Vogues in fashion are at an all-time creative high with designers, influencers and street style introducing what could possibly be termed as the decades’ most atypical pieces. Amidst all the creative mayhem, however, is a young man who has dedicated his entire closet to vintage. Chawa Mswayo is a 25 year old Business Management and Entrepreneurship graduate. In this interview with Thoko Kadewere, he speaks more about his passion for fashion which started in 2015, and led him to pioneer a movement in its honor.
How do you, in a nutshell, explain what Dandies Club is about?
Dandies Club is mainly about men that are classified to be stylish in their way of dressing and how they carry themselves. They are defined with decent and with some touch of vintage style to it.
When did the Dandies Club movement start and what inspired its formation?
It started last year in November. What inspired the formation of the movement was the passion to impact young men’s lives with a good and stylish way to dressing; to groom young men into being confident in the way they carry themselves through dressing.
What goals is Dandies Club aiming to achieve?
We are aiming at being not only fashion enthusiasts but to have a society of gentlemen. To us it’s a club that is filled with young people from different colleges and college alumni. We do not only discuss issues to do with dressing only but how we can develop our lives. In the club we have different professionals – accountants, entrepreneurs, artists.
Vintage is one of the vogue styles at the moment. What makes your dressing different from everyone else’s?
What makes us different is the passion and how extreme we are. We do not rock vintage as a costume or a one day off thing. It’s in our blood. You can see that most of these people rocking vintage do it once in a while and the rest of the moments it’s modern casual. You meet us in town or any occasion you won’t find us in sneakers, apart from the gym that is. To us vintage is life. That’s what defines us.
Are there any specific people that have inspired you to brand yourself by and through your dressing?
Yeah quite a lot. But mainly I’m always inspired by my grandfather who used to rock the way my boys and I do. Come to current times I’m inspired by people like Jidenna from Nigeria/US. I’m also inspired by a group of dandies from Portugal with similar goals as we have here.
“Dressing up” is something that has mainly been classified as a feminine thing. How do you, as a male fashionista, feel about such classifications? How have you handled criticism thrown your way (if any)?
You are quite right. I’ve experienced that notion from people. But I always believe dressing up is an art ought to be practiced by everyone regardless of their gender. I believe in presentation through dressing. Outlook matters and I believe everyone wants to look dressed up for the day despite who they are gender-wise or who they are as far as their financial status is concerned.
Is the Dandies Club all gender inclusive? Why/Why not?
Unfortunately being a dandy is a thing for men. It’s mainly for gentlemen in other ways it’s a gentleman’s club. But we’ve had females featured in our different projects dressed up in vintage.
How many people has the Dandies Club movement attracted so far?
So far we have 15 bona fide members with more others interested to join in.
What response has your dressing generated from the general public?
So far the response has been great and overwhelming so much that we’ve managed to get public attention with the way we dress. We’ve had prominent people wanting to know more about the way we dress.
People mainly get to see the members of the club through pictures. Do you have meetings or interactions outside of the days you have photoshoots?
We have a group. We often make up days for meetings when there’s a need to do so, but it’s mostly when we have a street photography session.
A lot of people are vintage lovers. Why should joining a club be one of the ways they choose to show their love for vintage? What’s special about joining a club as opposed to expressing their love for vintage as individuals?
Yes. But the other aim of this club is for young men to have a sense of belonging. You might be a vintage lover but I would recommend that you at times need to know more from others and learn from them hence the movement with similar goals.
A lot of people have used fashion to build commercially viable entities. Have any strategies been put in place to commercialize it or to ensure its longevity?
Yes. Plans are there to have our own vintage cloth making company where we would be able to make clothes on our own and sell them. A lot of people have been questioning where we get the clothes and all so we think there’s that need which we can tap into and monetize it.
Would you say Dandies Club has had any effects (positive or negative) on the livelihood of Malawian youth?
The positive impact is there. We are talking of breeding gentlemen not only in the way they dress but how they present themselves. It starts with how you dress. So the impact is there. We don’t encourage the culture of sagging a pair of trousers. I am not condemning that culture – we just feel like it’s quite not acceptable by the society and it gives a wrong picture to the public.
As leader of the Dandies Club movement, what would you say to a young fashionista that would change their perception of fashion from an expression of art in form of clothing to a tool that shapes and influences culture?
As a leader of this movement and as a fashionista I would tell my fellow young lads out there that dressing up is more than fashion. It is an art on its own. A style, something which would make one stand out and build confidence on.
Who can join Dandies Club, and how do they do it?
Anyone aspiring to be a gentleman with style and those willing to impact others with that style are welcome to join. We have our personal blogs on social media that they can use to communicate with us. I, for one, can be found on Instagram and Facebook under the name Chawa Mswayo.