Skip to content

Pan-African designer Chu Suwannapha partners with French cognac LOUIS XIII on new campaign

Chu Suwannapha is the first Pan-African designer to partner with luxury French Cognac brand LOUIS XIII on its Believe in Time campaign.

Chu Suwannapha’s collaboration with the luxury Cognac brand follows Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and visual artist Solange Knowles’s. For her partnership with LOUIS XIII, Solange composed an original piece of music in collaboration with Chinese couture designer Guo Pei and French-Senegalese director Mati Diop, who won the Cannes Festival Grand Prix for the film Atlantics.

The partnership was recently announced at Liam Tomlin’s whiskey bar, The Bailey, where Chu showcased a handful of pieces from his past collections. Thailand-born Chu is a highly respected and stand-out fashion designer who’s a regular feature on South African Fashion Week runways and international fashion platforms. In the fashion industry, he’s affectionately known as ‘The Prince of Prints’ for his love of bold, flamboyant prints and textures.

Image: Supplied
Image: Supplied

I caught up with Chu shortly after the launch over lunch to talk about this exciting partnership and fashion in general. LOUIS XIII Cognac is renowned for its craftsmanship, quality and man-made creations. And, in an accelerating and frenetic era where everyone is trapped in scaling up, industrialising and mass producing, LOUIS XIII strongly believes in the opposite, quality over quantity, time over instant gratification and slow pace over precipitation.

“I guess you could say I’m the chosen one, and I’m very honoured to partner with a brand like LOUIS XIII ” says Chu. “The LOUIS XIII production process is about timing and meticulous blending, which compares to the system of how I work and put together my collections.

Image: Supplied

My fashion label CHULAAP blends Thai and African culture, looking at the past, present and future – almost like the different flavours of LOUIS XIII.

“My designs are timeless classics, bold and viewed as avant-garde by some, which speaks to this timeless Cognac.”

Chu arrived in South Africa around 20 years ago and worked his way up from a fashion assistant to fashion editor for several magazines. What sparked his interest in fashion?

“I’d say it began when I was around four-to-six years old. The influence came from my mom and sister, who are very stylish. Back then, they dressed in ’60s- and ’70s-style clothes. “I remember my mom had a big bob wig, which she’d wear to weddings or important events. She’d wear shift dresses, short, cropped, boxy jackets, court shoes, and carry a beaded sling bag. That was her uniform. “My sister always wore blue eyeshadow, and she loves mini-skirts and shift dresses with flowers and embroidery. One afternoon, when I was home alone, I found one of my mom’s skirts and wore it. I thought it was too long for me, so I cut it above knee-length, and that’s when I started fashion designing. When I was about 18, at university, I met a group of friends who were in fashion, and it took me back to that period when I was a child and I started thinking about the industry again. “I saw an advertisement from a small fashion boutique in Bangkok looking for a designer. During my interview, I told them I’d like to be a designer.

I didn’t even know how to draw, but they hired me. I attended university in the afternoon while working in the evenings.” Some of his biggest and most important takeaways from working in the competitive fashion industry include being true to yourself, especially in our current social media-driven world. If you want a decent career and for people to believe and trust you, your personality, behaviour and work is very important.

What’s the future of fashion? “Online shopping will continue growing, especially now it’s more expensive to maintain brick-and-mortar stores. “People are also buying clothing based on what’s close to their hearts. If they love streetwear, they’ll stick to wearing that.

“Customers are also sticking to designers they trust. Mine have believed in me from day one. So, don’t try to be someone else and focus on building a loyal customer base.

“I also believe in the young generation. They might not always be able to afford your pieces now, but they’re probably saying to themselves, I’ll buy your product in three or five years’ time. That’s what I did when I was young.”

This article was originally published in the October issue of Glamour SA, now available in-stores nationwide, or grab your digital copy, here.

Share this article: