By Your Luxury

From the age of 19, when he started working for Elle, visual artist and photographer Trevor Stuurman found ingenious ways to use the contemporary mediums of photography and the Instagram feed to create a fresh narrative about what Africa ‘looks like.’ A figment of his formative years, 2024 Trevor is the resulting figure of a childhood that was fertile with seeds for a remarkable life. His parents lived interesting lives long before lexicographers officially coined phrases such as the thankfully short-lived ‘Black diamonds’ (used to describe the new Black middle class), ‘tastemaker’, or ‘quiet luxury.’ His mother was a purveyor of beautiful objects, and often travelled from their home in Kimberley to Johannesburg and all over the continent to procure anything from tea sets to textiles for the influential elite of the Northern Cape. She also worked in the diamond industry together with Trevor’s father, who was an entrepreneur in the diamond space.


This kind of life is not to be automatically equated with wealth – I don’t even ask Trevor where his upbringing was on the wealth spectrum, because in the Black experience, it doesn’t matter. For many of us, luxury, good taste, and cultured living existed in spite of means and outside of commercialism and consumption. Trevor references his parents as his very first sources of inspiration for his appreciation of luxury, as well as his style. “My mother and father were the most stylish people in my life. I was able to take many notes from them. They were able to outdress any circumstance and were never limited by occupation or economic bracket. They always stepped out as the most elevated versions of themselves, and that made them superheroes to me.”



The topic of how childhood shapes the adult existence is not new, but it remains dynamic enough to take on new meaning for every generation. “I read an interesting quote the other day and I saved it on my phone,” he says while we’re seated in his office. “We look at the world once in childhood. The rest is memory,” he reads out loud, quoting the closing words of Nobel Prize laureate Louise Glück’s poem titled Nostos. “I think this resonates because it’s almost like you reincarnate your childhood in different ways, and you keep meeting it at different times, in different settings.” To demonstrate this, he shows me a certificate that reads, “St. Patrick’s College Kimberley awards Trevor Stuurman the Louis Klein Cup of initiative for starting the formidable and creative Papermaking Group.” When he describes his group’s exploits, which included collecting different magazines and books to create their own paper from scratch, and how this paper would then be exhibited like artworks for his peers, his inner child peeks out through his eyes. “My love of publishing, storytelling, creating, and exhibiting tracks back to that part of my childhood. It’s almost like that was the dress rehearsal and now’s the show. By the time I moved to Cape Town to study film, majoring in production and costume design, I was just refining what I’d always been doing, which is creating.”


It’s a casual day when we meet a day after the fashion-fuelled shoot for this article, but you wouldn’t know based on his look. Wearing a Daily Paper Apolo shirt, loose-fitting monogrammed Gucci pants, and limited-edition leopard-print Adidas x Wales Bonner Samba sneakers, it’s evident that even his most casual moments reflect considered coherence. It’s the exploration of this effortlessness that was stamped and sealed in childhood that takes up a sizeable portion of our conversation.


Inspired by our June issue focus on tasteful living expressed through a male perspective, the cover shoot visually references the Wes Anderson short film created for Montblanc’s 100-year celebration of its iconic writing instrument, the Meisterstück. Trevor, whose fashion is as much a hallmark of his brand as the images he produces, frequently collaborates with Montblanc, presenting a timely meeting of worlds that bring to life the theme of the moment: sartorialism and signature style.



The power of instantly recognisable individuality is not only explored in our conversation, it repeatedly played out during the photoshoot as well. “I’ve always thought of my signature style in three ways,” he says when it’s my turn to hold up my phone to land a point. I hold up the ‘man-in-the-hat’ silhouette I captured during the shoot to freeze the moment for myself more than anything, to which he responds, “Exactly, I always think of iconic people and what they look like when they are backlit. You can see Marilyn Monroe in silhouette. You know what Michael Jackson’s silhouette looks like, so I worked on my own silhouette as I think it’s important to know yourself even when the lights are off. Secondly, I used my signature look to create a character. I studied film, so I understand character development, and I understand that the industry requires you to be a character. I stay true to this character because it’s important for growth, but I also need to be able to detach from the character so I can remain true to myself. My signature look also makes me stand taller; I’m not the tallest person, but when I wear a hat, I feel taller, I look taller – I am taller in the moment.”


The pen has a long-standing public and personal relationship with the capturing of story and history. Trevor, who was recently hosted by Montblanc in Los Angeles to commemorate a century of Meisterstück, likens the power of a signature style to that of a pen and how it “opens up the opportunity to make things matter, giving a longer lifespan to any moment by making it official.” How might the impact of signature iconography like that of Montblanc’s instantly identifiable rounded star or his history- making imagery be distilled and personalised in the everyday man’s life? “I don’t think you have to be a public figure to be remembered. The fact that we wake up every day gives meaning to life. Think of it as a way to romanticise your life. For example, your children will always remember how you created morning rituals for them or hosted beautiful dinners. They will remember how the table was set, the music that played, how the house smelled – all of those are signature notes we end up embodying in adulthood,” he says, bringing our hour-long conversation to a poignant full stop.



On my way out of his office, I request a copy of Reflecting B(l)ack, the limited-edition Pan-African book Trevor recently published, featuring works from photographers depicting a ‘right now’ snapshot of contemporary Africa. Launched under The Manor, a platform he founded to create community for artists, the thought strikes me that the restoration of institutionalised knowledge and the active archiving and preservation of our existence will hopefully immortalise names like Trevor Stuurman for 100 years and beyond, just as the Meisterstück’s legacy has endured. As a parting shot, he signs my copy: “To Ntokozo, stay in your magic. Love Trevor Stuurman,” leaving me with a knowing feeling that the note and signature I watched him write in real-time will one day be an invaluable slice of history.

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