Words: Red Mosiane

It is no secret to those paying even the slightest degree of attention that the mainstream South African fashion industry has been noticeably stagnant for a few years. Everything from designer collections in various categories to editorials in publications and general fashion-focused content has been monotonous. As of late, people have been pointing fingers but it’s time everyone takes responsibility for their role in perpetuating this cycle of mediocrity.

We are all consumers so as such each of us is to blame for continuing to support those showing little to no progress. If we all actively and consciously became more selective with what we allow ourselves to consume, this would kick off a domino effect of forced mass improvement. But being a conscious consumer isn’t limited to purchasing local brands (but yes, do more of that too), it also includes social media accounts we follow and like, websites we frequent (blogs, online publications, etc.), YouTube channels we subscribe to or conversations we join in on. At the end of the day – just like in every other industry – it’s all about the numbers and if the powers that be don’t see a negative shift in numbers then they will not be persuaded to change.

With fashion being the “in” industry lately, there are droves of young people coming to the already fiercely competitive environment competing for opportunities. But most young people are inconsistent with their stance on the state of the local fashion industry, not because they are blind to the realities but more so because they just say anything for followers, likes and impressions. So they go from raising valid points, concerns and criticisms about certain individuals or publications one day to praising, over-hyping and supporting that same person or publication for creating more mediocre products or content yet again the next day. This is why the fashion industry still don’t take young people seriously (past the token influencer), as a collective the youth seems confused.

In order to be heard, young fashion hopefuls need to pick a side and stick to it. Either continue cosying up to 40-something year old culture vulture gatekeepers who see you as their life source or be on the side of innovation, progression and diversification of this industry. Contribute to the growth of local fashion by collaborating in building brands, movements and other kinds of fashion businesses together. If the entrepreneurial path is not for you, then use your voice to communicate a clear concise message by hyping up and promoting those who deserve the attention based on their potential and work.

Local fashion’s long standing industry professionals who hold positions of power or influence are the gatekeepers of the industry. These individuals are in the position to open doors and crack windows of opportunity for talented passionate youth to be able to start contributing to the growth of the industry but instead they have them hermetically sealed to most. Their outdated approach is slowing down the industry’s progression since they’re the ones in charge. A majority just wait until long after a trend catches on or a face gains popularity on social media to utilize it, instead of pre-empting potential opportunities for growth and exposure for themselves or their clients and still, the industry (and money) is mainly in their hands. What these seasoned professionals should do is stop clinging on to their accomplishments of yesteryear and update their entire approach or quit so as to make room for someone who will. If the positions of power or influence in the fashion industry are not progressive and innovative then the industry as a whole will remain stifled and stagnant.

In order for the South African fashion industry to finally move out of this rut it’s been in for far too long we all need to do our part in pushing it forward. Instead of clapping for mediocrity, everyone needs to demand progress through action.