Upsetting The Status Quo

By Yoshi Monday


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Continuously, Fashion has been painted as much of a gilded cage, when that’s actually luxury: fashion is about upsetting the status quo, about flux and change. Sometimes that can be for the better — Poiret’s Ballets Russes, Saint Laurent’s “Vichy Chic,” the New Look. Sometimes for the worse — I’m not sure if fashion is really benefitting from the recent rise of the pre-collection, or Topshop’s fifty-something drops of fresh frocks per annum. But it’s always there.

it’s becoming more and more difficult to set the industry on a fresh course. For an ever boundary pushing sector like fashion, fueled by the dissimilar, distinct and – well, new, there’s remarkably little emerging that we haven’t seen before. I’d agree that fashion is only new when contrasted with that which has immediately ceased to be fashionable. I’ve used that comparison at least four times this year. And that’s because I’m struggling to come across anything neoteric.

Maybe that’s a defeatist, fatalistic point of view. There’s still a hard-nosed cadre of upstarts that are striving to compass fashion into directions we haven’t seen before, rather than striving to make a quick buck. A moment of respect, if you will, for those young London labels. Amongst the stars are Christopher Kane, Mary Katrantzou, Meadham Kirchhoff, J.W. Anderson and the menswear designer Craig Green — I could go on — because all of them are equally and absolutely convinced of what they are doing. They have to be. Fashion is a dirty, difficult business. You can’t go into it lightly. It isn’t fun.

I’m a flag-waving patriot, but for the latter half of the twentieth century, and the opening years of the twenty-first, South Africa has not been breeding the upstarts of the fashion world, the image-makers, stylists and, less than anything else, the designers that have rung in the changes that have moved contemporary fashion forward.

This is because the country’s consumer depends mainly on non-local sub-quality retail stores whenever they’re buying their fashion items. In addition to that, South African produced luxury sold in South Africa is a myth.

So South Africa’s fashion industry has no Gilded Cage?

In these sub-quality stores, nothing new filters through either. You have better luck at a town based pop up store. Which isn’t a bad thing. A gilded Cage of our own, in the circumstances. But we shouldn’t be completely satisfied of it’s results when the whole idea of fashion is to desecrate one idea and move on to the next: this is “in” and that is “out”. Pop-up stores too do not fail too simply regurgitate and recycle Fashion.

In the only creative industry in which change — as I said, for better or worse — is not a choice, but a demand, and on a schedule to boot. So many creatives in fashion are creative only in name, going through the motions, putting on a show. They do it very nicely.

It’s the ones who rattle the cage, however, that will be remembered.