Beyond Fashion Week

A closet fashionista's look at the trials and tribulations within the fashion industry in Mzansi while everybody is buzzing about how fab this year's Joburg Fashion Week will be.




Joburg Fashion Week 2011 was launched with some excitement last week. The event held at Joburg's latest “it' place Randlords, which by the way has to be the most scenic entertainment location in this city, was attended by the who's who of the fashion industry. Poses and partying aside, what does Joburg Fashion Week for an average aspiring designer in Jozi?

This year AFI promises to pay homage to Joburg and its's untapped talent by offering unknown designers a platform to showcase their collections. In this regard, AFI has partnered with Foschini to establish Fastrack which intends to be an educational, interactive, informative and developmental platform to fast-track the next generation of designers thus enabling the fashion industry to be a viable career for many graduates who enter the industry each year and find it hard to be noticed.

The Joburg Fashion Week will run from the 15th to 19 February. 24 graduate designers from UJ, TUT, Lisof, Spero Villioti Elite Design Academy and SewAfrica will be showcasing their work at The Fashion Kapitol to commennce this year's eventful week.

Other venues such as The Bus Factory and Joburg Art Gallery will also host some showcases. The fashion week will end with what is dubbed “the longest runway in the world” at the Nelson Mandela Bridge. Sounds exciting doesn't it?

When all this is said and done what will those young designers be left with, NOTHING. Once the cameras are off, many of these young designers will go back to their little studios in downtown Jozi only with memories to boast that they showcased at the fashion week. 

The problem is that, many of these young kids do not understand the business aspect of this industry. It's been said over and over again, it's becoming redundant. Fashion is not just about GLAMOUR, it's a business. 

Fact is; fashion affects all of us whether we acknowledge it or not. If that's the case then why are only few individuals in SA making a decent living out of it?

AGENTS OF EUROCENTRISM. African consumers will pay exuberant prices for international brands than they would for local brands. That's an irrefutable fact.

This has an inevitable negative effect on the industry as local designers struggle to compete in this saturated market. To make their brands more appealing, they then offer cheap collections.

Problem with that is that, cheap doesn't always guarantee you good quality as a consumer. It makes sense for the designer to use the cheapest means possible if she/he is forced to produce as many garments as he/she can at a low price.

Sadly the result of that is a diminished credibility of that brand.



Take Loxion Kulca, arguably the most successful local BLACK owned clothing range of all time. Once upon the time this brand was the most sort after brand among young South Africans. Now the brand is relegated to the standard of cheap retail store brands. 

Even my 12 year old nephew refuses to be seen in a Loxion Kulca item. What went wrong LK is that its lied in its exclusivity. When a brand stops being aspirational it looses its value. It's all good and well to mass produce an item to meet the demand but once that item is available in abundance then nobody wants it anymore. 

Everybody wore LK and it got cheaper then the masses lost interest.

Though their are some high end collections in the Loxion Kulca stable, many now perceive the label to be a cheap sportwear local brand than a big player in the fashion field. 

Could this hurt the brand? Thus far Loxion Kulca is still doing well by the looks of things but there is no denying that it lost the big buzz it had few years ago. That would most certainly have affected it's revenues.

Along came AmaKipKip, the AmaKK brand tapped into a market that was yearning for a local craze. An instant HIT yet one couldn't help but see the end for this brand coming sooner than that of it's predecessors. 

Problem: Just one word, Conterfeit. Now this situation with AmaKK was very interesting in that at some point you didn't know if the original product itself was of poor quality or the fake imitations of the brand oversold the original. 

Amakipkip is now known as a brand that is not reliable. You buy a Tshirt today and after 3 washes you can't wear it again.

However it's important to note that the people behind Amakipkip need to be given props for their marketing. What a superb way to take over the popular culture influence that the Westerners have used against the world and use it to promote a local brand. 

Americans have used celebrity culture to push brands for years so it was great to see Amakipkip employing the same strategy to push the brand and it worked wonderfully. Big Ups to the team for that. They proved that SA celeb can have an influence in our buying power only if we utilise their influence effectively.

Now we have VANDAL. Dj Sbu and his partner Trevor have decided to jump onto the gravy train. Vandal line is a whole lifestyle brand with being the driving force behind the Vandal crew's attempts to usurp Mzansi's Pop Culture. The brand even has its own lingo. Ba re you are either a Vandal or a Vandy. Cute.. :)

Do not underestimate DJ Sbu's celeb power. This is a man who seemingly can't do anything wrong hence it came as a huge surprise to hear that his Vandal Tshirt are just a bad as the Amakipkip T's you buy in Rosebank. 

Have to admit that the Vandal brand is yet to be as visible as AmaKip-Kip so finding one is a bit of a hustle to test this theory has been futile. 

I don't want to say much on that until I have actually touched a Vandal T-shirt until then we can only look at the viability of the brand as sell-able commodity in this competitive market. Will you buy a Vandal T just because it's a DJ Sbu product?

What all these mean is that it's possible to make money as a designer in SA without being a high end designer like David Tlale or Gert Coetzee. Not every designer's clothes belong on the red carpet. 

In fact the red carpet in SA might limit your potential for profit as most of our tv shows never ever show any interest in the clothes the celebs are wearing and who designed them. Few print media outlets will occasional make a note that Lira was wearing a Sylvester Falata piece but how often do you get that kind of exposure. 

Our red carpet still need a huge makeover, until then young designers have to come up with innovative ways to get their brands out there.

My current Fav local brand is StussBob. It may not be a household name yet but I am very impressed with how the line is doing. Quality before profit is what you get when you go through StussBob items in the shop. 

I recently bought a T-shirt at D.O.P.E in the innercity at R400 and it was money well spent. The thought of having to hand wash something is not appealing to me so having clothes made with good quality material that can handle the element and technology is the way to go. I am a "convenience first" kinda guy and that's what influences my will to spend.

Would I still buy a StussBob item if every street corner shop suddenly stocked it? A hesitant YES. A yes if they keep doing what they doing with the quality of the clothes. A definite NO if they start making a million T-shirts that all look the same that when you walk aroung a mall you meet more than 10 people wearing the same t-shirt you wearing.

One has to be realistic, you can't have a one of a kind item at R400 but you can atleast rest easy knowing you have one of a few.



The moral of all this is that local brands can be sort after if they offer EXCLUSIVITY and QUALITY. I will wear your line and be proud to tell the world that I wear your brand if it's worth my while to spend my hard earned cash on it. 

Fashion weeks will come and go but until you understand the principle of being an entrepreneur, you will never grow as a designer. Learn from the mistakes made by those before you and be inspired by the success of those who made it.



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Congratulations to the selected graduates who will be showcasing their collections this year!!! And a shout out to the guys at D.O.P.E store. 

Hey if you in the Jhb CBD pop in and checkout the store, support local brands and establishments.

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