Chanel doesn’t officially make menswear. Yet, that hasn’t stopped many guys — like Siphe November — from rocking the luxurious French brand. Here, National Ballet of Canada’s principal dancer on how pearls and flowers have no gender.
At the recent Chanel Cruise 2023/2024 show in Los Angeles, there were men in Chanel roaming everywhere around the roller rink “runway” set up on a Paramount Studios lot: Snoop Dogg with a scarf tied babushka-style over his braids, Lil Nas X with a tangle of pearls and chains around his neck, G-Dragon in a black jacket embroidered with white camellias, Nile Rogers in a CC logo jacket and jeans, Anderson Paak in a pink chain motif cardigan and many, many dudes — some famous, some not — carrying quilted bags.
Some of the gents sporting Chanel that night are “friends of the house” including the National Ballet of Canada’s Siphe November. The stylish principal dancer began his relationship with the brand about two years ago, a perk that has allowed him access to an array of Chanel that he mixes with his wardrobe of cool independent designers and high street labels. Even better, November is a perfect sample size in Chanel clothes and shoes.
In L.A., he threw an oversized jacket thrifted at Value Village over a Chanel T-shirt to check out the new Rodeo Drive flagship. He lunched at Matsuhisa in a Chanel bomber jacket and black leather pants from Gap. And he attended the show in a tweed jacket with satin collar and cuffs over Ms. Min trousers. I sat down with November to chat about how he wears Chanel and how growing up in a small town in South Africa has given him a unique perspective on the storied brand.
How did you choose your look for the Cruise show?
There’s always one piece, whether it’s a pant or a hat, that’s the thing that allows me to step into my vibe for that day or event. For the show, it was that jacket. The whole look was inspired by Versailles and old drawings of the Sun King, Louis XIV. And the fluffy socks helped create a ballet feel without it being literal. It’s still me but it’s the Chanel version of me.
And there was a Michael Jackson influence with the sunnies. Especially with the loafers and the socks. He was also inspired by the courts of France. And he was the King of Pop. But I didn’t anticipate the way that jacket would shine in the lights which made it so much more spectacular. It sparkled so beautifully. It was a real moment and I felt like a star. I wanted to feel like the Sun King and I did.
Chanel does not make menswear, so you are a guy wearing women’s clothes.
And I love that. One of my biggest fashion idols is Pharrell (Williams). I remember I saw him once when he came to Toronto. It was, like, 2014 and it was at the height of when he had that Vivienne Westwood hat that everyone had an opinion about it. And I remember watching him through that whole time and he just kept wearing it. And then seeing him wear Chanel and rocking it and looking so fire made me want to wear it too. Chanel sunglasses are the only sunglasses I wear because of him.
A lot of guys would not wear pearls. Do you associate pearls with femininity?
No, I don’t. A pearl necklace on a man’s bare chest looks good to me. Jewellery is an accessory. It has no gender. If you look at different cultures around the world, historically they approach jewellery as a form of self expression and status. I see pearls as an accessory for self expression as opposed to an identity.
That must partly come from growing up where you did. I imagine you didn’t have any specific references for pearl necklaces.
No, I had none of that. In my culture, men and women wear beads as part of their traditional wear. I didn’t grow up with pearls tied to an image and then in my teens I saw artists breaking those boundaries — like Pharrell wearing pearls and mixing it with high jewellery and rappers breaking those codes. There’s a rebellious nature to men wearing pearls, which I like for sure.
Do you have a favourite Chanel element?
One of the first shows I saw was dedicated to the camellia and to me, it doesn’t get any better than that. It’s so part of the identity of the house to me, even more than the two C’s. There’s something so rich about it. There’s so many ways you can play with it. I have a white camellia pin that I love to pop onto different outfits. It makes me feel Chanel without being too Chanel-ified.
Again, not to harp on the gender thing, but a flower is so conventionally identified with women.
To me it’s not associated with anything but care and sensitivity and beauty. So if it makes me look better, I’ll put it on.
Do you think of Chanel as something precious that you only wear on certain occasions? Or do you look at it the same way you look at a cotton T-shirt?
Sometimes I approach it as “this works well with what I want to wear” or sometimes I make it the main event and the Chanel piece is the star. I look at clothes in general as kind of an everyday conversation. I don’t take very good care of my clothes, if I’m being honest. Because I think they’re supposed to be worn.
You’ve visited 19M, Chanel’s new Paris headquarters for 600 artisans including embroiderers, feather workers and goldsmiths. What was that like?
It was crazy. Seeing all the creativity that goes into developing new styles — as an artist that’s something I really connected with. As someone who puts a lot of hours into perfecting my work and understanding that whether my leg is two degrees higher or lower evokes a whole different emotion in the person experiencing it, seeing that attention to every little detail changed everything for me. It added a different layer of appreciation for the garments and what the brand represents.