Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fashion Needs Cultural Significance

AmaKipKip. Culturally Significant?

I went to the shops earlier with the sole aim of getting my monthly copy of the ELLE UK magazine, a favourite of mine. When I got there I was drawn to the cover of Industrie Magazine by that picture of Marc Jacobs in drag. Never mind that, though, it is not the point. I bought the copy and started paging through it. Within one of the features is a list of industry leaders that the editors obviously felt held the greatest influence on fashion in the past year. One of these was Phoebe Philo, the creative director at Celine.

What got me thinking is their analysis of Philo where they mentioned her name appearing in a song from Kanye West’s new album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. They note that this marks her cultural significance. I don’t think I have to explain this; if you’ve been mentioned in a song, then you clearly are significant, aren’t you?
For me, this analysis is when the penny dropped as I began to search in my mind; who are the South African designers one can say have cultural significance? What bearing does this have on the industry itself?
When we speak of cultural significance one would do well to cast their sights on Loxion Kulca (in the late ‘90s, early 2000s); these guys enjoyed a huge success at the start (being mentioned by then super hip-hop duo H2O, for one) because they had a cultural significance. Whether they remain as successful is probably not even up for debate.
AmaKip Kip is also another brand I feel had a cultural significance to capitalize on. Here was an “instant gratification” generation and there was a brand that embodied that. Well, I do think those guys failed to fully exploit the brand, but that’s a story for another day.
The point is, art without a cultural significance is like riding a car with no wheels; it takes you nowhere. Local fashion needs this for it to be relevant to a broader South African society and beyond. Otherwise we risk it being an elitist and financially unsustainable industry, which I honestly believe it is at present.

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