YUM took centre stage at the Durban Fashion Fair 2016 last week as 10 top designers put Afro cool through its paces on the city’s fashion ramp.

YUM, for those who don’t know, is young, urban male.

International fashion gurus are debating the impact yummies are having on the fashion world at large and last Wednesday night’s creatives added a brand of African cool that not even the slickest suits on Wall Street can aspire to.

Cool, professional twentysomething year-old men with smartphones and attitudes are obviously the ones to watch.

In Durban local label, House of St Luke and head designer, Mxolisi Luke Mkhize, set the bar high.

Although his degree and major in industrial psychology and industrial organisational and labour studies qualifies him under the YUM label, his self-taught design skills have put him on the men’s wear fashion map and he drew an appreciative reaction with DFF 2016 audiences.

His well-tailored all black collection had a twist of African style and detailing.

The highlight of Mxolisi’s fashion journey came in 2012 when, through the DFF, he was selected for an internship in Milan. There he gained a great deal of practical experience at Italian designer Massimo Crivelli’s Studio. He has showcased at Fashion by the Sea, and at Durban Fashion Fair for three years from 2012. He has also featured in Food Fashion and Music, Bloom The Society DBN, the ANC Youth League Fashion Show and SA Fashion Week in partnership with GQ Magazine.

In 2014, he was a semi-finalist and among the top nine in the South African Menswear Competition at SA Fashion Week. He won Best Menswear Collection at the 2015 Durban Fashion Fair.

He wasn’t alone when it came to mucho chic, though, with Sandile Duke Mngadi and his label Duke, Clothe Your Soul, adding to African Ubran culture to executive style.

He defines his style as Afrofunk – a fusion of African elements and Western culture – and has won his fair share of accolades since he launched in  2012.

But it was Nigerian born designer Oheneba Nana Yaw Boamah, founder of Abrantie the Gentleman, that made the perennial suit pop.

His slick tailored suits and jackets were offset by vibrant shirts that took traditionally colourful East African prints to a new level.

‘My aim is to promote and tell the African story that I see in art through fashion and cultural exchange,” he says.

Born in Accra, he heads up a men’s fashion line and an African print design and production house.

His label is known for its functional colourful designs and bespoke products that mix African prints and western materials.

He has a degree in industrial art and describes himself as a creative entrepreneur, stylist and African textiles activist. Although he has worked for major manufacturers in Ghana, he is currently a freelance African print designer working with both local and international print companies.

As with men’s fashion in general, the DFF 2016 showing was not just about formal attire. Street smarts were also there from the likes of Afro Amano and Vanessa Pillay’s Hombre who was, surprisingly, the only designer to delve into perennial denim.

These are probably particularly applicable to Durban where the hot summers and mild winters persuade even the most dapper executives to ditch the suit in favour of more trending casual wear.

All in all, it seems that no matter what brand of smart makes its way into the board room or the office these days, men are spending as much on fashion and accessories as their women – especially in Africa.  

Young executives are cutting a path through SA’s high streets where image is king. As a result, the local fashion sector is following its international counterparts with more and more high end men’s wear boutiques popping up.

According to Euromonitor International, men’s fashion is a hot ticket and men’s designer apparel is expected to reach nearly $33 billion in 2020.

A special mean’s wear fashion week was introduced in New York for the first time a year ago – with others following in the world’s fashion capital’s since then.

eThekwini Business Support Program Manager, Sindi Shangase, was bang on the money when she added  a dedicated menswear fashion evening to the DFF a few years ago.