43 of 2023

Newsletter No 43/3 November 2023                              


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South African Designer Lukhanyo Mdingi Wins the 2023 AMIRI Prize

Lukhanyo Mdingi

In conversation with Hypebeast, the designer explains how he hopes to utilize the award’s $100,000 grant and year-long mentorship from Mike Amiri.

South African designer Lukhanyo Mdingi has won the AMIRI Prize, earning a $100,000 grant and a year-long mentorship from the accolade’s founder and AMIRI creative director, Mike Amiri.

Mdingi was one of nine finalists for this year’s prize, which was opened to designers from across the globe for the first time. The eight other finalists were Abdel El Tayeb of France; Dorian Rahimzadeh of Iran; Ekwerike Chukwuma of Nigeria; Grace Ling, Keith Herron and Maxwell Osborne of the U.S., and Li Gong and Luke Zhou of China.

“This year’s talent was exceptional, and it was difficult to select a frontrunner, but Lukhanyo’s vision and approach stood out to all of us,” Amiri said. “His recent collections have seen him fine tune a singular aesthetic and sensibility, but just as commendable is the purpose behind what he does — for his wider community and culture — and this resonates with serious brand potential.”

Mdingi launched his namesake fashion brand in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2015, with the goal of championing the work of local artisans in the city. His work oftentimes highlights vivid color stories and sophisticated fabrications; and with each season, he carefully builds upon his wardrobe of confident statement pieces. Most recently, for his Spring 2023 collection, which comprises both menswear and womenswear, Mdingi drew inspiration from Burkina Faso’s street style.

Amiri established the AMIRI Prize in 2021 to aid young designers with unconventional trajectories in establishing their brands. Lou Badger, from Philadelphia, took home the inaugural trophy in 2021, before the award took a hiatus in 2022. Mdingi was selected as the 2023 winner by an esteemed panel that included Kidsuper’s Colm Dillane, editor Gabriella karefa-Jphnson, image architect Law Roach, stylist Lucia Liu, creative director June Ambrose, GQ China‘s Rocco Liu, designer Salehe Bembury, A-COLD-WALL*’s Samual Ross and GQ‘s global editorial director Will Welch.

Following Mdingi’s win, Hypebeast sat down with the designer to discuss how he plans to use the AMIRI Prize’s grant and mentorship to reach his goals. Read what he had to share below.

You’re the second-ever winner of the AMIRI Prize, and your work has been chosen by some of fashion’s most influential figures. What are you feeling in this moment?

An extreme sense of gratitude, a sentiment and feeling that resonates with all those that are part of the Lukhanyo Mdingi label and close community at large.

How will you use the $100,000 to grow your brand?

The intention is to steadily build our direct-to-consumer. We believe that the contribution of the fund will enable us to do this considerately and impactfully.

How do you hope to benefit from the Prize’s year-long mentorship with Mike Amiri?

The spirit of collaboration and human ingenuity is at the essence of the Lukhanyo Mdingi label. For us, it’s about respectfully establishing networks and building a community of connections within the business of fashion.

In a quote to the AMIRI Prize organization, you said that you believe in “the sentiment of community, collaboration and culture.” How do these pillars inform your namesake brand’s identity?

I believe that this is a practice that is validated within the intentional work done within the LM Label. Those that are privy to our trajectory and point-of-view, it’s clear that the foundation of each project is rooted by purpose and the spirit of human ingenuity and collaboration.

Mike Amiri established the AMIRI Prize to help designers whose journeys reflect his own unconventional trajectory. How has your unique path informed your growth in the often-inaccessible fashion industry?

Truthfully, I think that we’re all more alike than different and I believe that the experienced challenges remain relative based on our environments and circumstances, but what’s inevitable are “challenges.”

The trajectory hasn’t been easy, for so many of us trying to make our mark within this industry; I feel what has kept us grounded is through the commitment and belief of the bigger picture of our point-of-view.

You established your brand eight years ago, and today, you’re holding the AMIRI Prize trophy. Looking back at your beginnings in fashion, what advice would you offer your younger self?

Don’t ever forget to be rooted and grounded to the cause, “I press toward the mark, for a prize of a high calling.”  Hypebeast

Lack of clarity over Agoa puts African stimulus at risk

by Joe Bavier and Duncan Miriri

Norah Nasimiyu works on jeans for export at the United Aryan Export Processing Zone factory, operating under Agoa in the Ruaraka district of Nairobi. Picture: Reuters/ Thomas Mukoya

Many livelihoods and the future of the continent’s apparel industry hang on a US thread

Nairobi — Norah Nasimiyu knows that the future of Kenya’s garment trade, which has employed her for 13 years and helped her put six children through school and university, lies in the hands of the US Congress. And, like others, she is worried.

