Budding designers ready to showcase their collections at SAFW
SMag caught up with three scouting menswear competition finalists
South African Fashion Week (SAFW) autumn/winter 2024 kicks off tonight at Mall of Africa, in Midrand, with 11 shows and 39 collections scheduled to debut over three days.
Seasoned design houses Ephymol, Fikile Sokhulu, Mantsho and Black Coffee will showcase their latest collections. Equally eager to strut their designs down the runway are the Mr Price Scouting Menswear competition designers. Top prizes include the opportunity to launch a capsule collection with the fashion retailer – previous winners includes duo Malcolm Mokgope and Minenhle Memela (Refuse Clothing Brand). Ahead of their debut, SMag caught up with three of the 10 finalists Hlulani Sithole, Sthembiso Mchunu and Nhlanhla Masemola on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity:
Hlulani Lucas Sithole (HLS)
A former speed-roller skating champion, the 28-year-old’s career was set for the rink of the Olympics. Until he encountered a group of creatives at a social market that re-routed his destiny to the running tracks of a sewing machine.
“HLS was established in 2018 as a luxurious brand with specialisation in menswear sustainable denim. Being a gent interested in the faculty of fashion was challenging at first, so that was when I decided to design clothing for myself so people can know about my brand,” Sithole says.
If he wins, Sithole hopes to share the prize with his students and Tshwane North TVET college who sponsored him with fabrics for the competition.
“I would rebuild my work space, buy machinery because when it comes to sewing and designing machinery is important. I want to also give back by employing some of my previous students and upcoming designers to work for me so I can share the knowledge and skills I have,” he adds.
Sthembiso Mchunu (Watermelon Social Club)
At age 12, the Umlazi-born designer unknowingly stumbled into his fashion destiny while giving styling advice to his fashionable grandmother. From pairing and matching outfits in KZN to thrifting clothing for his high school peers in Johannesburg, Mchunu’s vision and passion led him to form the Watermelon Social Club.
“The name came from my research of the watermelon. The watermelon originated in Southern Africa but can be planted anywhere in the world and would fit into its new environment. When we set out to create our brand we wanted to tell South African stories through our clothing that can fit anywhere in the world while remaining true to itself,” Mchunu shares.
The 28-year-old is no stranger to the hard work and dedication it takes to scale to fashion industry heights with this season showcase being his fourth. Mchunu holds a qualification in fashion production with aspirations to follow in the mass production footsteps of streetwear clothing conglomerates Nike and Adidas.
“It’s been an exciting journey and I've been working hand in hand with both teams. They [SAFW and Mr Price] offered us guidance in terms of the collection so it can appeal to a larger audience and how it can be mass produced. If I win, I will build up our website and stock,” Mchunu adds.
Masemola is a 29-year-old dual cities nomad, residing in Cape Town and Johannesburg, which he believes serves to continuously replenishes his inspiration to create something extraordinary. Masemola’s eye for unconventional beauty first began at the bottom of a dress-up box in his grade 1 classroom.
“There is one distinct memory of when I was in grade 1, we had a dress-up box in the classroom with clothing and every day I would run to the box and grab a beautiful green pleated skirt. Even though I was a boy child, to me it was abstract and felt natural. I would wear it and twirl around in it,” Masemola remembers.
“I would describe my brand as a quiet luxury meets simple lines which don’t always translate into an African identity. I love challenging that idea that as African we are known for our bright colours and bold prints, but I want to incorporate all of that and refine it in a precise way.”
Masemola says being a part of the competition has been an incredible opportunity and should he win, he will pour all his winnings into his brand.
"Winning means that I can do wilder and more experimental things and collaborations. I’m just so thirsty to get out there.”
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