How did you come about developing your style and what influenced you?
It’s about the yesteryear generation, the Sophiatown look and feel, the 50s, the swells of the 50s. This was for me the turning point in fashion and up until today, it’s just been cascading into todays look and feel. My pieces are very user-friendly, something of a daily-use collection.
What fabrics excite you?
I’m trying to get into authentic fabrics like 100% cotton. I’m currently using Egyptian cotton and cashmere. Sometimes there might be 10% polyester mixed in with it, but I try by all means to keep it as natural as possible.
Do you find it a struggle to find the right fabrics?
Yes, it’s a bit of a struggle, especially with the seasonal time differences. For instance, most of the stores are now stocking winter and I’m doing a summer collection, so it is a bit tricky. We have to pay a fixed amount for the fabric we are supplying, we are struggling and that’s why most of the time we end up doubling the fabrics and it’s up to individuals to create their own pieces to look different.
What convinced you to become a designer and what sparked off your passion to design clothes?
When I started out in fashion there was a lack of what I really wanted. Having travelled internationally and worked overseas, I came back home and found there wasn’t really much happening in menswear. In general, fashion just wasn’t as appealing as it is now, there wasn’t much creativity, people were just making copies of other people’s stuff. That challenged me and made me think more technically about coming up with something new.
Where did you travel?
I travelled quite extensively, mostly Europe: Istanbul, Greece, London and Amsterdam. I started as a model in 1991, and from there I became the first face of Diesel. During this time I was in and out of South Africa.
Working as a model, and being around clothes a lot, really sparked my interest in fashion. But then again, looking further back, when I was at school, I would be rebellious and just dress my own way. I used to create my own school uniform, so it’s always been a part of me. Before my first collection, I was styling a lot – from soapies to South African personalities.
How would you describe the Ephymol man?
The kinds of clients that come to me are a mix of people, from grunge, to very over-the-top, classic, sophisticated and artistic. All these type of men can find themselves in my collection in some way or another.
I want my brand to be one of those brands that everybody wants to have. Yesterday some people saw some of my stuff on television and my phone didn’t stop ringing, everyone wanted an Ephymol piece. That’s the kind of the look and feel I want for my brand. I want to be everyone’s friend and I don’t discriminate on who wears my clothes. Anyone who thinks that they suit the profile of Ephymol, are more than welcome. Having said that, I would really like to see my local soccer boys wearing Ephymol.
Does your personal style affect the way you design your clothes?
Yes definitely. I get a lot of people liking what I wear, even women who say they want what I’m wearing for their boyfriend. I go out wearing my clothes and get a sense of what the market needs, then add that to the look and feel of my collections.
How much attention do you pay to local and international trends?
I’d say 40% of the youngsters really want to be on the global map. The guys from around 35 years old and upwards understand the look they want and don’t really follow trends, especially in South Africa. They just want a comfortable fit, something that suits them and makes them feel within their own league, without trying to look like they belong to a global fashion trend.
Since starting your business, what are some of the challenges you’ve faced?
Most of the challenges are with fabric. In terms of production, locally you have your own in-house production and you have to create a certain number of items. Labour can be insanely expensive, so it’s quite a long road, when compared to my peers. I don’t have the leisure of sending someone to go buy the fabric, I must go find the fabrics myself. There are quite a few challenges.
There must be something that excites you about being a designer in Africa and South Africa today?
When people believe in you and compare you to other great designers, there’s a sense of pride. It’s amazing the gratitude you sometimes get. All that matters is that your clients are happy. It’s the most gratifying thing ever. When you see your name featured in international magazines and you get a small mention out there in the world, it’s amazing.
If you had to describe what your dream collaboration would be, what would it look like?
If I could choose any collaboration I would like to work with Dolce & Gabbana. I love what they do, how they’ve revolutionized fashion and how they make men bold. Locally, the likes of Marianne Fassler and Amanda Laird Cherry are the fashion icons that I look up to.
What’s the best piece of creative advice you’ve ever been given?
Stick to your guns. Don’t be distracted by what you see in the mainstream. Believe in what you are doing. Sometimes people will say your collection was boring. It might be the same thing they’ve seen before, but they didn’t notice that you’ve added a twist to the collection. The South African market can be very cruel because people believe in the smoke and mirrors and hype. I’ve been told many times that my collection is amazing, yet there is still room to improve here and there.
What is one of your pet hates when you look at how guys dress in South Africa?
When guys are trying really hard to look like models – wearing ill-fitting suits or clothing so tight that they can hardly walk. And when they wear these muscle tops and the mom jeans with bad shoes… Shoes are very important, wearing bad shoes with a nice suit, defeats the point of getting dressed up in the first place.