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Wednesday, 4 November 2015

GarconJon meets Fuaad Abdool: Johannesburg, South Africa: Model Off Duty

For the mostpart, the people of South Africa have a strong attachment and understanding of their cultural heritage. Most of the industry folk I met over fashion week also had a desire to move culture forward and one of these men with a clear vision was Fuaad. With a hugely varied background and wardrobe, we met at 44 Stanley Avenue in Braamfontein on a balmy Spring morning to discuss work, life and the city he's lived his whole life: Johannesburg.


Fuaad Abdool, Student, Model & Fashion Consultant

Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Johannesburg in the northern suburb of Sandton city and have lived there for 25 years. Joburg is diverse and it’s progressive. Reletive to other towns in South Africa, the people move quickly. If I set an objective today, it’ll be done by tomorrow. There’s a natural symbiosis among Joburgers to just get things going.

What’s your cultural background? Promindently Indian but it’s fused with French, Indonesian and Malaysian. There are pros and cons to this. In terms of modelling I have quite a unique look but it definitely gives me a feeling of being an outsider. I’m not really black, white...I’m my own thing. People often ask me “what are you?” and I respond saying “I’d love you to answer that, because I actually don’t know myself.” 

When you were a wee boy, where did you see yourself as a man? My mum always said I’d either be a doctor or an engineer. I was always really creative with lego where I constantly built models. When I got a bit older I did decide to become an engineer without really knowing what it means and suddenly out of no-where this fashion thing hit me. In high school, we were given awful jackets to wear for graduation so I came up with a new design that could be worn instead. After some encouragment from friends I started making matric jackets for the whole school and then others in the area. It’s the same brand as the cardigan I’m wearing. That really got me into thinking about design and clothing more than ever before. I went on to study engineering and while there I began modelling part-time which also added to my interest in fashion.

How would you describe yourself in one phrase? Hopeless romantic.

How has engineering influenced your life in the world of fashion? The project management side and communication for sure. To be able to analyse what people want and figure out how that aligns with something I can provide. To look at the objectives of the creative project and make sure it’s executed. I pick up on detail very quickly because in engineering you have to be very focused on the minute.  I see fashion in three layers: function, form, flair.

What’s did you enjoy most about SA Fashion Week? Simply that it helps to define new images of the local people. It’s all about selling a look that’s desirable but the nice thing about SAFW is the designers are taking elements from cities they live and places they’ve visited to create something that is unique to Joburg.

What’s do you love about working in South Africa? It’s an emerging country where people are very motivated to move forward. The only issue is the lack of funding. It frustrates me when the locals adopt American and European style as there's such a rich heritage here. In areas like Braamfontein there are real creative hubs focused on anything from fashion to bicycles. I hope to see that going forward. The area reminds me of Shoreditch.
You must know some excellent spots in the city. What is your favourite place to get the following:

Food? There are so many. I love the Fordsburg area with some amazing indian restaurants. You just have to head to Mint Road and you’ll find anything you need there.

Drink? For cocktails, head to the Sandton bars and hotels. If you want a something more hearty to 44 Stanley in Milpark and get some nice craft beers.

Store? Holmes Brothers is a great local brand from Durban. They maintain the Durban aesthetic, it’s not fake South African. There are a lot of symbols from the harbour which really defines that city. They also use a lot of lingo from the area which is only used among the Durbanites.

Designer? I love Ole Ledimo at South Africa Fashion Week. Also last season Naked Ape showed who are fantastic.

Art Gallery? The Circa Art Gallery in Rosebank. It’s an elipical building which showcases modern art. I love it there.

One place to visit? Head to the top of The Carlton Centre to get the best view of the city.

What’s on the horizon for you? I’m finishing up my university studies in mechanical engineering and recently I’ve been meeting with designers and stylists to see where I fit in. My start as a model was walking runway and just being in this sphere feels compforable to me so I’d like to pursue that more. I’d like to be an indivudual who helps to optimise fashion businesses. A lot of people are just creating for no reason – I want to look at creating with a purpose.

Leave us with some words of wisdom. My late father taught me fearlessness. Back in the 80s he smuggled himself across the border to East Germany to get lights for a business he’d started. There are three sayings I love. If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never get it. If you don’t ask, the answer will always be no. If you don’t move towards your dreams, you’ll always remain in the same place.

Photographers Assistant: Alastair Nicol
Production: Leila Mountford
Transport: JMT Tours   

Look 1: Suit by Tiger of Sweden
Look 2: Cardigan by Fuaad, Shorts by Merwe Mode, Socks by Snipes
Look 3: Vintage Tshirt, Jeans by Tiger of Sweden, Boots by The Kooples