Being quite the jet setter recently, we managed to squeeze in a few moments with Anees Petersen from Young and Lazy to chat about his latest collaboration with Woolworths, his first ever show at SA Fashion Week this past weekend and why he’s not a sellout.
How do you think you as a designer will benefit from this experience?
I think it’s just about attracting the right industry people and being on that radar of the fashion industry that I thought I didn’t want to be a part of. It’s where all the best designers showcase and for me to be aligned with them and to be showcased on the same platform does wonders for me. The right people know about me that didn’t know about me before now.
“If you want things to happen, the people that were there can give me opportunities that I need as a brand to take it further, not just show it to my friends and family to make good photos and have a show, which I’ve done before and I’m very grateful for it but at this time in my business, I need to make smart moves.”
So what was the whole experience like?
It was the first time I’ve showcased in Johannesburg; I always did sales and stocked some stores. Overall, it was an amazing experience. I also casted my own models; I didn’t use any from the agencies. I used the new generation and love the way that they are doing things now and it make your clothes look good. I feel like I’ve used the new pioneers of street culture so it’s important for me to have my stuff seen on them.
Which is something you and Cornerstore have always been doing.
Because that is where our market is; to showcase on someone that’s really going to wear it makes all the difference as opposed to a model wearing it.
I’m not a Men’s Health kinda designer. It’s made of real street people who are all shapes and sizes. I’m not gonna lie to people and make my clothes look good on a model but when they try it on, it looks really different. When I design, this is who I design for. And it’s important for everyone to see it on that person. I think it’s street wear’s time.
He says the guys he casted are pushing themselves as brands and he was happy that he could give them another platform to push themselves. It was a good experience for both parties and he feels like he needed them more than they needed him.
Tell us a bit about your collaboration with Woolworths.
At first I was excited, then I thought, yoh, this is going to be hard work. Then I wished they didn’t choose me, yet I am so grateful they did. I feel like I just relaunched Young And Lazy in Jozi.
The collection will be stocked in the top five major stores around South Africa like Canal Walk, Sandton, Mall of Africa, Menlyn and Gateway, as well as the Woolworths online store. We are testing the waters but I can happily say that a second order was already placed 🙂 It has definitely boosted me and my business and taught me more about quality, basically polishing me and hopefully it is going to be a continuous thing.
What is your advice for smaller businesses dealing with bigger corporations?
The project is being run by David West and he is the one that curated all the designers. We are all dealing with Woolworths through an agency and I think in this way, we are all protected. They realised that they are the only retailer that doesn’t have a strong local presence.
It’s difficult working with seven very different designers and individuals who all have completely different aesthetics and working for this massive corporate company is like a recipe for disaster. It could easily have gone the other way but I think they’ve done a really good job with curating and supporting us. I feel well looked after and happy to work with them because they are empowering and nurturing us as designers. The first thing that people say to me when they approach me is to watch out or be careful. I just want people to stop thinking that way or know that it’s all good. We are all fine but this is the first job and we don’t know what to expect.
It’s great to share that experience with like-minded people like Celeste from Selfi, as we’ve been good friends for a while but we only ever see each other when we’re travelling for work.
How do you plan on coping with bulk orders now?
It’s forced me to start outsourcing and get out of my comfort zone of just making an x amount of units that I thought I’d still be doing all the time but now I have to think of finding factories that specialise.
So we’ve been hearing the words sellout floating around. What are your thoughts on this?
I just see it as cashing in. My first thoughts were ‘how is my market gong to perceive me?’ But as a business in South Africa, you have to make moves like this. The guys that come to Cornerstore are anti-everything, anti-big corporate or commercial and I understand that. I’ve been there and I never understood why big designers do certain things that they do. Now the older I’ve gotten, the longer I’ve been underground, if you don’t do something, it will keep you there and I would love to eventually settle down and be stable.
What do you think is going to happen in the next year?
Im focused on what matters and just growing the business strategically and not just making collection after collection. If I didn’t feel like the show would have been beneficial then I wouldn’t have done it. Johannesburg presented a lot of opportunities for me.
It’s not my market; I would never be at this event if I didn’t take part but that being said, it was beneficial because I showcased to a completely different audience.
“It’s all good having your loyal following but I need to expand; I need more buyers; I need more foot traffic”
What is your relationship with the other designers? Is there mutual respect?
Because we are all designers in South Africa, we share all the problems, we share all the struggles and now we’re in the same boat, being looked after by Woolworths. There’s already that connection as I knew all of them previously except Maria, and it just feels like we’re on tour as friends. It’s comforting to know that you’re in the same position as someone else and you learn from them. I struggled for about five months now feeling stale and not sure what I was going to do. I wanted to quit and had this feeling all the time.
How do you keep pushing through if you have these moments so often?
The funny thing is that these moments don’t come from struggling or at the worst times; it just comes every now and then. I always think ‘what am I doing with my life. Is this what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life?’ You don’t have to think like. I’m turning 30 and I need to sort my stuff out. I’m just taking it as it comes. At least there’s growth happening and I’m taking steps forward.
I’d love to paint; I’d love to take photos. But I don’t want to be jack of all trades but master of none. If I do something, I wanna go full steam and for now, I still have enough in me to carry on for a while but I don’t know if it’s going to be me for the rest of my life. This is one of the proudest moments in my career where I didn’t feel depressed after a show.
You live your collection, thinking about the runway, even two seconds before the show and then it happens. You stand in the way and think “omg it’s over”. My main thing was just that I felt like I achieved what I wanted out of it.
The most important thing for me is the people that matter and the people that I look up to; their response to the show is what made it all worth it, not all these magazines.
“The general response is that this was the best thing I’ve ever done and that’s the reason why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.”
I care what someone with similar designs or someone on a certain level that’s killing it in their industry thinks. I think those are the ones that matter to me.
One of my main boosts at the moment is that Kim Jones told us: “this is South Africa’s time, let them come to you”.
What is your main focus right now?
My main focus is that I am South African; there’s no one like me anywhere else in the world, my culture. I’m Cape Malay; you don’t find that anywhere else and that’s when I realised that I’m still very different to the rest of the world. So I started off last year looking at my heritage and the second SA Menswear look was African inspired. There was a spoof of classic SA but with the latest collection, I wanted to do something that’s true to me. I want to push my culture and heritage because I feel like there’s only a handful of people that are actually giving us scope and giving us a voice as a South African.
Look at taxi drivers and the guards; you won’t find people like that anywhere else in the world; it’s such a South African thing and they are so fashion forward as well and that’s my first force of inspiration. I always wanted to be a taxi guard, not because I wanted to sit in a taxi and shout, but because I wanted to dress like them and that’s what got me to where I am today and what inspired me to do what I do today and will still show in my work. That’s also what sets me aside from a lot of designers here in SA. I want to be the person looked up to by the younger generation; I want guys from the Suburbs to be inspired to do things.
Tell us about this collection and why it’s so close to your heart.
It’s the first collection that I got the inspiration from an experience. It’s the first time that I feel it’s original and took me eight years to finish. I can’t compare it to anything else.
When people made sarcastic remarks on the collection, it was the type of person that I’m not trying to appeal to. I got happy because I don’t want that person to like it; it’s not for them. I’m now where i want to be.
All the tartan accents seen in the collection comes from Lungies, a traditional Islamic cloth worn as a cover up for men, true to his religion and heritage.
The Woolworths Capsule Collections will be available in selected stores on 12 April.
All photos by Rizqua Barnes