04.05.17 by Aneeqah Samsodien
A certain twinkle in the eye and mountains of enthusiasm spill out of Seraaj Semaar when he talks about fashion. A freelance stylist and co-owner of fashion brand Youth 95, Seraaj talks about where his love of fashion came from, his hopes and aspirations for the youth of South Africa and minimalist style.
Humbled, soft spoken and dreams with clear visions, it is hard to gather that this gentleman is only 21. Seraaj’s desired job would be to work with big retail brands that inspire him, helping to change their perceptions on the public as their consumers and biggest supporters.
Where did you grow up and were you always into fashion?
I come from Athlone, Surrey Estate and had a pretty normal childhood and remember always collecting stuff like cars, which I still do. I always wanted the most expensive sneakers but could never get them, so I used to go to Footgear and buy myself ‘cheap’ sneakers and pack them out on display in my room. When kids were running to the shop to buy snacks, I kept my money and used it to buy clothes.
My dad runs a few factory shops and one of them used to produce clothes for Weird Willy so he would always bring something new home. He inherited the retail and fashion gene from his father which I believe got passed down to me.
What fuels your creativity and passion?
Just the fact that I can wake up feeling free; free to express my creativity and achieve my goals, day by day. I know that there are so many opportunities out there and that’s what gets me up every morning and making the most of my day. I love
That’s basically my styling, projects that I did on my own. It was usually projects Reagan and I worked on together but I realised that you also need to build your own name as an individual. It’s been crazy because I always wanted to do these types of things and work with certain people and now I’m kinda doing it. It’s been good. I just finished a project that I worked on for Young and Lazy, who’s been one of my inspirations growing up and it was amazing!
Where did Youth 95 originate from?
Reagan and I met in grade 8 and we were always into streetwear. We became best friends and we always wanted to make clothes for ourselves. We started the brand in our first year out of high school when we found ourselves browsing Tumblr, admiring the clothes but frustrated that we could not find the apparel in Cape Town.
It was something we always knew we wanted to do but the idea of being too young was ever daunting. Zaid Osman hit us up in 2014 and asked if we wanted to sell our stuff at Sneaker Exchange and we jumped at the thought of the amazing marketing opportunity. We sold out and that was just the beginning.
Why do you think your generation is different?
To be honest, I think we are just eager to express our creativity and who we are as individuals. We were born free and I think that makes some difference as to how we live; there’s definitely something good happening in South Africa among the youth. I feel like millennials tie more to what represents who they are, rather than what their t-shirts say; youngsters buy clothes that represent a story and history, more than fast fashion from big retail chain stores.
Describe your style and name a stylist that you admire.
My style expresses my mood or the way I’m feeling at the time. My style is mostly very simple, though I’m open to experimenting if I feel like it suits me. On an everyday basis, you will find me in a plain tee, wide pants and Converse. I like the combination of workwear and sportswear i.e. I don’t like a lot of branding on my clothes and I wear things that ties well together.
A stylist that I look up to is definitely Gabrielle Kannemeyer. She’s my mentor when it comes to style and she often offers me guidance.
Corporate is obviously not for you. Where do you see yourself sitting in 10 years time?
Funny thing is, I’m actually in corporate right now at one of my favourite brands and I’m enjoying it. I mentioned previously that corporate wasn’t for me, but if it involves fashion, it’s different. It also depends on where you’re working; I got big love for the brand I’m working at, so it makes me happy that I’m here.
Long term, I would love to open my own store or be a menswear buyer for a preferred brand.
“You know when you work with clothing and you have to pack the stuff and put it in order and it’s not fun? But it’s k*k fun for me; I enjoy seeing the latest stock. It makes me happy just dealing with it and that represents who I am”.
What is it about a brand that draws you to it, aside from actual clothing? Do you believe in brand loyalty?
Most of the brands I love and support is because of what they stand for and the history they’ve laid down. The quality and cut of the clothing is very important as well. I do believe in brand loyalty but I’m not the type to only wear Nike and not Adidas, although I am loyal to a few brands that has been in my life for a while. I also feel that it is difficult to be loyal to one brand only as we have such a great variety.
Though he may only be but 21, Seraaj has been working with a few renowned and respected brands in the local and international industries and we see him growing into a successful stylist and businessman; this boy has the eye.
What are your thoughts on travelling?
I haven’t been on a plane. My dad travelled a lot when I was young; there was just no reason for me to go anywhere and since I started working, I plan on travelling very soon. I come from a reserved, traditional family, which is one of the main reasons why I have never travelled on my own.
I would love to visit the UK or go to Japan because I am really influenced by Japanese culture; they perfect their craft and everything they do comes across as pure.
When you’re not thinking of fashion, what can we find you doing?
Keeping active, hiking, running etc to take my mind off the fast paced world that we are living. Haha!