With the advent of the internet and the changing tides of globalization we feel the world’s problems and triumphs more acutely than ever before. Their triumphs are our triumphs, their failures send ripples that affect us even in our seemingly disconnected lives. We are now connected by a financial and sympathetic nervous system. This is especially true of Black citizens of developed countries around the World. Europe’s immigration and discrimination woes and the blatant racism in America has made us guess and second guess the true social value of the colour of our skin.
It was therefore unsurprising to see a good number of the menswear designers who showed at the South Africa Menswear Week spring showcase showed collections that mirrored this unrest, this search for identity. From Tokyo James and Maxivive’s exploration of migration and appropriation in Europe and Asia to Terrence Bray’s treatise questioning the limits of identity, everyone seemed eager to tackle the pressing questions. Nkululeko Ncube of Ara Kani set his sights on something much simpler. He chose to dress the rebellion.
The Zimbabwean label pulled on several tropes and subcultures, specifically the goth, leather and uniform subcultures and spun them into a mix, emerging with this ‘Black Rebels’. Unbothered by gender tropes or masculinity, and showing impressive leather working technique the designer juxtaposes lace bomber jackets against geometric steepled leather vests. Slouchy jersey t-shirts made to mimick the wear that comes from being dragged around by the scruff of your shirt, lace up detailing and loose hanging bag straps all add to the authenticity of the idea behind the collection. Even the more demure pieces have a certain defiance to them, a challenge to conventional authority and conventional norms.
The collection leans heavily on black and dark neutral colours to carry along the vibe and it is only because of how well the clothes are designed that the collection narrowly escapes falling from innovative to cliche.
After this Ara Kani and Zimbabwean design is definitely on our radar.
Simon Deiner/SDR Photo