Fashion

interview: meet namibian designer and stylist “loux the vintage guru”

April 14, 2014

I first heard of Lourens Gebhardt, aka “Loux the Vintage Guru,” from a friend who had sent me a link to his blog. I have long been interested in contemporary African fashion, but remain mostly ignorant of Africa’s vintage fashion and street style scenes. Going through Loux’s Tumblr was like a crash course in Namibian vintage menswear, and I was amazed by the attention to detail and care that Gebhardt puts into styling each post, and tailoring each garment so that every piece looks amazing on the designer and his models. Luckily for me, not only is Gebhardt an incredible emerging design and styling talent, but also extremely generous with his time. So despite his extraordinarily hectic schedule, Gebhardt agreed to an interview with me to discuss his blog and design aspirations.

By Adwoa Afful, AFROPUNK Contributor *

When did you first become interested in vintage and why did you decide to start a blog?

Lourens Gebhardt: It started 3 years ago. Suffice to say that I grew up wearing suits, my parents always dressed my brothers and I in suits. I decided to open a blog, to share my fashion style with the rest of the world. I was advised by people on the street to do so, because they felt my style is very unique.

How do you usually come up with a look for a blog post? For instance, how do you go about deciding which pieces will be featured and how you will style them?

LG: Well I do not decide on the looks, I dress unique every day, what I decide is if the picture quality is good [enough] to be posted on the blog. I am looking stylish every day, to me looking stylish and dandy is respectful.

You have said that in Namibia vintage is not generally embraced. Why do you think that is and how do you think blogs like yours and other social media may help encourage Namibians to embrace vintage fashion?

LG: I think [it] is because they do not want to wear second hand clothes, they want to wear fresh new clothes from the shops. With my blog, I am trying to encourage them [to shop vintage]. Vintage clothes has a history behind it, [and are from a] legendary era that has been left behind by our ancestors, [I] also [want] to let them know that vintage clothes are cheap and affordable. Why should they go spend hard earned cash on expensive brands while one can look smart and unique in vintage clothing? This is what I am trying to portray.

You have mentioned in other interviews that you are especially attracted to pieces from the 1960s. What is about the clothes from that era that you find especially attractive and how do you make pieces from that decade look modern?

LG: Have you ever walked into a party and realised you were wearing the same outfit [as] another person? I totally cringe at the thought of this common social misfortune. To me with vintage clothes from the 1960s I am spared these embarrassing moments because vintage is unique and one of a kind. When I wear a vintage suit I am wearing a rare piece of clothing that very well might be the only one of its kind left anywhere. I modernise them by adding few touches either in changing the buttons or altering them to fit a modern look. We live in a society of mass produced goods, “fashions” are churned out of clothing mills. The factories [that] make most [of our] garments, [do so] in the shortest amount of time possible, all with inhuman working conditions. Quantity over quality is the name of the game. It’s like fast food fashion. This is just not the case with vintage. So I modernise my clothing with expertise, including details, buttons and flourishes you won’t find in today’s garments.

Currently, you are collaborating with the South African design collective Khumbula on a new street style blog. How did that collaboration come about and in what ways is that blog different from your own?

LG: Khumbula and I share the same street style and fashion sense. We both are stylists and designers. They invited me to work with them with the aim of inspiring other designers on the African continent that we can work together in unity. Together we are called Love is African. The Khumbula blog and my blog has no differences it is the same, they both have the aim of inspiring the vintage legendary looks.

You are also a designer and tailor. Did you always know that you wanted to work in fashion?  If not, what put you on this career path?

LG: I am a designer and an emerging tailor. I work with professional tailors and I learn a lot from them. Yes I grew up loving fashion and always wanted to work in the fashion world. At first I had to make my parents happy in studying what they wanted me to, a qualification in accounting. So after that I had to get back to business, do what the other half of my heart liked doing, designing. 

You describe your style as “sophisticated punk.” Can you please explain what you mean by that and how that concept influences your approach to design?

LG: Sophisticated-punk is merely a mixture of vintage and modern. This style gives me a character and a story. It’s a unique style that tries to inspire both the rich and the poor. It makes me look classic, classics never goes out of style. When I look at the world of fashion, we always see echoes of the past and plenty of those echoes are not subtle. Take a look at almost any runway and you’ll see a show filled with fashions that call back the styles form [an] earlier era. This whole concept influences my designs especially when I design men suits, the vintage blazers always have huge peak lapels, that’s how I design my blazers as well.

