Trevor Stuurman: Africa’s sartorialist of the moment

We caught up with Trevor Stuurman, photographer and ‘Black is King’ stylist, on his role in Beyoncé’s latest film production.

Trevor Stuurman’s rise to stardom has been swift. Since being dubbed ELLE SA’s Style Reporter back in 2012 he has travelled the world for work and has scooped a glut of impressive awards like GQ Best Dressed Man 2015, Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africans 2015 and Forbes Africa 30 under 30 2019. So compelling are his images of African street style that his series from Afro Punk festival caught the attention of British Vogue in 2018. 

A few months back Trevor set Instagram alight by opening up about his involvement as a stylist for Beyoncé Knowles’ Black is King, a contemporary redux of The Lion King but with a powerful message for young Africans which launched on Disney + on 31 July. The film is layered with rich and elaborate costumes that build a new, multifaceted visual representation of Africans that excites and provokes. 

Trevor’s work conveys a potent mood, the dawning of a cultural revolution and an all-new African narrative that sheds the tired Western gaze. Prior to Black is King, he collaborated with brands like Adidas, Absolut Vodka, Mini, Standard Bank and Woolworths (as a consultant), shooting for New York Fashion Week, Afro Punk JHB and Arise Music Festival. We wish we had the sartorial skills of this cultural lamp bearer, but we’ll settle for creeping on his social media feed and taking notes.

You’re a multi-hyphenate (photographer-stylist-creative director-visual artist-fashion icon). What are some of the hyphens the public doesn’t know about?

I’m a good cook too. 

How do you define authentic style?

I’d say it’s a beautiful and sustainable way of life. 

What is it that makes African visual identity unique?

The layers of history and endless stories. I feel like it’s a gift that keeps on giving. As exploited as it is, it remains untapped.

Whose sartorial aesthetic are you crushing on these days?

Bob The Stylist’s.

How would you say African identity has been authentically portrayed in the new film Black is King?

The film tells an African story which was birthed and nurtured by various Africans from the continent and beyond. The film is glued together by many African talents through various sounds, costumes and locations.

What does your involvement in this film mean to you as a black South African?

It means that my gifts and skills are valued and globally recognized. It’s a reminder not to undervalue myself or discount my point of view.

Tell us about the little black book of contacts that Beyoncé created from the film… apart from you, who else is in it that you admire?

There are so many talents I admire, like Kwasi Fordjour who was key in unlocking this opportunity for me. Blitz, the visionary and leader that brought us all together. Zerina Akers, the creative genius that set the bar so high for all of us. Ib Kimara, Daniel Obasa, Shelly Masondo and so many creative giants that I’m now proud to call family. I think that’s the ultimate power in a creative space.

What was it really like capturing Naomi Campbell, Barack Obama and Beyoncé Knowles in front of your lens?

It’s always such an empowering experience. It just does something for your confidence and faith. It always makes me believe in more and strive for more. 

Creatively, who is shaking you to your core right now?

Daniel Obasa, Stephan Tayo and Ib Kimara.

Your Insta grid tells us you have the itchy feet of a Hollywood A-lister. What’s on your travel bucket list?

Morocco, Mali and India. 

If you were granted one superpower, what would it be?

To live forever. 

Your shoe game is en-pointe, what are the kicks you wear day in and day out and the shoes you’d grab from an imminent fire?

Nike x Off Whites, Puma x Central St Martins Rider and Dolce & Gabbana Super Chunky Sneakers.

In your daily work, how are you recreating an African narrative that avoids the stereotypes?

For me it’s about sharing my lived African experience, but also about elevating the culture and pushing it forward.

It’s late, you’re at a bar, you’ve just met a Russian tourist (a Joburg virgin) in town for just 24 hours. What stops would your tailor-made ‘This is the Real Jozi’ tour include?

First stop – Rosebank Art Mile, to visit a few galleries. Then lunch at Les Créatifs by Chef Wandile Mabaso with drinks after at Rockets. I’d follow with a quick stop in Kramerville for gift shopping: first stop Amatuli, then DNX Studio and Weylandts. I’d drive him through Soweto too for a kota. We’d end with live music at Marabi or Artivist in Braamfontein. |

Words: Mila Crewe-Brown
Production: J-P de la Chaumette
Images: Trevor Stuurman