Style Radar: Javan Sokoni Mutale

This week our style radar picked up on Javan Sokoni Mutale, a Zambian street style aficionado, whose look denotes both flexibility and simplicity. We delved deeper into how this blogger’s style defines him as well as the fashion rules he lives by.

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Javan is the epitome of the modern-day, urban gentleman, with looks that leave a lasting impression. And this is one of the things he enjoys most about fashion – the statement that clothing can make about a person.

“What I like about fashion? All I can say is I love to dress up, I love to look the best. An outfit says a lot about someone you meet for the first time,” he says.

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His ideal look is one which couples versatility with simplicity, leaning primarily towards urban or street style.

“I love street style outfits. My style speaks versatility in everything I wear. But in as much as I like to be versatile, I’m a minimalistic dresser. Looking great doesn’t really need lots of accessories and layers of clothing, looking great just requires you to have the wardrobe essentials like a basic white tee and a basic black tee.”

These are the principles governing Javan’s outfit choices which result in clean, comfortable ensembles that turn heads. This fashion blogger also finds that the price tag doesn’t necessarily make or break an outfit. Rather,  it’s all in the styling.

He remarks, “most people think looking great requires you to have expensive clothing when in actual fact, the affordable clothing can be styled as good as the expensive ones.”

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Sticking with his fancy for simplicity, Javan’s current fashion obsession  is a basic white t-shit, paired with slim-fitting jeans, and a pair of sneakers – preferably ones donning the iconic three stripes – to top it all off. Of late, Javan has found that accessories play a key role in tying together the minimalistic look:

“I recently just realized accessories are important for minimalistic outfits. A simple wrist watch with leather straps and a necklace can make an outfit standout, not forgetting a pair of shades for confidence,” he explains.

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When we asked Javan which designer or design house he’d like to be his personal tailor he couldn’t settle on a single name.

“I love a lot of brands when it comes to clothing and given a chance to choose a brand as my personal tailor, I would pick Tom Ford for my formal wear even though I haven’t really gotten into wearing suits [that] often.” 

When he does wear a suit, he opts for darker-colours and slimmer fits but expressed that he’s open to the idea of wearing bolder colours too: “I would wear a burgundy suit because I love to stand out.”

For everyday casual wear, Javan says, “I would definitely pick Relay Jeans, the South African brand. Relay Jeans has a variety of great quality clothing to pick from. Its (sic) fabric is usually soft and comfortable for their tees and [they have] really durable jeans.’

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Javan’s ability to put together a great look can’t go unnoticed. His tactful and fashion-forward approach to dressing is something that any man who is struggling fashion-wise could easily emulate. His look is the embodiment of sleek and stylish simplicity. It’s unfussy without being boring and on-trend without being pretentious. And that’s why we’re loving his style!

 


You can follow Javan’s fashion journey on Instagram: @javan_blog.zm.

 

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Style radar: Norealda Cronje

On my style radar this week is Norealda Cronje who stays serving up looks in a range of beautiful bohemian-esque ensembles. I asked this lovely lady a few short questions about what/who inspires her style and love for fashion.

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Norealda expressed that what she enjoys most about fashion is that it enables her to showcase who she is through what she’s wearing and the incredible feeling she gets from putting a good look together. “[Fashion] allows me to express who I am through my personal style,” she said. And this fashionista certainly knows how to make a statement in her fetching 70s-style fashion which features whimsical silhouettes, knee-high boots, fun floppy hats, statement dangle earrings and playful prints. Norealda also switches it up quite regularly between different hairstyles with great ease and always has her hair neatly coiffed, whether she’s styled it in a sleek bob, shoulder-length box braids, soft wavy curls or a little bun.

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When asked about her current fashion obsession Norealda emphatically responded, “prints!!! [I] love any print especially floral and African-inspired prints.” She does indeed have quite the collection of fabulous flowery prints and joyful geometric patterns. And with her incredible accessorizing skills, she seems to have perfected the art of styling as is evident from the range of charming little handbags, shoes and earrings that complement her clothing so well.

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Given a chance, Norealda would love to raid the closet of the very talented and gorgeous Zoë Kravitz because “her effortless chic is incomparable. It never looks like she put any effort into anything that she wears yet she always looks absolutely amazing.” In many ways, Norealda’s style choices ooze the same kind of cool confidence as the quirky, pint-sized fashion dynamo that is Miss Kravitz. And like this Hollywood starlet, Norealda’s look has a lovely ease and elegance to it.

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Norealda epitomizes modern-day, 70s-inspired, country chic in her cute and carefree ensembles. Whether she’s rocking an LBD and boots or a billowy, boho-chic jumpsuit and wedges her look stays polished. On what inspires this look, she remarked, “comfortability (sic) inspires my style, I have to be comfortable with what I wear to feel confident.” It’s no surprise then that her number one rule for keeping it cute with her fashion is: “you always have to be comfortable in the the skin that you are in, regardless. If you’re wearing an expensive/extravagant garment or slacks, you will only exude confidence once you are comfortable.”

