We got to speak Hector Bartlett about Umuntu Wabantu. The project is his brainchild and has become infused into his goals for 2015.
DYD: What does Umutu Wabantu mean to you and how can you apply to fashion in South Africa?
Hector Bartlett: Umuntu Wabantu can be directly translated to ‘a man of the people’. To me, that is the role that fashion plays in many South African lives. It acts as an indication of our emotions, moral stance, and opinion and allows for complete expression of ourselves. So to me, it acts as a visual represenatation of how far and where South African fashion is coming and going. It acts as a catalogue for South Africans and the world to see what we are doing, how we are doing it and why we are doing it. We need to encourage South Africans to buy South African clothing, we need to show South Africans the world, through a South African lens, and we need to project the faces of South African fashion to the world.
DYD: Hector, how would you describe yourself in the form of 7 daily essentials?
Hector Bartlett: Malaysian Gunpowder, green tea, earphones, books, Puma sneakers, vintage leather briefcase and personal space.
DYD: Of the images and their stories, what do they mean to you?
Hector Bartlett: As yet, only two images have been officially released. The first images, modelled by myself and Tzvi Karp, with clothing by Roman Handt and photographed by Jeffrey Rikhotso. The images speak of an out of this world experience. They are something completely conceptual and somewhat ‘Martian’. The images try to convey feelings of otherworldliness, the emotion you feel when removed from your usual close. It speaks of doing what you do, through expression and in a way that encourages one to show their opinion or opinions to others.
The second images are far more urbanized, taken by Tebello Malaza, modelled by Teekay Mahapa and myself, with clothing by Floyd Mthembu. The image tassles with the colours of the Johannesburg city artscape, a city of colour shown through the use of neutral tones. These images take a far more serious approach as they show the more practical, modern South African, those who resonate with simplicity. The images use perspective to show how the textiles and fabrics we use are a product of our surroundings and also a reflection of our environment.
DYD: If you could be located anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?
Hector Bartlett: If I had to leave this country, I would live in Ghana. I have always been a person who idolizes Africa. I would never leave as this is my true home, but why Ghana? I would choose Ghana because of the people. Being in Ghana, I loved interacting with the Ghanaian people. I am also inspired by many of the lines and symmetry seen in traditional West African clothing. Although an off the ball decision, I wouldn’t mind calling Ghana home.
DYD: How does the entire project pave way to illustrating the growth of South African fashion?
Hector Bartlett: The project attempts to face fashion, it attempts to put all South Africans on the same platform. The project is one which tries to encompass all South Africans, from the ground up. Thus, the inclusion of very well known faces through to those unknown is very important as they all have different stories to tell. So, it attempts to show a fuller picture of South African fashion, done by South Africans, in South Africa. Hence, the project is about exposing people to different kinds of people. As a fashion culture, we need to interact and help each other grow to the heights we have dreamed of, so the project is trying to kickstart that process.
DYD: Who are the photographers that were involved in the making and documenting of the project so far? (Personal blog links too) Once again, although many of the shoots are complete, I will speak of the two photographers work currently relased.
Hector Bartlett: The two photographers’ work that has been released so far is that of; Tebello Malaza and Jeffrey Rikhotso. These photographers are very different to each other, and that is why they both played pivotal roles in narrating the fashion story at hand.
– Tebelleo Malaza: Instagram & Tumblr.
– Jeffrey Rikhotso: Instagram & Tumblr.
DYD: What have you learned being involved in Umutu Wabantu, and how are you going to apply this new learned knowledge?
Hector Bartlett: I have learnt that workmanship is not about who is doing the work, but rather it’s about what work is being done. There is a general stigma that quality of work and fame go -hand-in-hand, however, those without fame can do great things, and surpass the height of the biggest within the industry. It took me a while to notice that strong enthusiasm can result in many great possibilities. I am young, I am someone who has a lot to learn from everyone around me, due to this I am able to represent everyone within my work.
I plan on furthering the ideas that I have by giving people the opportunity to work on a greater scale. People need to be given a chance, everyone has the ability to surprise you, and that is something I am trying to learn and apply in my daily life, let alone my professional career. I want to give more people the benefit of the doubt.
DYD: Do you have any dream collaborations?
Hector Bartlett: Wow, I have far too many, however, I think at the top of my list would be working with Loza Maleombho, Mathangi ‘M.I.A.’ Arulpragasam and Ellie Davies. Loza is a true inspiration through her conceptual brand. The amazing imagery seen through her Alien Edits series is just astonishing. M.I.A. is someone who intrigues me, so I would love to have a conversation with her. She is an anomaly to many people in this day and age. Ellie Davies is someone who inspires my work and my creative direction through her photography. Her imagery of forests, plants and botany is second to none in my eyes.
DYD: How did it feel working with brands of different calibres, from street wear through to high couture?
Hector Bartlett: This is something truly South African, the constant change from formal or couture wear, to casual wear and vice versa. So working with people of differing calibres, design styles and techniques is naturally challenging but it helps to forward my goals of displaying fashion in a truly South African way. The people I work with inspire me to do greater things and to try and push the boundaries of my own fashion, with the aid of their influence. I am humbled to be working with so many different, interesting, talented, and creative people. I appreciate just how much they assist me and drive me closer to my dream.