In the context of local streetwear, Youth95 is somewhat of an anomaly. With the rise of the local fashion celeb, having ‘brand owner’, ‘designer’ or ‘creative director’ in one’s insta bio became all the more popular. If used correctly, this became a viable way of gaining attention or recognition from peers, as well as a younger gen of would-be clothes kops looking for something close to home; a tangible entry point into a magical world.
No disrespect to those who have managed to create something special through an identity they initially projected through social media. Definitely not. It’s just to say that very many of those who make the initial step do very little to build on it. This prediction without actualization is 100% not the case with Reagan Paulsen and Seraaj Semaar, both 21, whose Insta bios read ‘Co-owner of Youth95.21.Student’ and ‘Co-owner of Youth95’ respectively. Having started Youth95 in 2014 on the tail end of the initial boom that came with the resurgence of streetwear on an international level, the pair have done what many of their contemporaries have failed to do. That is working hard enough at a high enough standard to exist for long enough for their story to unfold, for their idea to form into a body of work; the only thing that truly qualifies one’s claim to own a ‘brand’.
Having previously released small, well received t-shirt capsules since their inception, including collaborations with local entities such as Basic, the boys have jumped into technical wear. Having produced a collection that included various incarnations of the classic cuffed sweat pant in early 2016, Youth95’s latest offering sees their first two piece tracksuit hit the market. The pair were inspired by the ideas they encountered that surrounded tracksuits as they grew up. Although worn as something of a uniform, the tracksuit was never considered something you would wear when trying to look your best. Inspired by the subversion of the common tracksuit currently happening through grime and the rise of the road man, the two set out to add their voice to the story. They have created a non-seasonal uniform constructed out of lightweight waterproof material and fitted with breathable mesh lining to keep you cool in the warmer days and cozy during colder months. The centre piece of their collection is their luxury tracksuit, a nod to brands like Juicy and Sean John who ensured the ‘tacky’ garment was raised to near couture levels, their answer to the luxury sweat suit is constructed out of towling.
The new collection, set to drop at the end of January, is presented in an amazing lookbook shot by photographer Luke Maritz, who has himself staked a claim for a portion of the local streetwear pie through his utility brand NOT SEEN. The lookbook was also styled by Reagan and Seraaj. The images contrast the sleek simplicity of the Youth95 Track Suits with the industrial feel of one of Cape Town’s many fringe areas. The contrast tells a story of evolution in that both the tracksuit and the raw urban texture would once have been labelled ugly, but by contemporary standards have come to represent a raw beauty that is dominating current streetwear culture, both locally and internationally. Couple that with Nikey bubbles and the car motif and we see a snapshot that represents the various visual influences that would have sprinkled themselves throughout the designers’ consciousness, growing up in Cape Town. That moment, much like the moment Cape Town Streetwear is currently experiencing, will live long in many of our memories, so long as passionate young people continue the push to document our story so as to crystallise our moment.