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The Next Big Name in Menswear

Winner of the MINI Scouting Menswear competition Sandile Mlambo gives the low-down on the latest fashion trends.

SAFW-tagline-imageToday’s fashionable urban traveller enjoys roaming between different cultures and ways of life, both in the city and beyond.


It’s no secret that sometimes the best sartorial inspiration comes from creatives in the city. And if the recent South African Fashion Week (SAFW), hosted in Johannesburg – one of the most dynamic, fast-paced and cosmopolitan cities in Africa – is anything to go by, it seems designers have raised the bar. Pushing the local men’s fashion scene this season is a combination of established designers and a new crop of emerging talent, who showcased their collections with MINI’s new fashion initiative, the MINI Scouting Menswear competition.

Sandile Mlambo was one of seven finalist designers who had the opportunity to showcase their unique perspectives, passions and ideas through their Spring/Summer 2018 Collections. It was Sandile who impressed a panel of industry-leading judges in the end. Besides a clear design aesthetic, several other factors were considered in choosing the winner, including likely commercial viability of the brand, brand identity, future plans and the drive and motivation behind the collection. “From a design perspective it was all about creativity, but what was also important was the business aspect of fashion, the potential for retail success,” says MINI Marketing Manager Lerato Mohapi.

A “mix-masala” collection

Sandile, a self-taught designer from humble beginnings in Mtubatuba, situated on the north-eastern coastline of KwaZulu-Natal, fondly remembers cutting-up clothes his mother bought to alter and – more importantly – “learn to put back together again.” He decided at an early age to make a business of it, after people wanted to buy these clothes from him. And so his label, Kumkani Bespoke, was born.

Describing his winning collection from Kumkani Bespoke as a “mix-masala of sorts that all comes together”, Sandile pays homage to his roots by drawing on a mixture of traditional and heritage motifs, using largely zebra and geometric patterns, with a touch of floral. With a pioneering spirit, tons of grit and a good measure of self-belief, he embarks on a new journey determined to set the tone for a fresh fashion conversation in menswear. Thomas van Dyk, art director and one of the five MINI Scouting Menswear judges, says of Sandile’s winning collection: “It was an elegant and strongly influenced African aesthetic, finely balanced with an Asian flavour that is not always so easy to achieve.”

“It was an elegant and strongly influenced African aesthetic, finely balanced with an Asian flavour that is not always so easy to achieve.” – Thomas Van Dyk, art director and MINI Scouting Menswear judge
Sandile Mlambo was announced as the winner of the MINI Scouting Menswear competition at South African Fashion Week 2018.
Sandile Mlambo’s menswear brand Kumkani Bespoke comes from the Xhosa kumkani meaning “king”.

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Although no stranger to the local fashion scene – having previously designed a womenswear label – Sandile’s first foray into menswear with the brand Kumkani Bespoke has catapulted him onto the national stage and provided an opportunity of a lifetime. He attended the most important international platform and event for menswear, Pitti Imagine Uomo 2018, in Florence, Italy, and is featured in the pages of GQ South Africa.

How to stay stylish this season

Upcoming brands like Kumkani Bespoke are not only driving a new contemporary African narrative in the fashion space, but are right on target when it comes to the latest menswear trends. Today’s urban traveller enjoys roaming between different cultures and ways of life, both in the city and beyond.

“Oversized silhouettes, as well as shapes hugely inspired by the Japanese Samurai warriors are evident in the collection, making it so current and fashion forward,” says Van Dyk, who is an art director, stylist and designer in his own right.

The collection also aligns with the huge Afrofuturism trend and is smartly designed to encompass tribal prints in a contemporary way in almost every piece. “Everyday people shop in pieces, and what’s great about this collection is that every item is a statement piece, making it accessible to the shopper and equally as exciting to wear,” says Van Dyk.

Applying trends off the runway

Try out something like the zebra print pants or warrior kimono style jacket, and pair it with everyday wear in a marriage of black and/or white – another top trend this season.

If that’s not your style, spruce up your wardrobe with one or two items that pop with colour (think pink, orange, red, yellow) and plenty of locally designed loungewear, which is a modern wardrobe must-have.

The trick is to feel comfortable and not be afraid to stand out.