Playing it safe. That is what the average man seems to do with his wardrobe choices. Most will have the obvious colours white, black, brown, grey and blue. Some will be a little more adventurous and have a red shirt here and pink shorts there. However, it’s similar hue choices as if at adolescence they are given the colour by numbers guide to how to dress like a respectable man. Choosing similar cuts and styles of garments, never deviating into the unknown. Roman Handt, on the other hand, is the complete opposite.
The first thing you notice about this designer from South Africa is the atypical fabric and the hand-crafted details he incorporates into menswear. It’s an understatement to say that it’s a little outside the normcore trend box. But if you look a little closer, you’ll notice that there is a great emphasis on garment tailoring and fit. A skill he learnt during his freelancing period in Belgium, a city that is obsessive about fit and views sewing as a highly competitive expertise. He may have graduated from the renowned fashion school, LISOF, in 2000 but it wasn’t until 2011 that he started his eponymous label that redefines traditional menswear. It may appear that it’s a gimmicky tactic for attention but there is a lot of fresh construction techniques and re-imagined silhouettes. And it’s all strategic:
Very Hands On
He’s the DIY (do-it-yourself) designer who has taken the time to study each material he works with. Once he understands the principles and rules of the material, he can then manipulate the fabric to execute a more dramatic look. In an interview with the Fashion Handbook in South Africa, he mentioned that he’s still a big devotee to hand sewing using different stitching techniques to bring his conceptualised designs into reality. This is a stand out fact in a time where some designers lack the basic tools such as pattern making or the ability to stitch in any form.
Rebellious with The Rules
Couture falls under a certain set of rules to protect the industry and the artisans involved. (See Article on Couture here) As we’ve discovered, Handt isn’t particularly a stickler for rules hence the term ‘Guerilla Couture’. While it’s inspired by the skilled artisan of couture, this process understands that people are impatient and want their clothes yesterday. Hence, he creates one-of-a-kind garments of impeccable quality in a fraction of the time.
Another way he breaks from the norm is designing as per his own interpretation. Take for example the Marvel inspired Super (Natural) Collection that he and six other African designers took part in, in conjunction with SA Fashion Week SS2015. Their collections were to pay tribute to the Super-Hero team known as the Avengers, but he decided to take it to the extremes. It resulted in a 3D silhouette (read more about 3D in Fashion here) made from materials such as speaker cloth, industrial mesh, acoustic crepe and outdoor foil. They are not commercial products, with hopes for commercially reproducing his pieces being an unfeasible one. But as investment pieces, this is your garment of choice.
Watch the runway video for The Super (Natural) collection
All About Self Expression
Often described as an avant-garde menswear designer, he chooses to sell ideas rather than clothing items. Evidently shunning fast fashion in favour of creating this fashion genre with that highlights new insights of male identity. One that is impacted by stereotypes, cross-cultural influences, gender neutrality and modern urban nomadism. Such bold clothes require men who take some pride in how they present themselves to the world. Thus, the clothes are more of a source of communicating to those around you, than just for its aesthetic qualities. It’s the kind of design that demands pre-existing confidence and a defined voice in the customer. His choice to stay clear of ethnic design is deliberate, with the aim of flexibility to showcase on any platform, in South Africa or abroad. But he’s also using his clothes to voice his social or political statements such as with his Aesthetic Terrorist collection. Riddled with dye bombs and bullets, it was his form of protest and expression of the city of Johannesburg.
Is his Biggest Fan
Last, but not least, is a fact a few designers tend to overlook. You must be the biggest fan of your own work. Handt designs for the client that expresses their personality through their individual look and he wears mostly his own designs. If you aren’t excited by your own product, don’t expect others to be more enthusiastic than you about it.
The Roman Handt brand reminds designers and customers alike that we should be ever-evolving. There is something to be gained by choosing to live outside the box a little. His creations may be a little kooky for the masses, however he certainly sparks a little imagination in everyone. To express your individuality and dare to have some refined fun. Or at least wear a little more colour!