Unknown Union was set to close off SA Menswear Week 2017, a tremendous task for any brand. The normalcy of process at each fashion week is what most show goers would expect without much left to be said. Founder and CEO, Jason Storey chose a common, but directed route this time around. A conceptual approach. Eighteen individuals that had a story to tell, most of them non-models. Stories of awareness, community, expression, and culture. Voices of everyday persons who thrive in pioneering their own lanes. A multidisciplinary collective, brought together by one brand, Unknown Union.
The ‘models’ consisted of individuals with a diverse set of interests, all adorned in Unknown Union apparel. Teachers, photographers, musicians, visual artists, radio personalities, chefs, film makers and environmental activists to name a few. Each person connected to the other, through community and expression. The very last people you would expect to be seeing on a ramp, which is precisely the point. Unknown Union is committed to storytelling and a collective expression through their design and interaction. Paying homage to what has already existed in neighbourhoods, villages, classrooms, and conversations. A celebration of what it means to be human, in the most potent way.
Storyteller and spoken word poet, Adrian “Diff” Van Wyk opened the show with a piece detailing the history of a people. Gliding down the ten-pillar stacked ramp, he spoke into the audience whilst raking up heartfelt reactions. Songwriter and rapper, Patty Monroe followed suit with her twenty-sixteen single ‘Castles’, an ode to youth and freedom. To close off the show was rapper Uno July, with an offering on hustler’s ambition and dream chasing. In between was every other individual making their statement clear on the runway. Crowd reactions strengthened with each person starting their walk. Every individual was a story that someone in the audience could recognise. Each person was able to offer something that mirrored the expression of community and everyday people. Anyone sitting in the crowd could see a glimpse of themselves on the ramp.
The show was a commentary on humanhood. The way we live it in its most natural form. A testament to the fact that we exist in a collective. However unknown to the next person, human stories are diverse, detailed, and ultimately similar. The collaboration between Unknown Union and these eighteen individuals became a vehicle for the delivery of a subtle, yet fundamental message. Like the Chokwe designs on UU t-shirts, inspired by the cultural groups in central and southern Africa, and the workmanship of the Basotho blankets that inspired the well-known range of authentic Basotho print UU jackets, these are the stories of the people. Stories that speak of culture, advancing sustainability, and the authenticity of humanhood. Stories that are paramount and foremost about being human.
(Matimu Rikhotso for Unknown Union)
Some images below. Check out more on the UU Instagram page: @unknownunion
Akuol De Mabior
Adrian "Diff" Van Wyk