When experimental apparel designer Jenny Lai 10 AP discovered the bold styles of Smarteez, a South African DIY fashion collective from Johannesburg, she was immediately drawn to their creative process and especially intrigued by striking millinery by Floyd Manotana, who makes reed safari hats and wide-brimmed felted bowlers in his backyard studio.
“As part of the first post-apartheid generation, these young men are creating what looks to be the first distinctly South African street fashion,” Lai writes on her blog. “There is a rawness to the style – a careless appropriation of anything and everything – that struck me as totally fresh and exciting. Simply put, it was nothing like anything I was seeing in New York.”
For Lai it was clear that communicating with these stylish ingenues via email and Skype just wouldn’t cut it. So the designer contacted Chris Saunders, a photojournalist who has made a name for himself documenting the country’s fresh street ensembles, which can be described as equal parts grunge, punk and dandy.
The two decided to start a cross-cultural collaborative project that would document Lai making avant-garde garments with noted South African designers such as Dennis Chuene and Macdonald Mfolo. The final photographs and videos feature stunning visuals of hip hop dancer Manthe Ribane performing in the brilliant, one-of-a-kind clothing.
Much to their delight, the Manhattan gallery WALLPLAY has now promised to exhibit the results of their creative collaboration in August. To help offset the costs of the show, the artists have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $5,000.