I do love a good export story. In the second part of ‘Know Your Designer‘ I bring to you Albertus Swanepoel. Born and raised in Pretoria, he began his career as a fine arts graduate turned fashion designer in South Africa before moving to the United States in 1989 with his then wife, Shaneen Huxham. For a time he constructed hats for Broadway shows like Mama Mia! and Shrek, and designed accessories, which lead him to supply Bergdorf Goodman with hand-embellished gloves as a matter of survival after a sportswear company let him go. That’s when he started work on a more summer-friendly means of income, hats, and he hasn’t looked back since.


From his 2009 interview in W magazine, Swanepoel had this to say of his upbringing:

“I was very shielded,”” he says, fidgeting with a clasp on his watch. He didn’t set eyes on a fashion magazine until he was 17, and while he prefers to keep the details of his upbringing off the record, it suffices to say his youth was bound by many rules. “I think that’s why, really, I ended up in fashion,” he says. After majoring in fine arts (to the chagrin of his parents) at the local university, Swanepoel launched a successful ready-to-wear line, Quartus Manna, in Johannesburg. “I think that repression…gives you this added drive to create beautiful things,” he explains. “Everything else might be so miserable that it’s some kind of escape.”

Today Swanepoel is gaining mainstream success with men, appearing in men’s fashion magazines like GQ and Essential Homme and appearing on the heads of young style-influencers like Jaden Smith and Justin Bieber, particularly the Tahoma hat. Shop the Albert Swanepoel range at Barney’s here.


Photograph by Tony Floyd, via W. Jaden’s photograph from GQ, Justin’s photograph unknown.

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Who is Alexander McQueen?
Who are any of these designers and why are they important? In the first of Man of the Cloth’s latest series ‘Know Your Designer’, I’ll be working through the phone book to help you understand who a designer or brand is in summary. Think of it as your CliffsNotes for men’s fashion. Whether you’re looking to learn the basics of the designer you love or merely as a conversation starter, Know Your Designer will help.



Born in 1969, Lee McQueen was a British fashion designer and couturier who experienced success straight out of school. His career started in Savile Row, then on to theatrical costume design for Angels and Bermans. After getting his master’s degree from  Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, his work got noticed (and purchased entirely) by Isbella Blow, who convinced him of a name change. In ’96 he was appointed head designer of Givenchy while continuing with his own label on a more scandalous level. His contract ended in 2001 which was when McQueen really started to thrive creatively.

In 2004 he started his menswear label. Before committing suicide after his mother’s death in 2010 he earned the British Fashion Council’s British Designer of the Year award four times, and was named Commander of the Order of the British Empire. After his death his long-time assistant Sarah Burton took on the role of Creative Director for the brand.



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