As the founder of The Prefecture, Mr Q is redefining what men’s lifestyle looks like. His medium? Fashion
“What advice do you live by? What’s your number one aspiration in life?” You might think that these questions are being posed by a renowned psychologist or an inspirational public speaker. But they’re actually coming from a fashion designer.
When you walk through the doors of The Prefecture, these are the questions that Zimbabwe-born Nqabeni Butholezwe Msimanga, or Mr Q, will ask you before designing your bespoke luxury suit. He does this because fashion, to him, is more than just what you wear. In founding The Prefecture, he’s pushing the boundaries of luxury fashion by urging men to venture out of their carbon-copy navy-and-grey suit and into dressing based on their personality.
Walking around his modern boutique, he speaks with a breathless energy that’s nothing short of passionate. He shows me something he’s just made the previous day, telling me it’s one of his favourite pieces.
Called The Bullet, it’s a sharp tuxedo with Cuban and Caribbean influences: crisp lapels with floral detailing, black and gold linen, black trimmings along the pockets. Its silk lining is just as fun, following an eye-catching tribal pattern. The Bullet is practically an embodiment of what The Prefecture represents. It’s classy and sharp, but also full of intricate details that reflect a level of personality missing not just from bespoke luxury, but also from the Southeast Asian men’s fashion scene.
As we talk clothing and colour, I ask: “How do you reconcile the idea that these colourful pieces are seen to be a lot more casual? Do you change their minds?”
He shakes his head decisively. “I don’t change minds. It’s not the fabric that makes clothing casual. It’s the cut.” We walk to a rack and I examine the clothes as he speaks. I see what he means – the pieces are vibrant, but that doesn’t make them any less structured. “This is how you understand if you’re in good hands or not, with a tailor. If you give them any piece of fabric and they can make it into what you want.”
By his own definition, you’re in very good hands with Mr Q. He turns soft linens into perfect clothes for casual Fridays. He’ll tailor a pair of crisp, salmon-coloured chinos that you can dress down to the golf club or to the boardroom. And if that’s not you, he’ll make something that is. “I design around people’s personality.”
And no, your personality doesn’t revolve around the navy and grey suits you have on rotation. Mr Q explains this: “There’s only so much you can do with a navy blue suit, but when you open yourself to a wide array of fabric selections, it becomes more interesting. You start to realise it’s more than just getting a suit. It’s about understanding that this is about designing something that fits your personality.”
Personality is a running theme in my conversation with Mr Q, who believes that style is inherently linked to one’s character and environment. Beyond just dressing for yourself, he also believes in dressing to fit the environment. In Singapore’s tropical environment, this means bold, punchy colours and floral prints.
“And when the two don’t align – your personality and your environment?”
Mr Q gives a cheeky grin. “That’s when you come to me.”
“What about you, then? How would you describe your personal style?”
He thinks a bit for this one, but eventually decides: “I guess it’s the three C’s of my brand. Colour. Cut. Confidence.”
This is what The Prefecture offers men in Singapore: a customised wardrobe that fits your personality, fits you to a T, and makes you feel far more confident.
When I ask him what he hopes the Singapore men’s fashion scene will look like in 20 years, he tells me it’s “understanding its geographical context”. That is, not dressing like how one might in “Stockholm or Paris or London or New York”, but embracing the tropics of Southeast Asia. Better yet, embracing the cultural plurality that comes with living in this diverse melting pot. He wants to see Singapore fashion create “a new identity for itself”.
“Where does The Prefecture fit into this?”
“I want it to be a default reference point. I want to expand across Southeast Asia and in Africa. I want it to be one of the premier luxury brands in Africa.” He pauses, offering that same grin. “In fact, not even 20 years. Give me two.”
More than just fashion for the sake of fashion, what Mr Q represents is a willingness to be part of the shift in men’s lifestyle. It’s daring to go beyond the cut-and-paste structure of what a man should be and venturing into embracing who the man is. Fashion, because it is so deeply tied to identity, is a means to a deeper end.
“And yourself?” I ask him. He’s a pop of colour and life with his yellow polo unbuttoned over a maroon T-shirt and navy-and-yellow mask. (Fun fact: if Mr Q were a colour, he’d be navy and yellow. He cheated with the question, but I let it slide.) “How would you like to be remembered? What would the name of your autobiography be?”
Mr Q smiles as if this is something he frequently thinks about and finally has the opportunity to say aloud. “He Lived in Colour.”