Designer Q&A: Stiaan Louw

By: @MegStaDeane

1. Can you give a brief history of how you started out?

I studied fashion design and tailoring for four years. I briefly worked as a stylist, and designed accessories for a company that worked with retail chains, before starting my eponymous label in 2003. I refocused the brand from women’s wear to menswear in 2008 at Design Indaba.

Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards. Leather belt: Missibaba
Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards. Leather belt: Missibaba

2. How would you describe your designs?

My work is driven by concept and explores various subjects, from social and sexual subcultures, to the relevance of a modern African aesthetic in menswear. The designs are focused on technique, as I am a pattern cutter at heart, who is focused on meticulous garment construction.

Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards.
Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards.

3. How do people receive your, what some would describe as risqué, style?

The response in South Africa has more often than not been favourable and we are becoming equally open-minded about progressive men’s fashion. Each collection has a strong narrative, which also gives the more controversial subject matter depth. Each collection tells a story or explores questions of masculinity, sexuality, the sense of self and belonging.

Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards.
Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jeff Thomas. Grooming: Henry Maritz. Design and layout: Charl Edwards.

4. Who is your target market?

The target market of the brand is quite broad. It is aimed at a consumer with a specific frame of mind, and not a specific look. He (and quite often women too) is an individual and non-conformist.

Photographer: Hareth Tayem. Model: Jeff Thomas
Photographer: Hareth Tayem. Model: Jeff Thomas

5. Where do you get your inspiration from?

I’m seldom inspired by clothes. I find inspiration in everyday life, random people, other artists across many disciplines, the streets of Cape Town and the incredible diversity we are surrounded by. I feel fashion is inspired by geography, politics and definitely social and economic factors. I look at the patchwork blanket of cultures that make up Cape Town and find that incredibly inspiring.

Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jimmy Dean, Kult (Hamburg)
Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jimmy Dean, Kult (Hamburg)

6. What is your honest opinion on men’s fashion at the moment? What do you think needs to stay or change?

I think we are slowly moving away from the ‘safety blanket’ or uniformity we have seen in menswear in the past few years. There is a sartorial dress code that has developed, which has made it easy for any man to be considered fashionable. I am starting to see experimentation and individuality emerging again as a backlash to this. It is an exciting time ahead for menswear!

Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jimmy Dean, Kult (Hamburg). Bag: Missibaba.
Photographer: Alex Alfaro. Model: Jimmy Dean, Kult (Hamburg). Bag: Missibaba.

7. The Stiaan Louw designs often embrace masculinity while flirting with femininity, do you think this will ever reflect in the mainstream men’s fashion industry?

Androgyny will always be a ‘high-end’ concept but numerous international retail chains have played with the concept in their menswear designs. I don’t think it will ever become mainstream though.

Photographer: Linn Flammier. Model: David du Preez (Boss Men). Grooming: Henry Maritz. First Port exhibition.
Photographer: Linn Flammier. Model: David du Preez (Boss Men). Grooming: Henry Maritz. First Port exhibition.

8. Tell us more about your latest collection

The new collection is inspired by the diversity in subcultures in Cape Town I spoke of earlier. It is also African without being obvious.

Photographer: Djamel Boucly. Model: Jimmy Floyd. Grooming: Alet Viljoen.
Photographer: Djamel Boucly. Model: Jimmy Floyd. Grooming: Alet Viljoen.

9. What can we look forward to from Stiaan Louw?

We have just completed the new campaign which will be released over the next few weeks. It includes a new stills campaign of the new collection as well as two films.

We love the diversity Stiaan Louw embraces and the non-conformity of the designs. Tell us what YOU think, drop us a comment.

Like what you see? Get more Stiaan Louw here

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