US officials visiting SA this week to meet African trade ministers will face calls to reauthorise the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), which expires in 2025.

Despite long-standing bipartisan support from legislators, who view Washington’s flagship African trade initiative as critical to taking on China, deep dysfunction on Capitol Hill and divisions over the need for updates have raised doubts.

Apparel companies and industry insiders warn that Africa risks a once-in-a-generation shift away from Chinese manufacturing passing it by, with an estimated 240,000 to 290,000 jobs such as Nasimiyu’s under threat.

“We are praying that they extend,” the single mother said during a break from stitching Levi’s jeans at a Nairobi factory. “It is very hard to get a job here in Kenya.”

Apparel has been the standout success story of Agoa, which launched in 2000 to help develop African economies and foster democracy. African apparel exports under the programme reached nearly $1.4bn in 2022, double the amount before Agoa.

Pankaj Bedi, chair of UAL and Nasimiyu’s employer, said Agoa’s duty-free access to the world’s biggest consumer market is the reason his company — Kenya’s largest garment producer — exists. “Almost 100% of what we are exporting goes to the US.”

Industry insiders and policymakers see a chance to build on that success as companies reduce their dependence on China after the pandemic and subsequent supply chain headaches.

Nearly 80% of companies polled in a July survey by the US Fashion Industry Association (USFIA) planned to reduce Chinese sourcing over the next two years.

“Many of them talk about Africa,” said Stephen Lamar, CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

Capturing even a fraction of that business could prove transformative for Africa. But companies need clarity, he said, adding: “If it is not renewed until two years from now, these current investment decisions are going to bypass Africa.”

That lack of clarity is not only hitting new investments. The USFIA survey found that 45% of respondents had already reduced sourcing from Agoa countries over renewal uncertainty, while another 45% plan to cut sourcing from the continent if there is no reauthorisation by June 2024.

African governments are pushing for a similar reauthorisation to the 10-year Agoa extension approved by Congress in 2015 with bipartisan support, ideally before an expected US election year hits pause on new trade legislation. But that is looking increasingly unlikely.

“There’s a high level of uncertainty about what happens and the context keeps shifting,” said Michael Walsh, a senior fellow at the Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Amid deepening global polarisation, Moscow, Beijing and the West are all leveraging trade and economic ties as they step up efforts to court African governments. More than a dozen US senators are pushing for a quick Agoa renewal, arguing the need to “counter the malign influence of China, Russia and other foreign actors”.

But the House of Representatives, paralysed for weeks by factional fighting over its speakership, faces a daunting list of must-pass legislation.

And there is another obstacle to a quick reauthorisation:  a well-intentioned desire to improve Agoa.

The US International Trade Commission (USITC) in a report earlier in 2023 highlighted major shortcomings. More than 80% of duty-free, non-petroleum Agoa exports, for example, came from SA, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar and Ethiopia.

“Some countries have benefited greatly from Agoa, but the majority have not,” Constance Hamilton, the Biden administration’s top trade official for Africa, said last week, calling for Congress to consider changes that would “make the programme more effective”.

Such talk worries apparel company executives, who point to the troubled fate of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the largest and oldest US trade preference programme. Congress failed to renew GSP before it expired at the end of 2020 and its reauthorisation remains bogged down in gridlock between the House and Senate over eligibility requirement changes.

Attempts to change Agoa risk creating a similar impasse, said Greg Poole, senior adviser for global sourcing at clothing company The Children’s Place. “If we try to radically change Agoa, it’s going to get stalled. And if it [stalls], it’s going to follow the path of GSP,” he said.

There is little doubt what would happen in Agoa’s absence. The USITC report said Agoa benefits “appear to be essential for … countries to maintain their apparel exports to the US”. It pointed to a temporary suspension of Madagascar’s Agoa benefits in 2009, which cost it 50,000 to 100,000 jobs, while Ethiopia lost 100,000 jobs when it was suspended in 2022.

In Kenya, UAL chair Bedi remains hopeful, but knows how things will play out if Agoa evaporates. “All the companies which are here will be gone for sure, including mine … The industry will collapse.”


Menswear fabrics: a journey through textures and traditions

By Dion Govender

Image: 123rf.com

We embark on a journey through textures and traditions, delving into the remarkable diversity that shape the essence of men’s style

In the vast and intricate world of menswear, fabrics play a pivotal role in defining the character and quality of a garment. The architecture and design axiom popularised by late 19th century architect Louis Sullivan states Form Follows Function, is perhaps a fitting philosophy that underpins the foundational ethos of menswear. Building on the idea that the genesis of good design starts with the fundamental question, what is the purpose of this garment?

