A sense of Cape Town in Tuscany at Chulapp, a beautifully quirky label that celebrates African culture with effervescence, joy and humor, which staged a mini defilé at Pitti this season.
A pirate-inspired collection from Chu Suwannapha, a Thai designer who fell so much in love with Africa he moved to Cape Town to build his brand. “I’ve always been fascinated by African culture. And after I travelled to South Africa, I realized I wanted to live there,” says Chu.
Suwannapha calls Cape Town an “ocean city, with great seas and great mountains,” and develops all his own prints – by hand and on computer – capturing the port’s sense of optimism with some very zany designs.
Pale blue pants on which march life-sized red lobsters; while Portuguese galleons are tossed in a storm on cotton redingotes.
Sharks, pirate corsairs, anchors, bathing beauties, prickly roses and bubbles are jumbled up on three button jackets. Suwannapha also developed some great knits – V-necks with octopi fighting or huge chunky sailing ropes.
A lady’s handbag is cut in the shape of a striped fish. Beach sandals are trimmed with African beads. A belt buckle is composed of gangling octopus.
Staged as a mock magazine shoot inside the Sala delle Nazioni, Chulapp’s show only featured five models. But it summed up a key reason one comes to Pitti – the fair’s special ability to discover fresh, raw talent.
The set was also a mock-up of a Cape Town township home composed of corrugated iron, plywood and tin walls. Glass jars were crammed with recovered buttons, old suitcases were strewn around. While his whole cast wore wacky pirate’s tricorns created with sewn together table mats, medals and white feathers. Shack chic in the world’s greatest fashion salon.
“I love South Africans. They are very nice people, very straight forward, and quite loud in a very positive way,” explained the designer, who previously lived in Paris for 10 years.
This marked the seventh collection from the charming Chu. Everything is made in Cape Town even the knitwear, using local yarn, and tailored clothes in sturdy cotton.
“I just want people to be happy when they wear my clothes,” said Chulapp’s creator.
“It’s been a very difficult collection to produce. Because we have all these power cuts in South Africa. Many days we don’t have any power for seven to nine hours,” he lamented, though without ever losing his trademark ebullience.
Chulaap is a direct to consume brand selling off his own website and Instagram account. But somehow, after this impressive Italian debut expect to see plenty more of Chulaap.
“Pitti has been really great. Visiting Florence is beautiful. Now, every will know how to reach me!” he concluded.
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