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5 ways to become a more socially responsible shopper

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It’s a well-known fact that the fashion industry has had many negative impacts on both human rights and the environment over the years. From huge factories owned by large multinational companies that exploit child labour, to workshops that subject their female labour force to dangerous working conditions, the glamorous façade of fashion masks a much darker side. This dark side creates beauty and wearable art at the expense of human dignity, environmental conservation and fair labour practices. As much as I enjoy fashion I can’t ignore the fact that the manufacture of clothing by some of my favourite brands has most likely resulted in the pollution of a major watercourse, for example. While many of us are aware of this, very few of us actually bother doing something about it. The following are a few practical suggestions on how we can “do our part” so to speak. Here are a few tips on how to become a more socially responsible shopper:

#1 Shop local

Show your support for home-grown talent by browsing your local craft markets, second-hand clothing stores, charity shops and e-boutiques. Not only can you get some unique and interesting pieces but you would also help sustain local businesses and, in some measure, be taking a stand against the fashion giants that exploit cheap labour in the name of style. Personally, I adore craft markets, particularly ones that stock African-inspired clothing and accessories. I’ve acquired a beautiful collection of interesting shoes, handbags and jewellery sourced from markets and small boutiques. These markets can also be a great source of stylish and sustainable fashion made by locals from recycled materials. 

#2 Re-style, re-imagine, re-invent 

Another great way to avoid handing your money over to design houses and commercial manufacturers who exploit human rights and destroy the environment is to skip the mall completely and browse your own wardrobe for those statement pieces that have been sitting there for a while. Or do what I do sometimes and raid somebody else’s closet! Fashion is cyclical. Vintage pieces rarely ever go out of style and you never know when some of your older clothes will be on trend again. Unlike the rich and famous, many of us don’t have the luxury of wearing an outfit only once. Obviously, there are some looks that just can’t be repeated but there are plenty of classic pieces that can be restyled, revamped and re-imagined to create several new looks. Think Tiffany Haddish or Kate Middleton who, despite their money and status, have opted to wear some of their favourite dresses more than once and each time looked effortlessly chic.  I have a number of great pieces I that have remained in excellent condition over the last few years. And luckily for me, my incredibly stylish mother and I are pretty much the same size so we often exchange clothes. So next time you’re stumped as to what to wear to a wedding, dance, cocktail function etc., I would suggest you try fishing out the staple LBDs, vintage handbags, the skirt you borrowed from your sister and the fabulous fashion jewellery you’ve had stashed away and forgotten about. You can get creative, or enlist someone else’s help, and come up with an entirely new look for some of your clothes. 

#3 Make your own clothing and accessories

Again, there are times when being a socially responsible shopper could, ironically, mean not being a shopper at all. Instead, it might entail fashioning your own fashion. Of course, this is easier said than done. You would need to have the right knowledge, skills, tools and materials to make your own clothing and accessories. But there are many resources you can consult to learn how to make your own stuff (thank goodness for YouTube!). Alternatively, you can commission someone to create custom garments and accessories for you. Moreover, the most ideal scenario would be to use materials that are recycled and/or manufactured responsibly. Fortunately for me I’ve got my mum who just so happens to be a fashion designer! She’s always made clothes for me, whether I couldn’t find something at the shops or simply wanted something unique for a special occasion. She also taught me how to make my own clothing which has been an incredibly useful skill to have. Also, since 2011, I’ve been making my own jewellery using an assortment of beads and scraps of fabric and at times, I  like to refurbish and revamp my old earrings and bangles. 

Consumers often find it difficult to gauge which companies deal in conflict-free jewellery, engage in ethical clothing production practices and make a concerted effort to be socially-responsible because it could often just be window dressing. Going the DIY fashion route is a great way to avoid supporting fast fashion brands that exploit human rights. 

#4 Support fashion-forward social and green initiatives 

Another way to be more socially responsible in the way you shop is to support the eco-friendly and social initiatives/projects aimed at reducing the adverse impacts of the fashion industry. You can back the businesses that actually do their part to respect human rights and remedy violations. H&M, for instance, runs a green initiative where customers drop off bags of old clothing, no matter the brand or condition, in exchange for a modest fashion voucher. Since 2017, they’ve collected the equivalent of just over 89 million T-shirts which they’ve also used to make new textiles for some of the clothing sold in-store. This project was started to combat the exorbitant amount of waste that ends up in landfills when clothing is thrown away. In the same vein, you could also give away old clothing that is in a better condition to a local charity or second-hand store. This is an efficient way to clear out long-abandoned items from your wardrobe that are simply gathering dust but can be acquired by someone who’s going to cherish them for ages. Also, by buying from and donating to these shops, you can find some gorgeous vintage pieces, support a charity in your area and avoid spending your money on the designer labels that are built on abusing human rights.

