‘You might want to rethink the fashion angle. There’s not a whole lot happening up here’ or something along those lines was how I broke it to the editor. After four days of walking the streets of Luanda I hadn’t exactly seen any imminent catwalk sensations. ‘Knock-off Hip-Hop Athletique’ seemed to be the prevailing mode du jour. That and rags.

But then somebody put me on to Shunnoz and Tekasala – fashionistas I believe was the term he used to describe them. From a small back room nestled in the shadow of a forthcoming commercial development this designer duo and a third business partner operate a micro-emporium, creating and importing premium threads for the discerning Luandan egoist .

When I first meet Shunnoz he’s decked out in purple ankle-length polyester trousers, a skin-tight daffodil shirt and matching socks in very shiny, very pointy ostrich-skin shoes. Tekasala’s more street – an all-Andrew Mackenzie affair with custom ’Didas sneaks and Nokia bluetooth shades. Make no mistake – these guys are dapper. Dapper and fly.

Their office has orange walls, mostly obscured by rails of jackets spanning the entire colour spectrum and a massive bookshelf. Shunnoz is also an acclaimed writer and spoken-word artist and his bookshelf is a window to the depths of these intellectual pursuits: slavery, the occult, computer programming, African diaspora, Ancient Egyptians, Islam, Robert Sobukwe, tae kwon do, Encyclopaedia Britannica – interspersed on the shelves with limited-edition sneakers. A sombrero and a shocking pink racing bicycle add the final surreal touches.

Throughout the afternoon a number of city gentlemen wander in, try on imported Italian pin-striped suits or merino wool blazers from Scotland and then wander back out into the sweltering downtown dust bowl. You need to pass through a construction yard to find this place, which makes me speculate about the existence of an underground Luandan zoot-suit movement. A secret calling card, three knocks at the back door, jazz hands…

We talk about maybe doing a shoot with some of their clothes. I’ve enlisted some models from Vittoria, Luanda’s chain-smoking six-foot-two ‘Baroness of Vogue’, but Shunnoz pooh-poohs the notion with his booming bass-bin voice. ‘If we’re going to do this it has to be done our way’. They’d prefer to use morbidly ugly models, or themselves, or these amputees they enlisted for their last show at Luanda Fashion Week. Anything but these pouting mocha-skinned gods and goddesses I spent the whole day making walk in circles.

Talk about revolutionary – Luanda’s fashion industry has barely begun to toddle and these guys are ready to rip it a new arsehole. Amputees? Good grief.

In the end we settle on letting them parade their garments themselves, alongside two models I happen to be traveling with (that’s how I roll). A concept ossifies: an abandoned building at sunset – gritty and symbolic. Tekasala in a diaper, Shunnoz in rainbow checks. Perhaps even a landmine victim… no need for pants.

Later that evening I telegram the editor: I think we might have something STOP

By Dylan Culhane

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