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.”
The past few decades the world has been looking at major fashion cities such New York, Milan, Tokyo and Paris for fashion and new trends. Many have never imagined that Africa would be considered the fashion inspiration.
African creativity is currently at the forefront of what is happening in the industry worldwide.
We have reached the point where we realize that it is not only about receiving what we see but share with rest of the world how we see ourselves without being influenced by Western platforms. Although with this success, it is hard to ignore that international brands have been appropriating our cultures and excluding us in the process. According to the South African fashion Handbook “the rest of the world continues to take inspiration from across the continent but Africans aren’t benefiting from the popularization of fashion inspired by our cultural garb”.
This is an alarming issue considering that they take what is ours and they protest that it was originally created by them. In all the digital activism, we are seeing many creatives taking the stand, creating platforms that put us in the right directions to be “on demand”. Whether they are fashion designers, photographers, musicians or creative directors, they are seeing the gap created between Africa and the rest of the world. They are seeing the value of being authentically us and in the word of Trevor Stuurman “giving them what they won’t find on Google”.
Siya Beyile of The Threaded Man has been in the lead when it comes to telling the story of young African men who love fashion, and proving that wearing African brands does not make you any less cooler, but sets the tone of how the rest of the world sees our distinctive taste. From designers such as Laduma Ngxokolo, Rich Mnisi and Chuulap, these designers are not shying away from creating sharp edge designs and custom made African patterns inspired by our cultures.
Not forgetting Kwena Baloyi and Sho Madjozi, who have become the African trendsetters and sure have the world looking at them for inspiration. It is comforting to see that Africa is on its way to become respected in the fashion industry. The more people create, the more we are becoming relevant and showing the diverse talent we have. Africa is on its way to become the leading fashion destination and the world is definitely watching.