#5 Do your research and spread the word

Lastly, another important step towards becoming a more socially responsible shopper is to do your homework. Research, read and recount to others what you know. A simple Google search of terms like,“fashion and human rights,” “ethical fashion” and “fashion and the environment” can expose you to so much about the true environmental and human rights costs of fast fashion. Moreover, you can find useful info on the social and ethical fashion initiatives you can get involved in. The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, for instance, is a great online resource for the latest developments on human rights and business generally as well as news on the human rights impacts of the fashion industry. There are several video clips, blog posts and articles that unpack the latest in legal developments around these issues. If you’re already operating a large-scale fashion business, have you familiarized yourself with key human rights standards and guidelines like the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Once you get the info you need, it doesn’t hurt to pass it on and get the word out.  Social media has made this much easier these days. And then take the ‘clicktivism’ a step further by writing about these issues in a blog post, article or even an academic research paper and do your part to help local fashion industry grow. 

 

*This post is adapted from a blog series dated from  24 January 2017  to 4 May 2017 on the Urban Afro Concept micro-blog on Instagram *

Style radar: Grant Caswell

On my style radar today is urban gent Grant Caswell, a cultured Capetonian with an eye for clean lines and quality tailoring. I asked this stylish young man to tell me more about the art of putting a good look together and what inspires his love for fashion…

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Taking inspiration from the streetwear bloggers he follows on Instagram, Grant favours a look that is sleek and sophisticated yet fun, fresh and exciting. ‘I’m shameless about stealing ideas from them but I try to stay true to my own style which is really simple – my go-to weekend “uniform” is blue jeans and a good-quality plain white t-shirt,’ he says. I must say though that he makes a modest combo like this look very fashion-forward. It’s all in the subtle details really and Grant is pretty skilled at creating ensembles that are sophisticated in their simplicity but contain intriguing little details.

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Grant effortlessly transitions between weekday work smart and minimalist sporty chic on weekends, so it’s not surprising he chose both Calvin Klein and Burberry when asked which design house he would hire as his personal tailor. ‘For my everyday casual wear, I’d have to go with Calvin Klein. I think the brand’s simple “all-American” style and clean fits really suit how I try to dress. If money wasn’t an option, I’d also have every suit I own tailored by Burberry. In my opinion, few design houses come close to matching a classic tailored Burberry suit.’

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And speaking of suits, given his work in the legal field Grant will often find himself suited up at the office. So I asked him what it is that distinguishes a good suit from a great suit. He stresses that it’s all about: ‘[t]he fit! The fit! The fit! I can’t say that enough. Firstly, know your correct size and secondly, I promise you, even the cheapest suit can look really expensive if it’s tailored to fit you correctly.’

So many men make the mistake of buying suits that are way too tight or way too loose for them, selecting ones that are made from poor quality fabrics or opting out of getting them tailored. They also assume that you have to fork out truckloads of money to buy a decent suit but as Grant demonstrates, a high price tag doesn’t always guarantee a winner. He explains further, ‘I generally wear suits to work and while I don’t always spend too much money on them, I do make sure I have my suits tailored where necessary. My preference is for slim-fitted suits over looser-fitting traditional cuts. But, regardless of which cut you may prefer, get it tailored so that it looks like it was made just for you.’

Further words I would use to describe Grant’s style include polished and unpretentious. I like the fact that he can appreciate a label for the quality of the clothing behind it rather than how expensive it is. He says that a black long-sleeved T-shirt by Dolce & Gabbana is currently his favourite item of clothing in his wardrobe. ‘My aunt lives in the US and gave [the shirt] to me as a gift when she visited a few years ago. To be honest I probably wear it to death and my friends and family must be so sick of seeing me in it but it’s so comfortable. It still looks just as good as the day I got it – the black cotton hasn’t faded, the small leather and gold insignia badge on the chest hasn’t lost its shine – it’s a great testament to how good quality clothing tends to last.’ Classic pieces like a long-sleeved black T-shirt are necessary wardrobe staples that never go out of style so I honestly don’t blame Grant for wearing his D&G number over and over and over again. Many of us don’t have the luxury of wearing expensive clothing just once and what else do we buy great fashion for if not to wear it repeatedly?

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He tells me that the thing he enjoys most about fashion is the freedom it gives him to make a statement about his mood or convey a certain message without uttering a word. He also admits that fashion allows him to be a little bit cheeky without stepping on anyone’s toes…‘Going into an important meeting at work where I want to convey dominance and power? I’ll wear a black suit with a bright red tie. Heading somewhere where I want to be noticed? I’ll slightly over-dress. There are even times when I’ve strategically dressed a bit more street/urban in a formal setting just to come off as a bit rebellious. It’s honestly a game and hey, maybe other people don’t even notice but if my clothes make me feel a bit more confident when I walk out the door then I’m all for it.’

