The Refuse Interview

The iQhugwane Launch is an exclusive Pop-up that transcends boundaries, merging African aesthetics with the pulse of street culture. This vibrant gathering is designed to immerse you in a dynamic experience, spotlighting local clothing brands through the unique lens of Refuse Clothing Brand. We conducted an interivew with Malcom and Minenhle of Refuse and this is what they had to say about the iQhugwane collection. 

What is the significance of African cultural influence on your brand?

The brand is based around the concept of passing knowledge from one generation to the next. You can think of that as reusing, or in this case recycling, knowledge from the past in the current day. We would like to use our brand to educate people about our cultural heritage. We are very rich on culture and as such, our consumers are very culture-conscious. 

I find it interesting that you say that because my next question was leaning towards that. Can you tell us a bit more about what it means to be culture-conscious? 

A culture conscious person is a present day person who wants to be in touch with their cultural heritage and history. We create pieces that tell stories and we view the fabric we use as the canvas we use to communicate our message. 

Can you please tell me why you named the collection iQhugwane and how the meaning of it spills into your storytelling through fabric?

iQhugwane is the plural word for hut and those huts are the homes for the people of the Nguni clan. What we are saying is that Refuse is the iQhugwane for clothing a person in the new age Afro futuristic zeitgeist; Refuse is the home for the Afro-futuristic culture-conscious person. Refuse is the way we communicate this idea to the world, and most importantly, without forgetting home.

image by tatenda Chidora

What does the Face Fattoo T-shirt represent in the spectrum of afro-futurism and the story you are telling?

It all stems from how we grew up. We were never really taught to be proud of who we are in the spectrum of the world today. For example, we never really see African inspired tattoos so what we wanted to do with the Face Tattoo T-shirt was to create what we feel is an urban youth that is still in touch with their African culture. We imagined that character as the character that you see on the t-shirt. That t-shirt is for the African that exists in today’s global community. 

I feel as though from its genesis, the brand has transcended fashion. Was that something that you set out to achieve from the brands infancy or did the mission get picked up along the way? 

In all honesty, we found ourselves through the process of trial and error. When we started out, the brand was a two-piece brand but as we saw how the global eye was turning towards Africa with the likes of Thebe Magugu, we then started to look deeper within ourselves. We then looked around us and found that through African culture, we have an unlimited archive of inspiration. Initially, we wanted to name the Face Tattoo T-shirt inkosana which translates into ‘the first born child’ as a way of communicating that cultural archive into something we could translate into fabric.

image by tatenda Chidora

With that being said, I have to ask you to elaborate on the Protect Africa T-shirt? 

The piece came about as a result of a collaboration with KZN creatives. One such creative is Sanele Qwabe who creates toys. One of our other friends then made an illustration of the protect Africa toy and dressed it in Refuse. The toy illustration represents our upbringing in KZN and the lack of access to the modern cultural zeitgeist. The collaboration was our way of including KZN creatives in our mission.  

The final piece is the Cornrow T-shirt. Can you tell us about that? 

The meaning lies in the history of cornrows and how they came about. It was a way for Africans to communicate with each other in the days of slavery. Cornrow patterns were used as a way to communicate or visually represent a way in which to escape. So the meaning behind the cornrows is deeper than just a hairstyle. It was a subtle way to rebel without saying anything and it can still be considered a form of rebellion today. So we want to show gents in the townships and rural areas that it is cool or acceptable to have cornrows. In that sense, that is what Refuse is about; we refuse to conform.  

image by tatenda Chidora

My final question is if there was a one liner that you would want people to associate with the brand and the collection, what would it be? 

More than anything this collection is being true to yourself. There is a saying that my one friend has and it goes as follows, “On the other side of freedom is when you don’t free anything.”. I always encourage people to be fearless.

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