When one of South Africa’s most prolific fashion directors, at the forefront of shaping how we dress decides to produce a collection, people take notice. This is what Chu Suwannapha has done under ‘CHULAAP’, the first collection of which premiered at the the inaugural South African Menswear Week in Cape Town earlier this month.
Known to many for his own unique sense of style and love for prints, Chu’s collection was everything that was expected, and yet so much more. Prints were featured heavily throughout the collection. Contrasting prints were styled together in looks that seem to carve an identity and future for the brand. However it was through Chu’s masterful move of bringing a 3D aspect to some of these pieces, where origami-like shapes had been sewn into shirts and jackets, which gave the pieces additional character. Knitwear such as ponchos and cardigans, cut in unique forms, continued with origami imagery and brought some softness to collection. It was Chu’s ability to find a balance of cultures and formulate these into well-tailored garments that made this collection outstanding.
Chu is originally from Thailand where he first worked as a fashion designer and business owner manufacturing and selling under his own CHULARP. Paris was next where he studied fashion at ESMOD. Chu’s next move was here to South Africa where he worked for many years as the fashion director at Fair Lady magazine. Presently he works as the fashion director of You, Huisgenoot and Drum magazines for Media24.
We found out more.
You’ve gained quite the following with your infatuation with prints and bold clothing, even so far as gaining the nickname as the ‘prince of prints’. Where does this love of print stem from?
I love wearing head to toe prints on prints. Each print tells a story.
As one of the most esteemed fashion directors in the country how would you define the fashion of South Africa?
Conservative but still very current in general.
Who do you believe are the most exciting South African designers right now and why?
Each South African has got their own unique way to express as who they are. I respect all of them.
If you could give a character to your collection with CHULAAP, who would this be and why?
My collection is all about celebrating Africa and is inspired by local street styles. It’s cool, quirky and current, nothing traditional about it. I want my collection to appeal to more broader audience and customers. All of my collection is unisex.
Your collection was unquestionably the most anticipated of the inaugural South African Menswear Week. As a result, I’m sure that everyone’s keen to find to out what the future holds for CHULAAP and your endeavours as a designer?
I am taking one step at the time and still not even a baby’s steps. Time will tell about my label CHULAAP but definitely will be focusing only unisex for now.
In your opinion, what is the difference between terrible and great design?
I always respect everyone’s work. For me ‘terrible’ = OK and ‘great design’ = really enjoy it.
After recently presenting your menswear collection at South African Menswear Week, what in your opinion is the current landscape of menswear in this country?
Love those new young designers. They brought a new dimension to SA Menswear. It’s fresh and modern.
Could you take us through your inspiration for the collection?
East meets West is this collection theme. The inspiration is from SA street styles. It took me two weeks to produce this collection. I worked with the existing African printed fabric bringing a Japanese twist by recreating with hand-sewn ‘origami’ as my own prints.
Images courtesy of SDR Photo.