At the beginning of 2016, I stumbled across Christopher McMicheal’s Bubblegum Club piece Don Dada — 21st Century Dandy. In it, he expounds on Tshepo Pitso’s mission to transform the narrow-minded and somewhat negative associations of the Izikhotane subculture into the recognition of radical and alternative approaches to style and dressing, of something fresh and new that has been birthed out of the townships like so many people in this country. Izikhotane is a creative culture that captured my imagination and interest, but the emergence of Don Dada as this transformative, reactive lightbringer of their domain was something that sunk into my bones and has lived there ever since.
A few months later, I realised I had style icons.
Esther Quek has always held editor positions on the staff of Middle Eastern men’s magazines; in fashion and lifestyle, with spreads and shoots to match, her compelling taste has been guiding the way some men dress for what feels like a decade, at least. I cannot quite track the clicks and pathways I took to the arbitrary post I was reading about women who wear suits, but I do remember having my world rocked the first time I laid eyes on Esther, who manifests exquisite tailoring with an extraordinary eye for detail and variegated colours and patterns. Esther Quek is all about lines — whether they are straight and rectangular, or angled in to show off such things as waist and shoulders. Lines. Lines and accessories. Such a masterful silhouette, I have learned in my research, is a fussily difficult thing to achieve.
In my head, there is a world of difference between Esther Quek and Karla Deras. The best thing to have happened to style over the last four or so years is that Karla started The Line By K and began to produce clothing that seemed to be imbued with every little bit of fashion and style and clothing I had been watching unfold on her blog for years. There is such languid sexiness to everything Karla does, but particularly with how she dresses. Refreshingly, for me, that sexiness is devoted to and cultivated purely for herself. Karla Deras is in love with herself and it’s obvious in the care and dedication she layers into what she she wears. Which makes the entire effect compelling enough that I have yet to find myself tired of the casual elegance she portrays. She tends to believe you can wear anything you want, wherever you want, and once wore a goddamned couture kimono to the grocer.