Imma say it straight, and state it as a matter of fact, Chu Suwannapha’s show for his label Chulaap, combining African style prints, local street style, and Japanese inspiration, was undoubtedly the best show of Menswear Week. It also rates as one of my favourite moments in local fashion. I think most who were there were as moved as i was. Over the years I have watched many a misguided standing ovation, given in the name of loyalty. Sometimes it’s sweet, it’s good for one to know that they can depend on the support of friends in times of mediocrity. However i can count on my hand the times i have seen an entire crowd rise with so much excitement, upon realizing that their expectations had not only been met, but also exceeded. The Chulaap show was one such moment.
Chu is well known in the local fashion industry and on social media. He has been dubbed the ‘King of Prints’, and his personal style is documented in fashion magazines and on street style blogs. In fact this very blog was one of the first blogs to feature him regularly, as he sometimes reminds me. He has well over two decades experience in the fashion industry. He started his label Chulaap in his native Thailand, and then moved on to Paris both as a stylist and to study at ESMOD PARIS. 14 years ago he moved to South Africa, where he has worked as a stylist, fashion editor, and currently fashion director for YOU/Huis Genoot magazine.
Having such an identifiable signature style, it was expected that print mixing would form a big part of his range. However, one of the greatest achievements of the range he showed was that he did not merely create Chu clones, he took it so much further and expanded on his vision for local menswear, whilst injecting it with the style he is known for. And may i say it was so god damn well styled! Those Simon & Mary hats made me like hats again, just a few days after the ubiquitous suit and hat look had put me off shooting felt hats.
It is not a rare occurrence for people who dress well to seem as though they are dumbing down their vibe when it comes to making clothes for others, as though they are holding something back. None of that here, the best show for the week was also the most generous show. Lastly, i am reminded of my friend Zandi Tisani who once said, “It is not our culture that is boring, but rather the way we engage with it. Under the right gaze, it all feels exponentially less wanky.” I am quite excited by the current crop of new and not so new contributors to the story of South African fashion, like Chu, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Nicholas Coutts, Rich Mnisi, Jenevieve Lyons, Sindiso Khumalo, and Laduma Ngxokolo. Under their gaze, things are already feeling a whole lot less wanky.