 

Grant is a men’s fashion maestro who is thoughtful about maximising his clothing budget. He illustrates that while you should invest in certain staples – especially suits – so as not to compromise on quality, you don’t need to spend an enormous amount of money to come up with an overall look that is refined, elegant and á la mode. He remarks, ‘[a]s long as you remember to always make an effort – I’m not sure who said it but I’m a firm believer in the quote “Dressing well is a form of respect”.’

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Style radar: Wandi Ngema

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On my style radar this week is the adorable Wandi Ngema who regularly keeps it cute and classy in a series of sweet and chic ensembles. I asked her a few questions to know more about what inspires her style and what she enjoys most about fashion.

Summing up her style as “fun, classic and elegant,” Wandi’s biggest fashion inspiration comes from the minimalist yet stylish looks of the incomparable Victoria Beckham, which she describes as “neat, elegant and timeless pieces, perfect for the modern woman.” Like Posh Spice, Wandi has a flair for making simple silhouettes and patterns exciting through the interesting details in the clothing – a pop of colour here, a fun print there, fraying or fringe. She also knows how to combine these pieces in a way that is sophisticated yet cool, chilled yet polished.

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When asked which designer, local or international, she’d hired as her personal tailor, Wandi tells me that what she calls her “obsession” with African print would have her keep it local with South African design house, Khosi Nkosi. This award-winning brand has numerous pieces made with African wax print fabric in its collection. “What I love most about her designs is that they’re timeless,” she says of designer and founder Nobukhosi Nkosi. Wandi’s support for locally-made fashion doesn’t just end there. She says a black wrap dress she purchased from Cape Town-based Koibito Kibun is one of her favourite items of clothing in her wardrobe due to its versatility. “On weekends I wear it with sandals and during the week I can wear it to the office with matching heels.” In the photo below she’s sporting a pretty monochrome tunic dress by the same brand.

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What I adore most about Wandi’s style is its beautiful ease and simplicity. This lovely lady effortlessly switches it up between playful elegance and work-smart chic. She always looks neat and well put together. Although Mrs. Beckham is her style muse, Wandi has her own unique fashion point of view and I’m a huge fan!

LOADING…the Urban Afro Concept e-store goes live in 3 days’ time!

In addition to being a personal style blog, Urban Afro Concept offers a range of lovingly hand-crafted mixed-media accessories for women (and now men) inspired by the vibrant art and cultural dress of Africa’s people. The collection consists of earrings, bangles, bracelets, rings, necklaces and hairbands. Designs are rarely duplicated so each piece will be unique to the wearer. These accessories are made using a variety of materials ranging from waxed fabrics to wood, glass beads to metal. Many of these materials have been recycled and/or re-purposed.

These little gems will soon be made available for purchase online at the Urban Afro Concept e-store (shipping worldwide). To celebrate it’s official launch on Monday, 25th June 2018 we’re giving UAC fans on Facebook and Instagram a chance to win this beautiful bracelet set in the photo below:

To enter:

  1. Follow Urban Afro Concept on Facebook and Instagram.
  2. Like the competition announcement post.
  3. Comment on the competition announcement post using the hashtag #ILoveUrbanAfroConcept AND 2 words to describe your personal style

Competition closes on Sunday, 24th June 2018 at 11:59PM SAST.

Please note, that this competition is in no way associated with, sponsored, endorsed or administered by, Facebook, Instagram or WordPress. You understand that you are providing your information to Urban Afro Concept and not Facebook, Instagram or WordPress. By agreeing to this contest you agree to a complete release of Facebook, Instagram and WordPress from any claims.

Click here for full competition terms and conditions. Good luck!

Stay tuned to this blog for further updates on the e-store launch as well as future giveaways, special offers and news.

Good night xx

Welcome to the new Urban Afro Concept blog

The Urban Afro Concept (formerly Urban Afro Gypsy) micro-blog has finally expanded! It’s taken a lot longer than I had hoped but I finally managed to create a new space for both my blog and online store.

UAC doubles as my personal style journal and an African-inspired, mixed media accessories collection. The blog, which I’ve moved from Instagram to this platform, will continue to provide readers with fashion and style inspiration through amusing, inspiring and thought-provoking content including tips and tricks, styling ideas, product reviews, celebrity looks (male and female), guest features and pretty much anything fashion-related. History, art, activism, culture, feminism and human rights are further sub-themes which are explored on this platform. The online store is almost complete and will be launching on Monday, 25th June. For now, stay tuned to this site for news and updates on both the accessories line and e-store.