Monday, March 29, 2010

The non-existent fashion journalism in SA

The cronyism in South Africa’s fashion journalism landscape is an albatross that remains at the centre of our inability to tell stories, important stories that can go a long way in contributing to the amelioration of our fashion industry. A designer I had the pleasure to meet at SA fashion week over the past weekend spoke of how editors from the big publications in this country have egos the size of New York and how the tradition of kissing-ass leaves stories like her own, in my opinion, untold and younger designers unable to learn from others.
If you look at how South African designers are covered by the local media you will realize that journalists seek to portray them as pseudo celebrities with little more to tell than just how “genius" they are. There seems to be a culture of “worship this guy, he’s a cut above the rest. He is also my friend”. All it helps is to send out this message that these people are demigods. Unfortunately, though, the demigod status leaves them at the edge, about to fall off as a result of their inability to run businesses profitably. All they profit from is a public glare, attention from fans who can’t even afford their overpriced garments and being bestowed with undeserved titles.
Fashion spreads are filled with clothes that most of the magazine readership can only dream of owning. If your name is Tlale or Rundle, congratulations, the mags are dying to have your clothes in their spreads.
There’s also this sickening mentality that if a designer’s collections are simple and practical, this designer has no idea what they are doing. Fashion is an art. Yes, it is. But I’ll also have you know that artists often starve unless they present works that actually speak to the audience.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with presenting Lady Gaga outrageousness, but should there not be a balance between avant-garde and ready-to-wear? For show purposes, couture is great, but what are you offering the everyday person who is actually looking for something to wear at work or on a great night out?
Methinks the notion that creativity can only exist in outrageousness is a myth that is bandied about by those who know not the meaning of creativity. It is an assumption made by those who are choked by the madness that weird is the epitome of art and simple is the territory of the bland.
Beyond this, I was seriously shocked when, at one designer’s show, the audience gave a standing ovation after a show that made no sense, interpreted summer as a time to look glamourous and ignored the fact that it’s the season when the sun is rarely forgiving.
In essence, until such time that those of us who write about local fashion start telling the truth and stop kissing designer ass our contribution to fashion will remain where it is at right now. Non-existent!


Maque DeGorgeous said...

You raise valid points in this article but i just want to unpack a few points and give my feedback on it:

"There’s also this sickening mentality that if a designer’s collections are simple and practical, this designer has no idea what they are doing. Fashion is an art." - I touched on this topic in one of my posts. I believe that a ramp is about telling a story. it needs the glitz, glam and razmatazz as with a broadway show. Presenting unimaginative pieces (which may be practical) is letting yourself down. ART should be fresh and new! I should not thinkwhen watching a show); i saw that in truworths or i can recreate that with something i saw at Mr Price-matched with something from my closet or worse still; Kluk did that last season... it should be fresh!

Couture is fabulous but not practical - agreed. but have you seen the watered-down version of the garments? this is the angle writers and stylists should focus on! It's practical and adaptable to everyday life, well, almost!

As you once aptly put it - fashion shows should be a meeting of designers, fashion writers, editors (stylists included), buyers and creative students (for learning purposes) - and these are people with an eye to interpret your message and therefore sell it to the masses. You cannot present a simple maxi dress and expect me to get excited - true that as a stylist it offers a fantastic foundation but in my humnble opinion - writers/editors/stylists should have a top-down approach (unpack what's presented and translate it into a wearable garment to suite the consumer.

As for fashion writers/editors - it's disgusting that trinkets buy their favour and unfortunately that - and not your specific talent - seems to be the currency these days. I believe this is where the blogosphere becomes important! Traditional media have to please, bloggers don't! Fashion Journalism is poor in the country, that I will agree with!

I had a brief discussion on this subject with Thula (though the focus was primarily on a well known blogger who's changed his style writing)- he has opted to become a fashion-celebrity-socialite and fails to deliver the tongue-in-cheek which his blog was known for. He is not subjective any more. He plays to the tune of the designers to score whatever is thrown his way. Though i still love his blog - it's lost it's lustre for me. The point here is; as soon as your focuses changes from writing and publicising to being the "celebrity," then you've lost the plot!

Sorry about the blog-in-a-blog and the scattered ideas presented - but i absolutley loved this article!

We should do a colab on this - a full debate on some of the ideas presented - i think it would be a great afternoon! call a few designers to chip in and see what they have to say...

Stacey said...

What an interesting read!
Though I do tend to agree with the various points that you make, I find myself siding with Maque DeGorgeous on this topic.

A runway is a designers platform to present to someone, anyone, in a visual manner, all the creative ideas and mysteries that have filled his/her mind for however long a period of time.

It is not, in my opinion, the platform to present that which is practical, unless your creative inspiration was rooted in practicality.

It is the role of magazines, their stylists and the representatives of fashion media to take what is on a runway and present it in a wearable way to their audience.
It is their job to interpret trends and make something practical out of the outrageous.

Fashion is Art. And I think it's great if designer has the budget and backing to present the ideas of his mind with reckless abandon!