It was Greek philosopher Plato, who said necessity is the mother of invention. And it is Lebogang Motsagi, who finds himself corned to create something out of nothing in order to get what is necessary- an education.
The 23 year-old photographer and fashion designer has been accepted at the University of The Arts London, London College of Fashion as well as by the London College of Communication and another Photography School in Berlin. “I unfortunately had to defer the offer, then I eventually lost my place for the 2018/19 enrolment. However, I got contacted by a guy named Tom, who works for UAL and was also helping me with my application. He stated that me losing my place for 2018/19 does not mean anything bad. All I need to do is reapply for the same course whenever I have my funds sorted out.”
“The process won’t be as complex as the initial one because the panel is already familiar with my application as well as my work. I basically have until January 2019 earliest, or either September 2020 latest to raise the funds,” says the maverick creative.
To raise the money, the designer took matters into his crafty hands and created unconventional chic bags. “I have been making and selling bags to help raise more funds as well as to pay for my food and rent due to the fact that my plans had completely changed. Everything went south. I was not planning to be here this long, so that too is a big problem. I also get booked for shoots every now and then. So that also helps a lot.”
The Kimberly born creative has a clothing brand, Elisa, named after his late mother. The bags compliment the clothes he also makes. “That is just one of the projects I am doing on the side to help get my work out there more. I am not ready to share any details regarding the brand so far. It’s still going through its early stages of development.”
The lanky young man has also opted for modern conventional ways to get out of the finance dilemma. He’s gone the fundraising route, setting up an account on Go Fund Me where he asks 500 000 people across the globe to donate R1 each, to help him reach his target.
“I have managed to raise about R10 000 so far, but I have spent some of the money on fabrics to make more items that would help me more money, as well as on my IELTS test, and other expenses I faced while having to travel to and from Pretoria to write the test,” says Motsagi.
In the spirit of the great Dapper Dan, young designer Mbulelo ‘Random’ Methula captures energy from his surroundings and manages to articulate it in clothing. While Dapper Dan’s garments were inspired by Harlem’s swagger and elegance, Methula’s clothes are palpable of Braamfontein’s hip and unconventionality.
In the 1980s Dapper Dan would make counterfeit garments of high-end brands such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton- no child, I’m not talking about the kinda stuff you’d spot in the Joburg CBD next to those infamous GANG tracksuits. Dapper made the already elegant brands, more sophisticated with the merging of the brands with his personal designs, which were worn by superstar athletes like Mike Tyson, drug kingpins and famous artists.
Methula, who is known as Random on the streets is stitching his name into the annals of fashion history, with his brand Random Clothing. “I’ve always enjoyed styling and customizing things. The Air Mbadada just happened to be one of the ideas I was serious enough to fully execute,” says Methula.
Imbadada are the traditional sandals made from tyres, synonymous with Zulu men. Their comfortability have grown the sandals’ popularity among various people, from all walks of life. Methula removed the sole of the Mbadada and replaced it, with that of a Nike Air Max sneaker. “This was as basic and as random as it sounds. But one day, I just looked at them both and dared myself to make one shoe out of both.”
“Growing up, I had always observed how most inner city Zulu men loved Nike products, and I say love because I would always see this in every Zulu hostel I’d ever been to.”
“So the vision was to incorporate products and a dress sense that will give birth to a newly fashion known as Air Mbadada.” The Air Mbadadas have been in existence for two years now and the look has matured with time, with Methula redesigning clothes synonymous with traditional Zulu men, such as colourful overalls and caps, and merged that with the Nike brand. “And all these are for me, works of art. Art that has been turned from an idea into a reality.”
He’s a fan of designer Jeremy Scott’s work. “With Moschino and Adidas too. The late great Karl Lagerfeld I also have immense respect of…and [I] look-up to local designers such as Thula Sindi, Rich Mnisi and Thebe Magugu.”
