This pandemic has exposed a lot of us financially as it has negatively affected our standard of living. With that said, it was befitting for yours suitably to visit a topic about what most people know as “Kwa Dunuza” but the cool kids call it “Thrifting”.
The word is not even in the English dictionary but quite popular in the fashion world. However, I can attest that most people are quite familiar with flea markets which have also been quite popular lately, of course pre-lockdown.
Growing up passing the streets of Jozi seeing people going through piles of clothes always rose an eyebrow. It was even more amazing that the people going through those piles of used clothes didn’t look like they were poverty stricken. Majority of them was the working class who didn’t have time to go to the malls.
Fast-forward to the recent years we have seen the trendiness of flea markets and its flamboyant entrepreneurs. The vintage style was on the a rise and in great demand and it also ignited the sartorial menswear as it paid homage to the old school ways of dressing. Even suiting in retail stores began to learn a thing or two from these dandies.
Although I could afford to get a suit from retail outlets, there was always that element that was missing from my suits or even from other gents who got their suits tailored. I started paying attention to a group of young men who passionately dressed sartorially stylish in vintage clothing. Some were still in school and some just completed their secondary schooling.
They called themselves “The Aspiring Dandies”, inspired by our very own dandies such as Loux The Vintage Guru and Tony Mac just not name a couple. It was fascinating how sleek they looked when all suited and booted. Like the saying goes, “you can buy fashion but style is what you do with what you bought”. As much as I could afford buying a new suit; shoes; shirt and tie, there was just something intriguingly interesting about their ensembles.
First it was the thinness of their tie-knots and the unique patterns on the four-in-hand. Then it was their jackets, the structure and most amazingly the quality of the fabrics. So I decided to have a chat with one of them and it turned out to be more than a chat. He offered to take me on a tour.
Nhlanhla Ndlela also known as Elvis started thrifting because he couldn’t afford buying brand new clothes. As “shameful” as it was, he had no choice but went with the idea. He told me a short story when he had R500.00 to spend on clothes and went out with only one item and that was the last time he went into a retail store to buy clothes.
After years of thrifting, yes years, he started getting collectors’ items which people showed interest in. He then decided to turn it into a business as he started collecting items such as bags shoes belts which some were for ladies. His business of buying and reselling vintage items opened another door as he started styling for editorial shoots which some made it in International magazines.
As he took me on a tour, he mentioned the stigma of this industry and how people talk ill of him and what he does. The misconceptions and superstitions of wearing used clothes of people you don’t know gave a lot of his peers the creeps. All of that didn’t deter him, instead he took it up the notch and started collecting (buying) old magazines. He told me how much inspiration he got from the old copies of international magazines such as The Rake; Vogue Homme; and British GQ.
He also told me the pleasures of wearing items that he regards as exclusive since they can’t be found anywhere else. He was fascinated by the craftsmanship from the olden days tailoring, and so did I. The unfortunate part was that some items he would’ve loved to keep for his personal use but then due to size he couldn’t and had to sell them. Modest as he was, he told me that it’s not because of pride that people don’t go there but time. Part of his work includes digging up for all the items, negotiating the price with the suppliers. The next process of taking garments to the drycleaners and then alterations. However, alterations are an option to his clients but he recommends doing the whole process even though it’s too much admin. In this way it also brings him joy seeing the final product adorned by the client. His passion and respect for clothes is such an inspiration. As much as I’m a firm preacher of taking good care of clothes, his motto is simple…”look after them and they’ll make you look good”.
With lockdown restrictions, business has been rather slow as there hasn’t been stock coming in, even some of the suppliers are still stuck in their native countries due to international travel bans. Even with all that said, he still has high hopes that all will be back to normal and it will be business as usual.
Elvis’ future plans is to have a vintage store which does not only sells clothes but any vintage items such as furniture and souvenirs. He emphasized that the store will be a place where people can come in “unashamedly” and buy but more so to learn a thing or two like I did.
Elvis is on Instagram as @elvisnje
Until next time…