As a designer what is your design process like?  Are there any similarities between how you style a photo shoot for your blog and creating a collection or a garment?

LG: My design process is simple, I imagine a clothing look wherever I am, e.g. when shopping, driving etc., then I get home, I sketch them and get them produced. First, I decide on the type of location for a shoot, the type of location simplifies the type of garment to be worn. It’s important for a stylist to ensure that the garments the models are wearing are captured at the right location with the aim of telling a story.

Your blog features a lot of great vintage menswear, but only a few women’s wear looks. Do you have any plans to feature more women’s wear in the near future?

LG: Certainly yes, it’s all a matter of time. Keep glued to my blog, you will see them.

Many of the suits featured on your blog belonged to your grandfather and father. How would you describe their style and how has their sense of style influenced yours and your approach to fashion design more generally?

LG: Both my late grandfather and father were people I call Namibian sapeurs, similar to the sapeurs of the Congo. They lived as sartorialists, to them it’s not the cost of the suit that counts, but the worth of the man inside it. Their style was true gentleman and dandy. They made me discover my personality by reaching into the depths of my past for the rich cultural heritage left by them. They increased my fashion sense in such a way that I can not only dress garments made by people but garments made by myself.

Many of the vintage pieces featured on blog were made in Africa.  Was that a conscious decision, and if so, why is it important for you to feature vintage pieces that were made in Africa?

LG: No it was not a conscious [decision]. To me vintage clothes made in Africa or abroad, e.g. the UK, have the same meaning. I love the feeling that vintage clothing has already lived a life. How many pieces of new clothing can you buy and expect them to keep their value, unless one is spending a small fortune on haute couture? To me I don’t decide where the vintage clothes are made or come from, my life [is] vintage and I dress vintage.

In much of sub-Sahara Africa, especially in countries like Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, the second-hand clothing industry is big business and it has been argued that the success of this industry has had a negative effect on African clothing manufacturers and designers. Has that been a problem in Namibia? If so, how do you, as an African designer and someone who loves vintage, work around that issue?

LG: The good thing about Namibia is that there is not such big business like that as in Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya. So to us a designers this side, it’s really not a challenge, people this side still love designer clothes. In Namibia, people are still learning the fashion of vintage clothing, perhaps that is something we are going to face in the future, but for me, I have a remedy to that, of which I cannot tell people – it’s my secret.

Your blog has garnered a lot of media attention over a very short period of time. Do you think the internet has helped emerging African designers like yourself get more attention from the international fashion press? How important is that kind of attention to young African designers and stylists like yourself?

LG: Certainly YES, without the internet it wouldn’t have been possible. My Tumblr has introduced me to a lot of fashion designers and stylists around the world and I truly appreciate that. I will thus continue keeping my blog busy, creative and inspiring. It’s is very important in a sense that I can learn more from other designers around the world, it is also important as it brings more encouragement and buzz to me to follow my dreams in the fashion world. I have received a lot of overwhelming comments and love from the people all over the world, and this has increased my way of being a designer – focused, ambitious, dreamer and dedication. Being a fashion designer, one needs the support and the love from the public, this enables you to see if they love you work or not. To me I was really humbled from the followers I have on Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr, it is very immense. Thus I thank you all.

Lastly, what advice would you give someone looking to incorporate vintage into their every day wear? How can they start?

It’s very easy – visit a local market where they sell vintage clothes, or go into your parents’ closet, there should be garments you [can fit into], and start wearing them, you will see the response from the general public [will] be very positive. Even celebrities wear vintage and they are keen on wearing vintage, such as Kate Moss, Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie etc. You don’t have to be a star to wear vintage, but then again, many vintage pieces cost much less then [the clothes that celebrities wear] so you CAN dress like a star for cheap. This is how I look like every day. Dress cheap and look like a million bucks. So go out there and shop vintage, its quality and guaranteed to last. 

Loux The Vintage Guru’s Tumblr: http://louxthevintageguru.tumblr.com

Photo credits – Harness Hamese and Lukas Amakali

* Adwoa Afful is the founder of the blog The Street Idle. You can find more of her writing at http://thestreetidler.wordpress.com/ or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Street-Idle/324060290968693

Related