Why South African style is about the people, not the threads

 
 
 

Travys Owen is breathing new life into tired representations of South Africa. With vivid colour and striking graphic imagery, the photographer and film director is showing our country for what it is – a bold, vibrant place housing a fantastic range of cultures and traditions, where creatives aren’t afraid to push boundaries, and the diversity of our environment never fails to awe. “I love our landscape, it’s a big part of my work,” Owen says. “I love how colourful it is. You can go anywhere in the world and it won’t look the way it looks here.”

While studying design and illustration at PE Technikon, Owen grew frustrated with the time he had to spend sitting behind a computer while working. He realised that his interests lay elsewhere. “I love photography because it’s so immediate,” he says. While he found his talent in stills, film direction has always been his end goal; the fashion industry was the easiest way to get a leg in. Though Owen admits that he didn’t know much about fashion initially, he could capture the feel of a designer while maintaining the bright, highly conceptual look synonymous with his work. “It becomes more about the people instead of the fashion element,” he says.

Owen often works closely with designers like Gabrielle Kannemeyer and Lukhanyo Mdingi, and his images have graced the covers of numerous international magazines. “Work with and be around people you love, that’s the most important thing to me,” he says. He has collaborated with PH Fat and directed music videos for Spoek Mathambo, Beatenberg and Petite Noir. Because so many representations of Africa and its people in the media have fetishised African bodies and cultures, Owen is mindful not to make the same mistake. “South Africa is on an international stage so it’s super important to remain true to our identity and really show it off to the world,” Owen says. His craft does just that.