Methula found Random Clothing in 2016 and says he’s taste in fashion was sparked by his mother. “From a very young age, I was fortunate to be exposed to the type of fashion she enjoyed- she’s a real stylish woman.” And it was his aunt who taught him how to sew- he’s been at it since 2014 but decided to take things more serious in 2016 to study fashion design at SewAfrica Fashion College.
Random Clothing has also designed T-shirts, hoodies and sweaters which have been worn by rappers. “Random Clothing has been fortunate enough to dress Frank Casino, Robin Third Floor, Flex Rabanyana and just recently Touchline.”
The clothing brand will only launch its website this October, but Methula has been doing his business through social media. “…Thus one is able to place an order via DM, for custormers based outside of Gauteng. Delivery services such as Aramex and Postnet are how we get their merchandise to them after having placed an order.”
MOST people get into thrifting because they honestly can’t afford the day’s fashion, so they take some vintage garments and tweak them here and there to get that drip. It’s a similar formula that Ntokozo Dladla used for his Queen Moraka T-shirts, but instead of using vintage attire he opted for a vintage character.
“Most of my friends had the vintage Rap Tour T-shirts and I really wanted one of my own but things on the financial side of my life were and are still all types of shaky,” Dladla tells me. So out of his need to fit in while simultaneously standing out, he came up with the idea to make his own T-shirt which would be more affordable than purchasing one.
“…I thought about making it about South African musicians, but there are already other street wear lines that have done this. It hit whilst I was thinking about gangster rap, that most of the rappers that told us stories of shoot outs, robberies, gang culture, etc. never even participated in such and all they were presenting to us as listeners was a character!!”
To Dladla, who’s also known as Danger, there’s no difference between Dr. Dre and Queen Moroka because they’re both fictional characters that he connected to while growing up in the streets of Vosloorus.
But like most darkies who grew up in the 90s traditionally watching Generations at 20:00 on Simunye We Are 1, you’d ask yourself why he chose to use Sophie Lichaba’s (formerly known as Ndaba) character, he could’ve gone for a Karabo Moroka, Julia Motene or Ntsiki Lukhele.
“I won’t lie, I found Karabo Moroka’s character too easy. Like she is definitely a crowd favourite and that comes with automatic success but even though Queen holds the same level of legendary stature, I feel like at the end of the original Generations run she became comic relief and her character could go weeks without showing up and it wouldn’t even effect the storyline. So I chose Queen because I have a warm place in my heart for the under dogs. Plus her whole vibe was about being glamorous which goes well with certain themes I want to play around with especially with clothing.”
The T’s have received good reception from people, with the likes of comedian Okay Wasabi and performer Fella Gucci spotted rocking one. They’re a limited edition. “My problem with most T-shirt brands is that they get one design that works and they just abuse it until we see Small Street put the final nail in the coffin, and I don’t want that I want to always have new ideas and let the old stay in the past,” the illustrator says.
The T’s are not under any fashion line, but him as a graphic designer. He sees the work as an addition to his portfolio work and merchandise. “My mentality now, is if I don’t have clients I’ll be my own client.”
REMEMBER a few years ago when one fan jubilantly tweeted K.O a photo of himself wearing a Cash Time Life cap and the rapper responded with a sober “But bro, that’s a fake cap tho[sic].”
The bootlegging got so bad, that makeshift Cash Time clothing crept up in countries like Angola and Zambia, to the bewilderment of the owners of the brand. This was during the height of the Cash Time Life clique, when it had the likes of Maggz, Moozlie, Kid X and Ma-E on the stable. The aforementioned artists have since left Cash Time after business turned sour.
Last year K.O relaunched the clothing line and changed the name to DustnKompany and yesterday he got on Twitter to share news that the clothes are now also available at Studio 88, an underrated clothing outlet among youth.
