Scottish Leader Enlist Dennis Chuene of Vernac to Show A New Perspective Through Fashion

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“Where I grew up, we called it the mshana bag.  But across the continent of Africa, the bag has many names: the China bag, mme se keile, Ghana-must-go, khumbul’ekhaya.  Each of those names has a story behind it, but each story has one thing in common. They’re all stories about a struggle for a better life. Because this bag, much like most people living on this continent, hasn’t had things easy,” says South African designer, Dennis Chuene.  


Struggles birthed by sick systems like apartheid and colonialism. If we are going to go there let us be explicit about it.


Dennis Chuene is the creative genius behind the Vernac brand that has made, what is generally referred to in Africa as the “China bag”. Chuene was born in Limpopo and raised in Johannesburg. He established the stylish Vernac label in 2011, after graduating in fashion design from LISOF Fashion Design School & Retail Education Institute. Dennis like many other design creatives is making a local fashion statement by using the “China bag” in new ways in his trendy designs. Scottish Leader, recently joined forces with Chuene to produce a beautifully shot video that demonstrates what the popular blended Scotch whiskey brand means with its “a new perspective” tagline.    


The captivating video produced by digital agency Mirum, directed by Rod McCall depicts the story of Chuene and how he has very successfully managed to create sought-after fashion items, by looking at the “China bag” from a new perspective, and recycling, reimagining and personifying its application. Using the iconic African plastic zipper bags with its signature blue or black, white and red stripes, Chuene’s popular Vernac designs feature bags in various forms (backpack, tote, sling, saddle, laptop and clutch) as well as wallets.  


“The video presents the concept of perspective by showing how looking at things in a new light, can serve as a vehicle to augment reality. In this instance, it demonstrates a new perspective on design,” says Jeremy Thompson, Scottish Leader’s SA marketing manager.  


“Chuene’s positive and very creative outlook is a great example of what Scottish Leader stands for as a brand: the richer possibilities brought on by exploring new perspectives and investigating new possibilities. It’s about seeing the potential others can’t and making a difference,” Thompson elaborates. 


As Chuene optimistically states in the video: “But you know what?  Things are starting to change, and more and more people are moving forward.  I don’t think most people would think these bags would ever bring the word “success” to mind. If I told somebody 20 years ago that these bags could be a fashion statement, they would have laughed in my face.  But I suppose that’s the trick to life. You’ve got to try to not see things, or people, for where they are right now. You have to try to look at things from a different perspective. You have to try to see the potential. Because once you can do that, man, there’s no stopping you.” 


Scottish Leader gifted me a Vernac backpack (thank you!) and I have to say it is a really well-made product. Comfortable, durable, stylish and fashionable. When I carry it, I get great feedback from strangers and friends alike. Scottish Leader needs to be applauded for this partnership. Although the media release does not go into detail about this partnership. One can only hope that it goes deeper than just one of those and that the Scottish Leader entity support Denis to realize his fashion business long term goals. The use of fashion, black face or culture to gain a”cool factor” is tired and lead the industry and nation nowhere. I would say invest in Dennis Chuene’s business, have some form of long-term commitment to support him with his industrial product development needs, offer him business mentorship and so forth. The truth is when Dennis’ business does well he then, in turn, is able to help in transforming his community or continent to achieve ” a better life” he speaks of. We have incredible talent, creatives and fashion designers locally what we need now is fashion brands that can compete in local and global markets.  Now that is a holistic and sustainable “new perspective”. A new perspective is taking this project further than just a seasonal campaign, YouTube video click-throughs, views and media cocktail events. Break the cycle and change the system, it is needed.  You can buy Vernac designs HERE and through African Image in Cape Town


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