From the Series
This is why I love the internet. Today I got to chat with Loux the Vintage Guru based in Namibia, Africa, whose Tumblr site I recently discovered and fell instantly under its spell.
The budding fashion designer and all-round exquisitely-dressed dude is making waves with a collective of twenty-something like-minded style innovators to promote the fashion industry in Africa and inspire the art of elegant dressing. The result is a visual delight of unparalleled style that Loux documents on his Tumblr. But rather than simply showing you his photographs, I wanted to talk with him, get a feel for who this talented and ambitious young African designer is.
So he in Namibia, and I in Paris, this was our conversation…
If you were to take me vintage shopping in Namibia, where would we go, what would we see?
I would take you to a place called Omuthiya-Gwipundi in the northern part of Namibia, it’s an open market where they sell vintage and second-hand clothing. You can find all sorts of wonderful clothing for both men, women as well as children for very, very cheap – and it all comes from Africa; the stuff our parents’ generation was wearing.
Vintage shopping can be really expensive over here in Paris…
Really? Come here! A lot of the vendors don’t really realise the value of what they’re selling because many people aren’t interested in wearing vintage, they just see it as “used clothing”. The main fashion district of Namibia is actually in the capital city of Windhoek where you can also find some really beautiful vintage clothing, but I prefer to go to the open markets of Omuthiya-Gwipundi, as well as Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa. It makes me different from most people here; I manage to dress myself cheaply and end up looking like a million bucks.
What are the challenges you face being a designer in Namibia trying to launch a fashion brand?
Honestly, money. To launch a brand you need to market yourself; designers need to pay for events to showcase their clothes in the right light. Speaking of lighting – that’s expensive too! So all that is pretty much the main challenge I face.
Tell me the story of how you first became interested in fashion…
From a young age, I was inspired by my late grandfather, the old man always dressed in suits and shiny shoes and would tell me, “my son, fashion is what you adopt when you don’t yet know who you are, make sure you are always well-dressed”. So I grew up loving fashion from childhood.
Where and how did you learn to design clothes?
I learned from local tailors in Namibia as well as some friends from Japan. But I do believe the ability to design well is a God-given talent. I didn’t go to school to study it but I do have plans to further improve my skills and go to fashion school one day soon. For now, I have a very small workshop, I’m an emerging tailor and get training from professional tailors. I often use their workshops where they assist me in bringing my pieces together.
In Namibia, if you like vintage shopping, do they call you a “hipster”?!
I define myself as a Hipster! For me, that just means I get to express myself and influence other people’s fashion sense – most of my clients at the moment are young adults. It also makes me an avant-garde of change; introducing new ideas, design and style in Namibia and across Africa.
Give us your take on your personal style…
I call my style sophisticated-punk, it’s a bit of a mixture, but I think true style is an expression of your day-to-day mood. I fell in love with vintage pieces, especially from the 1960s, and normally alter them to fit me and modernise them in my own way. Most of the suits I wear are actually my late dad’s suits. I wear a hat with every outfit as well as vintage club ties – I think they’re both stylish and respectful.
And do you dress like this everyday?
YES! It’s my style– if I don’t dress like this then I will be home (naked).
Walking down the street, what kind of reaction do you get from your average fellow Namibian to the way you dress?
They love it, they like my style, especially when I get together with my friends from South Africa who share the same enthusiasm for fashion.
What is the general feeling towards the importance of fashion in Namibia?
Well, I think not only in Namibia, but in Africa as a continent, it should be taken more seriously so that we can inspire the next generation and so that we can have, and dress in, our own brands and collections that reflect African style.
How do you think the rest of the world sees Africa currently in relation to the fashion industry?
I think the world only thinks Africa is blessed with models. But that’s not the case. The fashion industry in Africa is growing and I advise the international industry to attend fashion shows like the AFF (Africa Fashion Festival) and you’ll see first-hand that the African fashion industry is on point.
You’re collaborating with a group called Khumbula, described as “young visionaries who advocate for a well cut Africa, the sartorial Africa”. What’s it all about?
The collaboration with Khumbula, a group of stylists and designers from Johannesburg, South Africa, is to show the fashion world that we can unite as one in the African continent. When we collaborate we call ourself LIA (Love is African) and we’re currently playing a big part by simply inspiring fashionistas around the African continent. We’re also all passionate vintage fashion lovers that pay tribute to the legendary vintage clothing era. Khumbula is a Zulu word meaning “remember”.
Has the Congolese subculture of the sapeurs influenced you at all?
We are not part of the sapeurs but we would love to be. This movement of our colonial-era dandy predecessors embodies elegance, style and manners that became a means of resistance. It’s a movement that has influenced us in such a way that it made us discover our style and personality by reaching into the depths of our past for the rich cultural heritage left to us by our ancestors.
Who are your style icons/ muses?
Mr Sam Lambert and Mr Shaka Maidoh, the African and British-born design duo behind Art Comes First, a fashion collective that share the same fascination for taking old things and grafting pieces together to find new expressions. You’ll also see them killing it on all the street style blogs during fashion week in Europe.
What’s next for Loux the Vintage Guru?
Next month I’ll be showcasing my designs at RVK (Retro Vintage Kollection) Fashion Week in Pretoria, South Africa, and then in April I’ll have my fashion show in Namibia, before I fly to showcase at the AFF (Africa Fashion Festival) in Ghana in May. These are all big events for me. In the long run, I hope to show my brand one day in Paris or Milan and of course, I’d love it to be the dopest brand in the country with a shop in every corner of Namibia.