Describing Nqabeni Butholezwe Msimanga’s larger-than-life personality in words is like trying to capture a rainbow in a bottle. More affectionately known as Mr Q, the 36-year-old founder of bespoke menswear label The Prefecture is the quintessential global citizen. He grew up in Zimbabwe before emigrating to England at 13. Singapore called out to him, and he moved here in March 2012, working for a couple of years in the fashion industry before setting up his own business in 2014.
“It was driven by my obsession with tropical wear,” says Msimanga, explaining the genesis of his brand. “It’s warm and humid, and there’s so much flora and fauna here. But it’s so strange to see people living in such a colourful environment dressed as though they were in Stockholm or London or Paris.”
He’s certainly concocted the right sartorial formula. The Prefecture has grown from strength to strength. While it continues to only be housed in one boutique, that’s not from lack of ambition. Msimanga is obsessed, occasionally to the point of madness, with ensuring every piece that comes out of his atelier is perfect. The surest sign that he’s doing something right is the loyalty his clients demonstrate. They keep returning to him, whether it’s to tailor a suit or buy his off-the-rack creations.
There have been tough periods, none more draining than during this pandemic. But Msimanga always presses on. “My dad always gives me the two magical words: keep going.” He admits that the biggest problem has been building and leading a team. In the past, he sought out people who shared the same visionary obsession but that created unforeseen tension. Now, he looks for those who believe in him.
“I admire Tom Ford and his clarity and single-mindedness in his direction. In a way, I know where I’m going too and I just need people who have no idea where the end is but are willing to follow and ensure that the rear and the flanks are covered,” Msimanga says.
Naturally, Ford is one of his sartorial icons. Growing up, however, he credits his grandfather for cementing his love of colour. He also cites Bahamian-American actor and film director Sidney Poitier as well as screen legend Marlon Brando for teaching him elegance and self-awareness. Msimanga is still trying to refine the latter quality. “I’ve always thought that once I hit 40, I’d have a sturdier understanding of who I am as a person. For me, style is not just about what you wear, but the journey of self-discovery.
“In many ways, the journey of The Prefecture also represents my path. I’ve become more self-aware and to understand the person I’m becoming in the past few years. We are all constantly evolving and style represents that journey.”
Mr Q’s Sartorial Selections
Msimanga’s love for colour was apparent in his selection for the shoot. He decided to pair this shirt from Composure, his latest collection for The Prefecture, with the Salvatore Ferragamo printed joggers. He completed the look with a selection of beaded necklaces he got from Senegal. “I want to make men here realise that the weather presents a massive advantage in dressing more adventurously. It doesn’t mean looking like a peacock, just wearing colourful clothes that are perfect for the tropical climate.”