A couple of weeks ago we shared the new safari themed lookbook for the Simon and Mary hat range. What we didn’t mention then was that Gabbi, the stylist behind that shoot, also designed the clothes in the lookbook, because you know, she’s fabulous like that and she’ll take it that far. If you are generally the kind of skattie who keeps up with the new new, then you’ve probably seen some of her work with designers like Lukhanyo Mdingi and Rich Mnisi. We’ve been loving her work from a distance for a while now, but that Simon and Mary lookbook was just too much; too much slayage, too much beauty, and really just too generous, so we paid her a visit at her Cape Town city bowl apartment.
So you actually designed the clothing for the campaign?
Well, I couldn’t find the kinds of clothes I thought would be appropriate. So I just designed some stuff and had it made by this incredible designer, Charis Dawson, her label is called Wilton Dawson. She’s actually a lecturer at the Cape Town College of Fashion Design. She’s been hooking me up a lot on the jobs I’ve been doing. And she made all of this stuff in like, a week. I literally just went to her house, sat down and spoke to her about what I wanted, we discussed back and forth over a month, we sketched, and boom, she realized it. She’s amazing!
That’s awesome. So how does the process between you and Simon and Mary work? Did they come to you with the safari concept already quite solidified? Take us through a little of that process between you and the client.
Jana and Koos [of Jana+Koos agency] came to me with this project, and they were like, “we want to do a safari theme”, but they also asked for my input in terms of where I want to go with it. They were really fucking amazing, because they also gave me a lot of direction, and yet also gave me the opportunity to direct as well. I like to keep everything simple, so we also cut all the gimmicky shit out of it, especially because the Simon and Mary hats are so beautiful and timeless, definitely not gimmicky at all. Also, I hate the typical interpretation of safari, where people are doing this whole ‘coming to Africa’ thing. I thought it also important to have people of colour as models, shades of beige and shades of brown, to flip the whole fucking idea of a safari on its head.
Based on this experience, would you ever consider doing a range, like a little capsulenyana for the people?
No, I don’t think I would ever produce my own range. That’s not my area of expertise. I really respect the designers here a lot, and I think what they’re doing is huge. I mean look at what Lukhanyo is doing, look at Thebe, look at Rich. Look at all the hassle these guys are going thru to create this amazing work. I can’t just jump into that, I’m here to do my job. I love being able to create work with incredible designers; we provide each other with platforms. That’s what I love.
I also think it’s a good time for everyone in fashion. I feel as though when I went to fashion school back in the nineties so much of it was built around the designer. Everyone wanted to be the designer, but now there’s far more recognition for all the different roles that make up the game.
Yes, it’s an incredible team effort, from the guys Lukhanyo works with to manufacture the clothes, to the photographer and the photographer’s assistant. To the people who help us out and let us shoot on locations. If I think of that shoot we did for Lukhanyo’s range, the make up artist actually played the most important role. What she did with the model’s skin tone, that ombre glitter, that really made it work.
With regards to the Simon and Mary lookbook, do a lot of stylists go that far? As in design entire ranges for their shoots?
I haven’t worked with anyone who does yet. But I have seen a lot of stylists overseas do that, you know, pushing their work. I’ve also been messaging and skyping with a few people. Like this guy Ib Kamara, he’s currently interning somewhere in Paris, and he’s coming to SA in Jan. Some of the shoots he’s been doing are amazing, and I’ve been reblogging a lot of it on my tumblr. He does that shit, he styles, he models, he shoots and he produces shoots. So there are people doing interesting stuff. These kids that are just pushing it beyond. To be a stylist, especially here, is not enough. You can find yourself treated like a skivvy. I met Jonathan Taylor a while ago and he is this really great director, and he was like, “what do you want to be? A stylist or an art director? What is your thing? You need to give yourself a title and work at it.” And he explained to me that based on that, I would be treated in completely different ways.
So when you’re a stylist, do people think you’re just gonna play dress up and not be able to bring a complete vision to the project? And when you’re called an Art Director do they then think your vision matters more?
Completely, as a stylist one dresses people for a living. On set you’re there to pull the creases from underneath the person’s armpit, you’re there to smooth the pants out, you tape the shoes; you make sure the photographer’s vision is realized. An art director on the other hand has to make sure that their vision is realized, through concept, through the photographer’s eye, through framing, colour grading, throughout the process. From A-Z.
So what else are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a couple of projects right now. This great brand approached me and Kristin-Lee Moolman to shoot a lookbook for them.
Between Kristin and Travys you’re keeping company with some really awesome photographers at the moment.
They’re brilliant, and aesthetically they’re also completely different. Sometimes I sit and watch Travys retouch, and he is like a wizard, I have no idea how he does some of what he does. It seems so effortless for him, there’s something very special about the way he works. Then Kristin on the other hand is like this kamikaze style photographer who sees a moment and runs in there and snaps away. She’s got so much passion and so much energy, it’s like she could go on forever.
Amazing, so you were saying about the current projects?
Yes, so these guys saw some of the work we did for Adidas, and Rich; the Nataal shoot and Kristin’s work with FAKA. Basically they want us to capture that same raw authentic energy with their garments. It’s nice when big companies come to you and ask you to just keep on doing you. Also, they’re supporting local by using local artists instead of bringing their teams from Paris or wherever.
Images by Travys Owen
Feature image by Marius Strydom
Interview by Malibongwe Tyilo