Shock jocks: It’s frock ‘n’ roll time, guys

By Mary Corrigall for Times Live

Balmy weather is still a far-off dream in rain-swept Cape Town but it inspires the summer collections for men presented in the city at SA Menswear Week.

Do long beards work with miniskirts and cutoff tops? If there’s a platform to answer this question, it’s this one. SAMW has become the place where fashion boundaries are pushed.

Perhaps this is the last fashion outpost where anything goes and designers can be daring. After all it’s all been done before in women’s wear.

Kim Gush, Tsvi Karp and others may send men down the ramp in minis, but the recurring question swirling around the week is whether South African men are ready to wear dainty frocks – given that conservatives think that even women should not show anything past the knee.

However, some evolved men have taken more of an interest in expressing themselves through their appearance, the way women have done for centuries.

“The focus on grooming products, gadgets, fashion and make-up for men has been growing for at least five years,” says Nicola Cooper, a researcher and trend analyst who specialises in ”glocalisation” at Nicola Cooper & Associates.

”Women are outranking men in the classroom and the office, encouraging men to redefine their ways of operating. As a result, men are reinventing themselves in order to compete,” she says.

Men’s fashion week is unique in that it showcases street-wear design labels such as 2Bop, Sol-Sol and Young & Lazy, rather than high-end or mass retail brands. This allows the audience a glimpse into cutting-edge ideas, intended to act as inspiration for men interested in something a little different to wear. It’s on this platform that ideas can be raised and tested – and they don’t have to be adopted immediately by the masses in order to prove to be viable.

Most of the designers who show their collections at fashion week are new and small – they couldn’t keep up with the demand if men in great numbers opted for minis this summer.

“We open the collection to pre-orders after the showcase, where we offer a custom made-to-measure service to our clientele,” says Jenevieve Lyons, a young designer who is making a name for herself at SAMW.

“The local menswear market is growing,” says Lyons.

”With growth, innovation comes about, allowing for a larger market and more men accepting fashion-forward apparel.”

Her all-denim summer collection references worker’s clothing, migration and questions African identity.

“Living at a time of digital regurgitation; what we know as reality and normality has long gone,” says Lyons.