“For the longest time me and Tsholo have had distribution limitations with my clothing line and now through blessings that led to other blessings, Studio 88 has just opened its doors for us,” exclaimed the rapper on social media. The clothes have been available at Joburg’s Fashion Kraal for a while now, but they were restricted to that only store, since their online store seems to be down.
Local fashion designers have to contend with international brands, breaking into the highly competitive industry and on top of that still have to raise funds for collections. Last year it was reported that the clothing industry contributes only 3.3% to the country’s GDP, while it deals with the shedding of jobs, cheap imports and closing down of factories.
But unlike the average designer, K.O’s brand is built around his music which is planted in the hearts and minds of South African youth. They don’t necessarily buy it because it’s the best thing on the market, but because it’s a K.O brand. The consumer feels closer to their favourite artist, by supporting their every cause.
The rapper recently released his album SR2, which scored him two nominations at this year’s South African Hip Hop Awards, in the Best Male and Album of the year category.
In the past few seasons, many fashion designers have proven that being narrow minded makes it hard to continue producing breath-taking collections. This comes after Hedi Slimane’s Celine debut collection, which needless to say, received so many backlashes. Leading fashion journalists and fashion critics didn’t have anything good to say about Slimane’s work and his take on Celine, a feminist brand, which has given a lot of women power and encouraged them to experiment with fashion.
The industry is still stuck up on the European fantasy world, forcing the same kinds of stereotypes to their customers. They also borrow from Africa and appropriate a lot of our cultural references. This is simple; we need to see more Black African designers to be at the helm of these brands.
Executives of these brands are very quick to quote Africa as their main inspiration, but they are shutting us out and take everything that is ours. The Loius Vuitton appointment of Virgil Abloh definitely made history; it spoke to the changes happening in the industry.
Virgil’s story is one of many; his debut collection had details of his personal experiences. It would be game changing to see an African leading a brand such as Celine etc. because they will be bringing something new, something that people can relate to, begin new ways of seeing Africa, attract new customers and reinvigorate the aesthetics of fashion.
The Business of fashion reports that “within a fashion industry, that touts itself as celebratory of difference, diversity and inclusion. Black design talent consistently remain, at best, marginalised and all too often plagued by systematic employment discrimination.”
If the conglomerates companies such as Kering and LVMH want to be inclusive and diverse, they need to look at our shorelines when they want to hire a new creative director to lead one of their brands. A lot of the big brands are booming in our retail industry and many of our consumers are buying because of the “hype” and wanting to be counted amongst the cool kids of fashion. But our fashion designers are not that supported when they release their collections, simply because they are not the Dior or Gucci standards.
For The Business of fashion “timing is everything, and the time has come for the industry to remedy the systematic marginalisation of black design talent”. If these designers were given a chance to have other options, they would change the fashion game. It so sad that fashion is still undermining Africa’s capabilities to be at their “level”.
The late Alexander McQueen became more successful after he was given a chance to creative direct for Givenchy, from his college days; he was supported and given a chance. Isabella Blow really believed in McQueen, she saw something that most people weren’t seeing. She dedicated her time to get McQueen to the right people; this attracted the fashion press to look at McQueen with a different eye.
Nowadays you don’t need to be French to design for a French House, you don’t need to be British to design for a British brand. Riccardo Tisci is a good example of this; he became a designer for Burberry, a very rooted British brand. Combined with his perfect eye for silhouettes, craftsmanship and subculture, he managed to build on where Christopher Bailey had left off.
These kinds of conversations are often avoided by the industry leaders; however, for fashion to continue growing, changing, diversifying and inclusive, certain things need to be addressed. People of colour deserve to be recognised in fashion, they deserve to be given the same opportunities.
If the fashion industry is struggling to see a way forward when it comes to things they can easily fix, then we may need to go back to the drawing board and demand the industry executives’ attention. They need to relook at their take on fashion, the industry is growing, and there are millions of young people waiting to see someone who looks like them to represent what they stand for and someone who will give them an opportunity to buy into their culture and inspiration.