Weeks ago, Levi’s® South Africa launched their latest collaboration with the creative collective, The Sartists.
This is a Joburg-based collective which consists of Andile Buka, Kabelo Kungwane, Wanda Lephoto and Xzavier Zulu, who are all about the street culture, style and identity. Together, Levi’s® and The Sartists explored distinctively South African identities and culture and created 7 unique patches that can be used to customise any Levi’s® garment.
To get the story behind the collaboration and their progressive work, we had a twalk with The Sartists.
How do you define your style as The Sartists?
Xzavier: I’m inspired by a number of ideologies, sub-cultures and designers who in their own way contribute to my thinking of style in itself is and from there I’m a reflection of all those people, brands and movements.
Wanda: This is tough. It’s an ever-changing and ever-evolving idea and conversation I have with myself and the world, so I cannot pin-point it to one or several things because it is informed by everything.
Andile: I would like to keep it simple with a plain t-shirt and a good pair of jeans and jacket. That’s like my daily staple. Being an urban cyclist and working on sets, I need something that is easy to wear and that is a perfect fit.
How did the idea come about to put on this type of collabo with LEVI’S as a classic denim brand?
Between us all, we’ve collected well over 250+ Levi’s jeans of different sizes, different tabs, tabs that are being renewed and celebrated now such as the Orange tab, blue tab, black tab, white tab, etc. As well as Vintage LOT jeans, Big E’s, Twisted Engineered jeans, Levi’s Vintage Clothing (LVC), infant Levi’s jeans and jackets made in the 70’s, and so we’ve really lived in Levi’s.
From there, we’ve also looked to further customize some of our favorite Levi’s pieces i.e. Engineered jackets, 501 jeans, etc. to share our inspirations, stories and ideals through the garments themselves.
Living in Levi’s is something that can only resonate with you when it’s an ideology you share and understand. Beyond a campaign line, it’s who we are as individuals and a collective, and have been for some time now.
How were you involved in the creative process?
We’d worked alongside ANDPEOPLE – the agency for Levi’s, whereby we’d presented our ideas, scamps for various badges, overall creative direction, etc.
We’d then overlooked the illustration of the badges themselves and once received customized our garments, and shot our lookbook.
In your own words, what do the patches represent?
Xzavier: Truthfully, I’m struggling to choose between the “Africa Is The Future” and the “Dynamite Denim Dudes” patches, as they speak to two really important cultural references for me both locally and globally. We’d referenced local 1990s series, Dynamite Diepkloof Dudes, and vintage Angela Davis political buttons to design the “Dynamite Denim Dudes” patch with the “Africa Is The Future” patch speaking to the slow shift within pop culture and various industries around the very idea of Africa, people of color, representation – and at times misrepresentation, and the role one is to play to add to the notion that we are the future.
Wanda: “Super 16” taxi is my favourite, my dad used to be a taxi driver. The badge is informed by an understanding of where we come from, who we are and who we will continue to be when the camera’s and flash lights are turned off. It speaks to a certain people who understand the culture and are often overlooked because they aren’t in “aspirational” spaces that are informed by white media.
Andile: My favourite patch is “Africa is The Future”. It resonates with me deeply. I really feel there’s something in the air in terms of what’s happening with the student movements such as FMF, decolonization of education and cultural practices that brings everything in full circle, in terms of how the West has been taking from Africa, not only in fashion but also in resources.
What story are you trying to tell on this collaboration?
Identity, representation and story telling is incredibly important to who we are as a collective. We’ve always seen and acknowledged the exploitation of our history, cultures and traditions and this inspires our constant ideologies and thoughts that we want to represent our people and take our culture forward by addressing the very same things that rid us of our individuality.
The lookbook was inspired by black-excellence and how often brands, agencies and the world in general often neglect and choose to undervalue the contribution of black people, black artists and black culture to the ever-shifting global conversation on culture.
It was hugely inspired by the famous Spike Lee movie “School Daze” as well as famous 90’s love sitcom couples such as Martin & Gina (Martin), Urkle and Laura (Family Matters) as well as Jamie and Fancy (The Jamie Fox Show).
A story on love and young love was at the center of this conversation.
Does this mean we will you doing more work with LEVI’S in future?
We definitely look to do so.
We’re hoping it all comes together between all parties as we’ve been working on our 50S (Sartists) collection which is essentially our ongoing personal project whereby we reconstruct thrifted and donated denim into garments and accessories like our oversized 501 tote bag and pocket pouch, etc. It would be a dream come true to present it locally on a platform like Fashion Week or abroad on any of our travels.
It’s a labour of love with Xzavier learning as he goes to create patterns for each garment and accessory.