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.”
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.