Words: Aluwani Ratshiungo
Jefferson Osei, Hussein Suleiman and Abderrahmane Trabsini who founded the African-inspired streetwear brand Daily Paper, are currently in South Africa for the Joburg Sneaker Exchange. The Amsterdam-based collective recently collaborated with PUMA and we had a chat with them about the collaboration, streetwear, and cultural appropriation.
How did the collaboration come about?
Jefferson Osei: Through our travelling across Europe. If you follow us on Instagram you can see that we travel a lot for Fashion Weeks. This is where we met Yassine Saidi. He’s in charge of PUMA Select which is basically the house of all PUMA collaborations. All the items you see here [PUMA Select Braamfontein] are being processed through his confirmation. We got introduced by a mutual friend, we had dinner with him and then a few weeks later he gave us a call like “Hey, would you like to collaborate with PUMA?” If you look at both the brands I don’t think I need to explain the fit.
What was the creative process in terms of designing the collection?
Jefferson: After the call we were invited to come to Germany, to the global headquarters where we had to pitch a concept and the concept we created was based on Masaai cricket. If you look at cricket, it’s a very dull sport in general but the clothing that the people wear, you can wear it on several occasions. You can wear it casually, to the office, clubbing and also playing cricket. But if you look at a cricket outfit from, let’s say, back in the ‘60s to now, there hasn’t been any development. But if you look at a football or basketball jersey from the ‘60s to now you can see that it has been progressed. So we were like, we want to make cricket cool again. So we looked at the sport itself and checked out where people play it and it is being played in all the commonwealth countries. For example, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Pakistan but also in Kenya. When we looked into that we stumbled upon the Masaai people. If you look at how they play cricket, they play it in their traditional clothing, they don’t wear a chino or polo. They wear their traditional clothing with colourful beads and that was basically the mood and inspiration for the whole collection.
You take your inspiration from African heritage and your collaboration with PUMA in particular was inspired by Masaai cricketers. How do you navigate the thin line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation when you borrow from other cultures?
Hussein Suleiman: We don’t take everything literally like, ‘this is what the Masaai wear and now we’re gonna put our logo on top of it, make it our own and make profit.’ We look at certain philosophies. I know the discussion about cultural appropriation is a very popular discussion at this moment. Some people might feel offended that we’re trying to bring some of their culture to the forefront. I don’t see any harm from any people from the African continent trying to shine a different light on African cultures. Growing up we were taught that the whole world is beautiful except for Africa. For us to be in a position where people want to listen to us and they want to listen to our stories and the way we move and dress; and if we can shine some light on African cultures, why not? I see some clothing apparel companies that are just looking at a culture, taking it for a season and then just going back to regular programming and only booking white models…
Abderrahmane Trabsini: …And not even crediting. When we get inspiration from a certain tribe, we always educate people and tell them where the inspiration comes from. For example I’m wearing a fishing vest that’s inspired by a tribe in the Okavango Delta. We got inspired by their fishing lifestyle. We get inspired and make it our own. Even the prints, we analyse a print and make our own version. We credit where we got our inspiration from to every detail, even the colourways.
Hussein: I was reading this article two days ago about how the Ethiopian diaspora was very mad about Alexander McQueen using a jacket which is like an exact copy of something that Emperor Haile Selassie was wearing. Everybody was going mad because first of all they use it, second of all they don’t credit and third of all the models that were wearing it were not representative of African descent. This is where it gets tricky for me: they get inspired, they use it, they bring it to a white audience but then they exclude black people. That’s where I would call it appropriation.
Abderrahmane: Especially because that jacket could mean something deep but they don’t care, they just look at it from a fashion perspective. I do research before I make an interpretation of a print.
Hussein: That is definitely a topic which needs to be dealt with very carefully because not every culture is open to being widely distributed.
You’ve been in SA for a few days now, what are some differences and similarities in streetwear between SA and Amsterdam that you’ve picked up on?
Abderrahmane: The youth culture is very big here, it’s even at a younger age like you have kids from 12 that dress well and when you walk they analyse your outfit. I’m happy that the people from Sneaker Exchange created a platform for those kids to come and learn about new brands and get inspired.
Hussein: I was at the Sneaker Exchange and kids were wearing shoes that I don’t even have yet. They were already on that like, how fast did these shoes get here. They are very aware and informed. They know when Nike/PUMA is gonna drop and that’s very similar to where I’m from. The difference is that they mix it with a lot of their vintage, they mix it with a unique flavour.
Jefferson: In Europe there’s a very generic style. Here, it’s very unique. Like Hussein already mentioned, everybody has their own flavour. They put effort in every detail of their outfit.
How do you feel about High End brands jumping onto streetwear and trying to capitalise from it now that it’s booming?
Hussein: Streetwear is like the most important influence that is going on in fashion right now even though people did not want it to happen and eventually all the big fashion houses had to succumb to that. The biggest influences in fashion nowadays are not your Hollywood actors. The biggest influences are the Asap Rockys and Kanye Wests of the world and they all have their roots in Hip Hop and streetwear culture. For the big fashion houses to jump onto streetwear, it’s their way of staying alive.
What else can we look forward to from the Daily Paper?