Born in South Africa, Trevor Stuurman has more than one string to his bow: he is a stylist, blogger and photographer. A well-known name in the South African fashion industry.
In times of fast fashion and a rapidly growing industry in the developing world, authentic style and fashion icons have become an endangered species. Trevor Stuurman preserves soul in African fashion and has become an unchallenged African fashion pioneer and unifier by depicting a unique African narrative in his work. On this rare occasion, he agreed to sit down with Hamaji Magazine’s contributor Dennis Molewa for an intimate interview.
Trevor Stuurman is in Berlin. Only for 24 hours though, flown in by Mont Blanc to attend an event to celebrate Mont Blanc’s new range of travel accessories at the legendary Berlin Metropol Theatre. Among the array of invited guests are international celebrities such as Adrian Brody, Poppy Delevingne and Toni Garrn.
I know Trevor from many years ago, when we were closer friends at the very beginning of his career. It is not easy to catch him these days. We recently reconnected during his trip to Cape Town and established we would both be in Berlin at the same time. I successfully convinced the super private celebrity to meet me for a rare one-on-one interview, a stroll through the famous museum island and of course a compulsory selfie in front of the Berlin wall.
Here we are, GQ’s proclaimed King of Creativity and my humble self, lying on the green grass inside the historical Tiergarten Park and the sun rays are shining through tree branches and leaves, while we look at the clouds ready to spill all the tea for you!
D.M: What is the last thing you have learned?
T.S: To never give up! No Matter what. Not even when you are just about to host your first solo exhibition at Hazard Gallery in Maboneng and your laptop with all the work on it gets stolen. I was determined not to quit, started all over again and managed to recreate all the material for my exhibition “HOME” on the 26th of August 2017. It was a huge success. The Himba women are a vanishing tribe and it was important to cast light on them – usually, if you post a picture on Instagram, it will be taken down because of their bare breast. It is through the documentary photographs taken in Swakopmund, Namibia that I attempted to interrogate ideas of home through exploration of cultures/traditions. Another example was that time I missed two flights, which can be a logistical nightmare. But one can’t take these things too seriously. I agree with Reinhold Niebuhr who said that we need to pursue enough serenity to accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can, and know the difference.
D.M: Is it better to be perfect and late or good and on time?
T.S: Since when is good, good enough?! With some rare exceptions, art is not saving anybody’s lives. Always give it your best. You got to finish your work without worrying too much about being late.
D.M: How does it feel to be constantly on the go, jet setting around the world, relentlessly in search for new inspiration?
T.S: It is all about attitude and determination. It is true that I am always on the move, but every trip allows me to move forward. Every single expedition helps me to understand myself better. On trips to London and New York, I particularly learn a lot from connecting with the local African diaspora. In this way, I find different kinds of Africa in other places.
Among my absolute favourite places currently are Nigeria and Kenya, where I feel almost at home. However, I must say that I love being in South Africa. There is no place like home and everything makes perfect sense there.
T.S: Learning to understand my own potential and most importantly learning how to stretch it. Period.
D.M: I know that you are a person who does not like to plan too much ahead and that travelling allows you to flow more fluidly. You have also never been a person to talk about unlaid eggs. But is there something you are currently planning in the near future or anything you work towards to and are willing to share with the world?
T.S: I really would love to start my own foundation. Coming from a disadvantaged background and being a self-made creative, who had to overcome innumerable structural, social and cultural barriers in our incredibly complex society, I identified a gap between young creatives in SA and the professional world. My intention is to build a bridge here.
D.M: You are a widely celebrated and awarded African fashion and street style photographer, multimedia artist and creative director, who treasures his independence. When did your career take on new heights?
T.S: The moment I stopped restricting myself to fashion norms and branched out as a photographer and artist who seeks to nurture an African narrative on a global scale, I landed commissioned work that would allow me to do what I always wanted, to expand naturally as an artist. It would go beyond the scope of this interview to list everything. But what really took my carrier to a new level was when I was commissioned to photograph people like Barrack Obama, Beyoncé or Naomi Campbell.
D.M: Is there anybody that you are currently looking up to, an idol perhaps?
T.S: When I meet Naomi in Nigeria for the first time and then later in New York, we developed a beautiful bond and friendship, whereby she assumes the role of a sister and mentor. Whenever we travel and are in close proximity, we make a plan to meet up. Naomi is powerful in every sense of the word and what intrigues me most about her is that she lives a truly full and fulfilling life. She has been able to be every type of woman at every stage of her life.