From the soft embrace of cashmere to the rugged resilience of denim, each fabric carries a unique story and purpose that is undergird by practicality. At its core, clothing is more than just decoration; it’s a second skin that shields us from changing weather and armours us against precarious social dalliances. The evolution of materials and styles carefully considers the nuances of climate and landscapes.

This marriage of fashion and functionality shines through in well-crafted outfits that not only elevate our appearance but also adapt to the conditions we face. Whether it’s the scorching days of summer or the chilly grasp of winter, our clothing becomes an instinctive response to the world around us. It enhances our comfort while elevating our style. Continuing our series A Primer on Menswear, we embark on a journey through textures and traditions, delving into the remarkable diversity that shape the essence of men’s style.

Needless to say, fabrics, along with other similar accoutrements transcend the exclusive confines of either menswear or womenswear. Rather, these materials play a significant role in shaping the sartorial narratives of both genders. Take for example the blue-collar roots of denim that are as much a staple in womenswear or the luxurious caress of cashmere that are equally at home in men’s closets.

When it comes to indulgence, few fabrics rival the opulent touch of cashmere. Derived from the undercoat of cashmere goats, this sumptuous material is renowned for its incredible softness and exceptional insulation properties — eight times more insulating than sheep’s wool — there’s that nod to practicality again. Cashmere lends itself beautifully to sweaters, scarves, and overcoats, enveloping the wearer in warmth and comfort while exuding an air of quiet luxury.

Not only are fabrics crucial in establishing the purpose of a garment but further still, it’s the way the fabric is woven that can often contribute to the purpose in which the fabric is utilised. Tighter woven fabric often lends a stronger rigid tone to the end-use, while softer open weaves are seen as more casual with less drape. Case in point is the piqué knit — a double woven cotton yarn is woven into a sort of waffle texture. A ubiquitous fabric found in sportwear, such as polo and golf shirts, the fabric keeps the wearer cool thanks to the open weave that allows sweat to evaporate off the wearers skin.

Silk and Satin: Silk, with its shimmering allure and smooth drape, has been cherished for centuries as the epitome of elegance and a staple for evening wear. Whether adorning neckties, pocket squares, or even entire suits, silk adds a touch of sophistication to any ensemble. Satin, a close cousin of silk, elevates formalwear with its glossy surface, making it a favourite for lapels, tuxedo stripes, and bowties. These fabrics intertwine luxury and tradition, reflecting a sense of timeless style.

Cotton, a staple in menswear, boasts a remarkable versatility that transcends seasons and occasions. Its breathable nature and ability to absorb moisture make it an ideal choice for shirts, trousers, and lightweight summer suits. From crisp and structured to soft and casual, cotton adapts effortlessly to various finishes, lending itself to both formal and laid-back aesthetics.

The rebel of the fabric world, denim, has journeyed from humble workwear origins to an iconic symbol of rebellion and style. Durable and rugged, denim evolves with age, acquiring a unique patina that tells the tale of its wearer’s adventures. Jeans, jackets, and shirts crafted from denim not only evoke a sense of authenticity but also capture the essence of Americana, embodying the spirit of freedom and individualism.

Wool stands as a cornerstone of menswear, offering an array of textures, patterns, and weights. From the refined luxury of worsted wool suits to the rustic charm of tweed jackets, wool spans the spectrum of formality and casualness. Its natural insulating properties make it suitable for both cold and temperate climates, while innovations in weaving and blending have brought forth modern variations like lightweight wool and wrinkle-resistant blends.

Linen, synonymous with summer elegance, boasts a distinct texture and breathability that embraces the heat. Crisp and lightweight, linen garments exude an air of effortless sophistication, making them perfect companions for warm-weather gatherings. Seersucker, characterised by its puckered appearance, offers a touch of whimsy and classic charm, making it a favoured choice for summer suits that effortlessly capture a timeless, relaxed spirit.

The realm of menswear fabrics is a tapestry of history, craftsmanship, and self-expression. From the refined elegance of silk and satin to the versatile practicality of cotton and wool, each fabric contributes to the rich mosaic of men’s style. As we navigate the nuanced world of textures and traditions, we are reminded that the fabrics we choose are more than mere materials — they are integral elements that shape our stories, elevate our experiences, and carry us forward on the journey of personal style. 

Woolies – acquisition of absolute pets

WHL announced its intention to acquire 93.45% of the shares in privately-owned pet retailer Absolute Pets (Pty) Ltd. (‘Absolute Pets’), from Sanlam Private Equity and Absolute Pets management (‘the Transaction’). The remaining management-retained shareholding will be acquired by WHL over an agreed period, post the completion of the Transaction.

It was once taboo to wear black unless one was in mourning.  Victorian widows were expected to wear black mourning clothes for two years after their husbands’ deaths.


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