Denim is more than just a cotton fabric, it inspires opinion within the hearts of historians, designers, teenagers, movie stars, writers and reporters. The timeless fabric that never goes out of fashion and everyday wear fabric from workwear to a casual day in the inner city.
Levi Strauss was an American businessman of German-Jewish descent who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans. His firm Levi Strauss & Co began in 1853 in San Francisco California. Levi Strauss and Jacob Javis, a tailor, invented the blue jeans in 1873. Blue jeans were mainly manufactured for workers in America because the denim fabric was strong to work in with miners, farmers and cowboys wore Levi Strauss since the birth of 501 blue jean. – www.levistrauss.com
In the 20th century blue jeans became popular among teenagers and designers. Jeans were now being designed with different silhouettes and fits, including the boot cut, skinny fit, tapered slim, narrow bottom, low waist, anti-fit and flare.
The 60’s subcultures such as the skinheads from the U.K loved Levi’s as it was part of their dress up “uniform”; which was made up of: skinny bleached blue jeans, check shirts, bomber jackets and bovver boots – preferably Dr Martens. In the 70’s and 80’s punks had a similar style to the skinheads but their style was more extreme and included studded biker jackets, Scottish check pants or skinny blue jeans and Dr Martens. The evolution of denim also gave birth to a number of denim brands and in the 80’s brands such as Diesel, Replay and Guess -which were all inspired by Levi’s.
South Africans also love and appreciate the art of denim mostly in the townships where the youth collects denim brands mainly Levi’s, Diesel Industry and G-star Raw. The popularity of denim in townships brought up style crews such as raw boys and 501 hipsters to show unity and the way they appreciate denim.
Denim’s appeal has also transcended distance; this evidenced by the fact that even South African labels draw inspiration from this timeless fabric. One such label is AfrikanSwiss is a lifestyle brand founded by Tshepo Mohlala, Vusi Dunisa and Thato Mafubelu in 2006. The brand specialises in denim jeans, shirts and their style is afrocentric with an urban twist. Fusing African textiles and prints makes the brand unique. their attention to detail is evidenced in the way they craft their buttons, pockets, belts, fits and the cut.
I caught up with the guys to find out how they formed their brand, I remember they first documented their style through photo shoots in and around Johannesburg, blogging their looks, they used to call themselves style architects back then.
Who is AfrikanSwiss?
AfrikanSwiss is an urban lifestyle brand that specialises in denim; we use African inspirations to create urban garments.
How did you guys meet?
We met at the House Of Ole’s 10 year anniversary at South African Fashion Week in 2012, we became friends and started working together documenting our style using some of Thato’s designed products in our photo shoots.
What is the AfrikanSwiss design philosophy?
We are inspired by African crafts, patterns and silhouettes. Our new range infuses the biker lifestyle with the concept looks incorporating zips, buttons as well as African Masai silhouettes.
Why the focus on denim?
Denim is an everyday wear fabric and we’re about the everyday urban lifestyle, we want to be the first black denim brand in the country that pushes the denim urban style which we really love.
Any upcoming collaborations with SA or international designers?
We are currently working with Uhuru the music group, an exhibitions about the biker lifestyle and a collection inspired by the biker lifestyle.
Who are your favourite designers and style icons?
There are three of us and we all have different personalities. My (Tshepo) favourite is Diesel because I love the loose fitting jeans that they design, Thato is more of the G-star Raw because they are very experimental and Vusi is more your simple functional jeans that Levi’s design and we all want to fuse those elements to AfrikanSwiss.
As young entrepreneurs how has the city inspired you to do what you are doing? And what advice would you give to aspiring designers and young entrepreneurs?
With 20 years of democracy there are so many empowerment initiatives made available to young people by the government to access entrepreneurial opportunities, my advice I’d give to the youth is don’t live your parents dreams because they might channel you to one direction. Do what you are passionate about and work hard at it!
Photography : Bongani Mokhine
Design: Karabo Mashele
And check out the AfrikanSwiss website.