fashion empire-he is creating jobs and a lasting legacy. pictures :Cebile Ntuli

He’s no stranger to media coverage and has a way with tailored denim that is both home-grown and exportable beyond measure.

With his home base in Joburg East Side’s Victoria Yards, Tshepo The JeanMaker’s fashion empire continues to bloom. I love his work with the darker, navy and black hues. They’re reserved but with enough sauce to make you noticeable.

His shop has a few presidential slim fits that retail for R1 800 a pair, but he is also able to provide varied cuts – tapered or carrot leg – on request. When it comes to buying the perfect pair of jeans, Tshepo Mohlala shares three pillars he learnt from fellow designer Laduma Ngxokolo of MaXhosa Africa.

“It’s all about the fabric, fit and finishing,” he says. “In terms of fabric, how does it feel on your body? Is it comfortable to wear in your daily routine?

“In terms of fit, ask how does it look on me, especially in a world of individuality where we all can’t wear the same kind of thing. Clothes are about 90% confidence, you should wear the garment, not the other way around.”

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Fabric, fit and finishing: He marks his work with a crown as he believes his craft is fit for kings and queens and I agree. pictures: Cebile Ntuli

The finishing, he says, is key to his brand. The details added at the end form part of the ethos of his own denim and the quality and durability of the item. Mohlala says he has plans to take on 30 more employees at his store in the coming months. For this man, the profits are secondary to the work he aims to create.

“The more good work I put out, the more I’ll make. Money is important, but this is more about competing globally, creating a legacy project. Right now we have Zimbabwean cotton coming in as well as fabric from Japan.”

He doesn’t subscribe to notions of “black-owned” or “black excellence”.

“It’s either you’re excellent or not. In Europe there’s no ‘black excellence’, it’s just excellence. When this phase dies out, what will you be left with when all people are looking for is purely excellence?”

. Victoria Yards, 16 Viljoen St, Lorentzville


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