In the past few seasons, many fashion designers have proven that being narrow minded makes it hard to continue producing breath-taking collections. This comes after Hedi Slimane’s Celine debut collection, which needless to say, received so many backlashes. Leading fashion journalists and fashion critics didn’t have anything good to say about Slimane’s work and his take on Celine, a feminist brand, which has given a lot of women power and encouraged them to experiment with fashion.
The industry is still stuck up on the European fantasy world, forcing the same kinds of stereotypes to their customers. They also borrow from Africa and appropriate a lot of our cultural references. This is simple; we need to see more Black African designers to be at the helm of these brands.
Executives of these brands are very quick to quote Africa as their main inspiration, but they are shutting us out and take everything that is ours. The Loius Vuitton appointment of Virgil Abloh definitely made history; it spoke to the changes happening in the industry.
Virgil’s story is one of many; his debut collection had details of his personal experiences. It would be game changing to see an African leading a brand such as Celine etc. because they will be bringing something new, something that people can relate to, begin new ways of seeing Africa, attract new customers and reinvigorate the aesthetics of fashion.
The Business of fashion reports that “within a fashion industry, that touts itself as celebratory of difference, diversity and inclusion. Black design talent consistently remain, at best, marginalised and all too often plagued by systematic employment discrimination.”
If the conglomerates companies such as Kering and LVMH want to be inclusive and diverse, they need to look at our shorelines when they want to hire a new creative director to lead one of their brands. A lot of the big brands are booming in our retail industry and many of our consumers are buying because of the “hype” and wanting to be counted amongst the cool kids of fashion. But our fashion designers are not that supported when they release their collections, simply because they are not the Dior or Gucci standards.
For The Business of fashion “timing is everything, and the time has come for the industry to remedy the systematic marginalisation of black design talent”. If these designers were given a chance to have other options, they would change the fashion game. It so sad that fashion is still undermining Africa’s capabilities to be at their “level”.
The late Alexander McQueen became more successful after he was given a chance to creative direct for Givenchy, from his college days; he was supported and given a chance. Isabella Blow really believed in McQueen, she saw something that most people weren’t seeing. She dedicated her time to get McQueen to the right people; this attracted the fashion press to look at McQueen with a different eye.
Nowadays you don’t need to be French to design for a French House, you don’t need to be British to design for a British brand. Riccardo Tisci is a good example of this; he became a designer for Burberry, a very rooted British brand. Combined with his perfect eye for silhouettes, craftsmanship and subculture, he managed to build on where Christopher Bailey had left off.
These kinds of conversations are often avoided by the industry leaders; however, for fashion to continue growing, changing, diversifying and inclusive, certain things need to be addressed. People of colour deserve to be recognised in fashion, they deserve to be given the same opportunities.
If the fashion industry is struggling to see a way forward when it comes to things they can easily fix, then we may need to go back to the drawing board and demand the industry executives’ attention. They need to relook at their take on fashion, the industry is growing, and there are millions of young people waiting to see someone who looks like them to represent what they stand for and someone who will give them an opportunity to buy into their culture and inspiration.
The past few decades the world has been looking at major fashion cities such New York, Milan, Tokyo and Paris for fashion and new trends. Many have never imagined that Africa would be considered the fashion inspiration.
African creativity is currently at the forefront of what is happening in the industry worldwide.
We have reached the point where we realize that it is not only about receiving what we see but share with rest of the world how we see ourselves without being influenced by Western platforms. Although with this success, it is hard to ignore that international brands have been appropriating our cultures and excluding us in the process. According to the South African fashion Handbook “the rest of the world continues to take inspiration from across the continent but Africans aren’t benefiting from the popularization of fashion inspired by our cultural garb”.
This is an alarming issue considering that they take what is ours and they protest that it was originally created by them. In all the digital activism, we are seeing many creatives taking the stand, creating platforms that put us in the right directions to be “on demand”. Whether they are fashion designers, photographers, musicians or creative directors, they are seeing the gap created between Africa and the rest of the world. They are seeing the value of being authentically us and in the word of Trevor Stuurman “giving them what they won’t find on Google”.
Siya Beyile of The Threaded Man has been in the lead when it comes to telling the story of young African men who love fashion, and proving that wearing African brands does not make you any less cooler, but sets the tone of how the rest of the world sees our distinctive taste. From designers such as Laduma Ngxokolo, Rich Mnisi and Chuulap, these designers are not shying away from creating sharp edge designs and custom made African patterns inspired by our cultures.
Not forgetting Kwena Baloyi and Sho Madjozi, who have become the African trendsetters and sure have the world looking at them for inspiration. It is comforting to see that Africa is on its way to become respected in the fashion industry. The more people create, the more we are becoming relevant and showing the diverse talent we have. Africa is on its way to become the leading fashion destination and the world is definitely watching.
It is not a bizarre moment when you see street wear on the runway these days. We are probably in the greatest era of fashion, not only locally but globally as well. Gone are the days when the magazines, the internet and the fashion weeks were filled with luxury brands that most people can’t even afford. Not to say big fashion houses are not relevant anymore. However we are seeing street brands rapidly growing, becoming affordable and importantly becoming luxury.
Virgil Abloh is one street influencer most people can think of when talking about street culture. He has been able to interpret what he was influenced by and putting it in one form which is Off-White, his luxury street label.
But what does street culture mean to young people who grew up in the era of highly accessible skate culture and pop culture. Why is it important for them to wear these brands, even stand in long lines to get their hands on capsule collections?
Our experiences are told via clothing
Every designer before creating a fashion line is inspired by something. It may be what they saw on the net, a certain influential figure or may be inspired by a certain object. In the street movement, this is a great opportunity for designers to open new dialogue and interpret how they see street culture. Wanda Lephoto, a South African influencer turned designer has been able to create collections inspired by his township experiences.
According to The Citizen “In the past five years or so, a fashion avalanche led by a global movement of hipsters, has found its way onto South African streets where youngsters began making statements by putting together clothing ensembles in various ways.”
Many creatives are finding new ways to define their own spaces. Queer individuals are creating their own paths and displaying it in the streets. What remains important is that, designers are changing the status quo. What was important then has been intertwined by many to cater for their needs.
Collaborations between street and luxury brands
We are seeing rise of luxury brands that are collaborating with street designers. A great example of this is the collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton. This collaboration had love-hate relationship with many street fashion lovers. But it speaks to the power of influence and that customers are sort of gearing the fashion movement, they are now clued up with what they want to buy, what they want to see and how they want to wear those clothes. According to GQ Style SA Virgil Abloh described the collaboration as “the modern moment in fashion that existed in our current time”.
The Internet is ruling the fashion scenes
Industry leaders such as Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington to name just a few were spearheading the fashion industry. If a certain trend or brand is on Vogue, then it meant it was cool and luxurious enough to be consumed. But in the past few years, the digital space became the “New Vogue“. Youngsters are interested in the DIY style, and they are the ones who decide which brands they want to wear, it is no longer the decision of industry leaders to determine what is trending at the moment. If young people want to wear oversized jackets and ironic slogan tees inspired by Vetements they will wear them. If they want to wear jeans with flowers, bags with butterflies, inspired by Gucci they will wear them.
It may be possible that street culture has been the “norm” all these years. But the industry generation next that is highlighting its existence and it seems street style, fashion and DIY movement is here to stay. Street wear is what is worn on the street and it’s how real people wear clothes. Whatever is happening on these streets, it is definitely setting a new tone for where fashion is heading.