Front row with Thapelo Molefe of Stylarjam Collective
The following guest on the FRM Blog, Thapelo Molefe, is a member of the creative group by the name of Stylarjam Collective. The collective is at the centre of Johannesburg’s brewing youth artistic scene – placing a large emphasis on the ways in which we, as young Africans, can meld our roots with the contemporary South Africa we find ourselves in – to tell unique stories.
What makes the South African identity, especially among its youth, so compelling is that although our stories may be universal in feeling – its creative manifestations will likely differ due to the specificities of our cultural & familial rearing. Each narrative is as vulnerable and sincere as the next. Making it no surprise that the Stylarjam Collective has previously worked with friends of the blog, Shwelabana, and many other up-and-coming South African brands and creatives.
“STYLARJAM means life, a generational movement
STYLARJAM is a Family to me a definition of brotherhood
STYLARJAM means love and light, STYLARJAM is the future”
Stylarjam Collective has multiple sites to which they export their creative outputs – from their personal accounts, second-hand clothing account and their main content page, under the name of @stylarjam.galleries on Instagram.
'Stylarjam Galleries' is a catalogue of their photographic narratives, infused with their eye for styling and paired with contextual blurbs by Stylarjam member, Lesego. The presentation resembles that of a magazine and what specifically captured my interest is the photographic style of certain images. Composition is often a driving factor for South African fashion photography & the composition of Stylarjam Collectives images, whether intentional or not, drives home their narrative explorations, drawing you into their universe.
Photography by @stylarjam_
Could you introduce yourself and describe what it is that you do?
TM: My name is Thapelo Molefe. I am a model and I would say aspiring photographer. I haven’t yet found my signature when it comes to that and I am still learning as I go. I also assist in styling and production. I am part of a collective called STYLARJAM from Dobsonville in Soweto.
Who makes up the Stylarjam collective and why did you guys choose to join forces?
TM: Stylarjam consists of Lesego Atong, Kabelo Selepe, Thabiso Seleka, Thapelo Fobo and myself (Thabelo Molefe). Each and everyone who's part of the collective made Stylarjam. I wouldn't say we joined forces – it automatically happened. That's how genuine and real it is.
Seeing that you and your Stylarjam brothers roots are based in the Kasi, does that influence your guys' approaches to fashion, photography and just creation in general – and if so how?
TM: Being born in the Kasi is a blessing. It really does influence us to see things differently and approach them in a different way. The surrounding makes us who we are – using the little that we have to make the most out of it. The people that surround us inspire us, whether that be in fashion, photography, and creating/narrating stories that no one but Stylarjam can tell to the world.
Photography by @thabiso.stylarjam
What roles does each person play? Like who styles, shoots and comes up with concepts for your shoots?
TM: Honestly, we basically are all-rounders. For example, if Lesego has an idea, the whole team bounces around more ideas in order to make it come to life – and this process goes for all of us. The breakdown (for the most part) looks like me doing the shooting, Thabiso modelling and shooting, Lesego writes the copy for the posts & Kabelo is our illustrator. We do everything as a collective, so that formation is not anything that is written in stone because collaboration is the key to how we work.
Can you talk more about the shirts Stylarjam just dropped? What was the idea behind the design?
TM: Our most recent endeavour has been our StylarJam box logo tees. The idea for the tees was inspired by the Supremenyc box logo. The design is one that although very simple, is still very effective and memorable. Our rendition of this design draws back to our identities & just how inspiration can be found from different parts of the creative world.
What does the future look like for Stylarjam?
TM: The future looks really promising as we are planning to push out clothing apparel vigorously. We'll be trying our utmost to be in campaign's as an entire collective. We are also looking forward to being open in collaborating with other artists/creatives and to just continue growing in terms of our creative abilities.
Globalisation & the internet's far-reaching hand has transformed the ways in which we understand borders. Boundaries in creativity have seemingly fallen away and we are now standing with fountains of knowledge and inspiration at our feet. An investigation of the creative intention behind Stylarjam stands as proof as to how malleable limitations can be, how we can challenge dress codes and what is deemed as appropriate dress.
And finally, how we can combine where we are with where we have been.
Photography by @stylarjam_