“You’re throwing your life away.’’
That’s what Jacques Bam , founder and creative director of The Bam Collective was told on more than one occasion growing up when the adults discovered he intended pursuing a fashion career.
Fast forward several years and his brand is now evolving onto next level expansion and on the verge of a breakthrough international project still under wraps.
The Bam collective is uniquely positioned in the South African market. Contemporary in its nature, with dramatic, out of the ordinary silhouettes or details that help express a sense of wonder and joy. The brand exudes that ‘joie de vivre’ straight out of Bam’s childhood dreams.
His earliest memories of fashion entail sketching all types of clothing ranging from swimwear, sportswear and winter wear. Meticulously kept in a flip file it was in fact the gateway to his fantasy world. Here he imagined his world of high fashion in a very independent, boss-like way through his everyday illustrations. Most likely influenced by growing up around business professionals. Both his mother and father are accountants.
In reality, the pathway to making his dreams possible has been a straight line, full of dedication and hard work. From high school to fashion school where he completed his Honours in Fashion cum laude, then interning at two of South Africa’s more established labels to launching his own fashion brand. Bar of course the times he faced a backlash from teachers about fashion as a career choice especially as an academically talented student, which he was.
“At a career day at school in Grade 7, I dressed up as a fashion designer in all black with a measuring tape. And my teacher told me, ‘No, you too smart to do this. You should be a rocket scientist.’ This was the first time I recognised that there was a stigma around the arts and fashion industry, says Bam.”
“Going into high school, I would kind of tell people that I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I stopped sketching and carrying my flip file because I became embarrassed. I continued doing art and drama, and focused on my academics. After an aptitude test in Gr10, I was once again told, ‘No, no, you too smart to be a fashion designer . I think you should do law and business.’
But after 6 months I told my parents that I wanted to do fashion . And then it was settled.”
His graduate collection led to a collaboration with a national fast fashion retailer, he entered and won the SA student competition at South Africa fashion week and was a finalist for the new talent search competition.
Clothing that makes you smile
The mission is simple. Dream fantastical ideas and create clothing that makes people feel happy, vibrant and joyful. The ethos of the brand is in reaching for or escaping to the best of times, even in the worst of times. It contains a fascination for how clothing can conjure up feelings, an admiration for how clothing can impact both resonance and sentiment.
Every new season begins with a vague concept that develops through the process of sketching, choosing colour and prints simultaneously. And only once that’s done, does the new collection take shape in the form of words and meaning, giving context to feelings, conversations, experiences, people and the environment.
This post-rationalisation gives rise to a new ‘ism’ and in October 2021 ‘Absurdism’ will hit our screens at South Africa Fashion week’s next digital showcase. And will be available immediately in stores across the country.
I’m really excited that the idea of buying local is really starting to take off
At 24 years old Bam is commercially minded, strictly ensuring that each ready to wear piece meets both the brands mission and targets. He is equally committed to building an ethical, sustainably focused business from the ground up , one that will grow beyond himself and support the fashion community in South Africa.
Up till now he’s been the only designer. ‘I’m a one man show. I haven’t sold anything I haven’t made myself. But I’m not the only person responsible for getting the brand produced and into market,” Bam says. ‘And that’s why the brand is called ‘The Bam Collective’.
I’m committed to becoming more and more sustainable with every collection. Right now what can be done 100 % is to be ethical and honest.
And in a new announcement Bam is finally branching out and will be adding seven new names responsible for sewing each new garment to the wash care label besides his own. It’s the kind of growth that serves as his greatest motivation, despite the difficulties and challenges faced within the South African Fashion industry.
The pioneers in the SA fashion industry like Thebe, Rich, Sindiso and Lukhanyo have really taken our industry and made it visible to the rest of the world. With all the shifts happening, international interest has turned towards us and so has local interest.
And even with the global shifts in fashion, and the transformation of fashion weeks to digital shows, Bam remains just as enthralled by the fashion industry as he first was as a child.
“For me, everything has always revolved around fashion. That’s all I’ve ever done.”
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