Many people are familiar with Albertus Swanepoel's rise to fashion fame in New York over the past two decades. He’s collaborated with several designers, including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Thakoon, Carolina Herrera, Peter Som, Erin Fetherston, Diane Von Furstenberg, Alexander Wang, Betsey Johnson, Nathan Jenden, Costello Tagliapietra, Tommy Hilfiger, and Suno. And he’s seen his hats sold at top retailers, such as Barney’s New York and Bergdorf Goodman.

What is less well-known is that along the way Swanepoel has also nurtured his love for the theatre, initially assisting Lynne Mackey, a theatrical milliner, constructing hats for Broadway shows, such as Kiss Me Kate and Mamma Mia, as well as several operas and ballets. Now, he’s turning his attention to the stage once more, creating sensational, handmade toppers for three upcoming Broadway productions.

Describe your personal style? Albertus Swanepoel: I honestly don’t think I have a personal style. If it’s clean and it fits, I wear it. I was far more concerned about my appearance when I was younger, but that’s no longer the case and I can’t afford the clothing I’d like to wear anyway. My only style fear these days is that I’ll look like mutton dressed as lamb!

Who are your favourite menswear designers? Comme des Garçons, Amen, Dries Van Noten, and Valentino. Men’s fashion is looking so much more resolved than women’s fashion right now. Would you agree? I don’t think any fashion, whether it’s men’s or women’s, is ever resolved. That’s why designers try new things every season. We certainly don’t need any more clothes and very little is really new.

What are menswear designers trying for 2017? There are a few trends for Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter: heritage (J Crew, Pendleton, Hermès always), punk (Alexander Wang, Rick Owens), decorated bomber jackets (Gucci. Alexander McQueen), the ’70s (Etro, Roberto Cavalli), and white-washed jeans.
Any advice on how to wear them? Each of these trends should be mixed into your wardrobe, not worn together at once or as
a whole look — but you all know that. 

What about hats? Any new styles for 2017? I don’t really follow trends when I create. I want my hats to be wearable for a long time. I am continually developing my own signature with small details, fabrications I am known for, or silhouettes. In general, brims are wider now and crowns higher, so the whole proportion is bigger.

What is out? The snappy fedora, thank God.

Which other accessories should every man wear? My personal belief is that, other than a hat, a man doesn’t need to wear too many accessories apart from a good watch and shoes. For watches, Hermès or vintage Cartier. I currently wear a Cartier Divan. My favourite shoe designers are Marsèll, Rick Owens, and Dries Van Noten. From retailers, I hear ties, scarves and cufflinks are no longer selling, due to dressing-down syndrome.

What’s happening with sneakers? Are tennis shoes still all the rage? I have zero idea about sneaker trends and would rather have spine surgery before wearing a Kanye West sneaker, but yes, sneakers, whether new, vintage, or
a designer collaboration, are still a huge trend.

Who are the accessory designers to watch? Spinelli Kilcollin (gender neutral, linked rings) and Porter.

Where are the best places to shop for men’s accessories? In New York, Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. In Paris, Colette and Rick Owens.

What are you working on right now? I’ve just finished making the hats for Hello, Dolly! on Broadway starring Bette Midler as Dolly. I worked with Santo Loquasto, the three-time Oscar-nominated and 18-time Tony nominated costume designer. He found me through his associate designer, who worked with me on The Front Page, where I did the hats. I executed Loquasto’s designs, making everything by hand. Each hat took about three days to make. I’m currently also doing the hats for the Bavarians for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and for the leads in A Doll’s House, part two, both also on Broadway. My theatrical millinery career seems to be having a quicker upward trajectory than my fashion one. The actors appreciate the craft, there is no ageism like in fashion, and they pay you a deposit, so it’s all win-win.

What is it like living in New York now that Donald Trump is US president? What can I say? It’s a horror show. Hopefully it won’t last... maybe he’ll implode or he’ll get impeached. I can’t even laugh about South Africa having President Jacob Zuma anymore... we are in the same boat over here.

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