It all ended with AFI Fashion Week. Pretty much the last event I went to before lockdown was implemented across the country. All fashion weeks and events in SA and around the world went digital. Let’s take a look what South Africa’s fashion industry has been up to and how it’s innovated itself during this difficult year.
I have always found access to SA’s runways and latest fashion events rather difficult. If you have not attended the fashion show itself, it’s rather hard to find any post-show images, videos or write ups on the latest runways. Major fashion magazines like Vogue will always have the latest Fashion Week articles capturing the collections written and uploaded by journalists or editors allowing everyone to see the what was happening in terms of style trends.
SA Men’s Fashion Week showcased their runways online at the end of July this year. For the first time we could all see what the latest collections were from our local brands and a preview of what was to be available in stores.
Of course, nothing beats actually attending the glamorous Fashion events with all the buzz, and I’m looking forward to attending these events again. I do hope the SA fashion events will continue to promote the collections by making their runway galleries and videos available to all.
Many brands have had to boost their online presence and for those who already had an online store, needed to start making more of their stock available online. With in-store shopping not being allowed on lockdown level 4, accessibility become a key factor to a fashion brand’s survival. Even when clothing stores were allowed to open, you still couldn’t try garments on during level 3. Many customers were still not comfortable venturing into public and not being able to try the garments on made opting for online shopping an obvious choice.
Sale items were also not only limited to in-store purchases. I went to the YDE sale and was pretty much the first person there that morning. I was surprised to find pretty much all of the stock available on sale were also available on their website’s online store. I’ve always been a fan of the YDE brands, and while I have seen the brand go through a rise and fall over the years, they have definitely upped their game in making the clothing almost 100% SA made from design to production. The quality is great and their sales make owning a special occasion SA piece a staple in anyone’s closet.
SA Futurewear: Designer fashion and retail
For around 10 years, high-end designers have been collaborating with retail fashion brands making their pieces and work more accessible to a broader market. These collaborations are highly anticipated between major fashion houses and fast fashion retailers such as H&M or Target stores in the USA.
Futurewear is a new initiative to create exposure for new emerging South African fashion brands to become available to us. This project was created via a collaboration between luxury fashion designer Gavin Rajah and Pick ‘n Pay Clothing. It was launched during lockdown during late July/early August,
Pick ‘n Pay Clothing has proven to be nothing but a success with South Africans since it launched. Their affordable pieces are available in their stores and in sections of the bigger Pick ‘n Pay supermarkets. I did a Twitter poll to find out which SA retailers were the favourite among SA women and Pick ‘n Pay came in the top 4. They are also still able to keep prices reasonable enough to treat yourself to something extra after you grocery shop! Another great thing is that some of their clothing is 100% made in SA.
This year they have teamed up with Futurewear and Cape Town designer Julia Buchannan for a capsule summer collection filled with fantastic florals and romance. The collection sold out quick. I’m excited to see what’s next.
During the Lockdown, Superbalist got into hot water after not showing their support for the #blacklivesmatter protests and movement that was once again sparked off in the USA. This is not the first time the movement made headlines, however this time it went global. South Africa, having its own internal issues with racial inequality joined in to also point out the injustices that still occur in our country. This was important for all lifestyle brands in SA to realise that if your product/service affects or is part of your audience’s identity, then it will affect your brand’s identity too. This is also VERY important if you are using social media as a platform to communicate to your audience and that your target market uses social media to express their identities. Fashion/lifestyle brands can no longer stay “neutral as a business”, not if you plan on growing and expanding your market share in the future. The way brands communicate with their customers has changed drastically in the past 5 years as the dialogue is no longer a one-way street.
Yes, brands making these mistakes can be forgiven. It’s a learning curve to improve and offer better solutions for others to follow your lead. Failures like these always call for change.
As businesses started to face serious concerns during lockdown, many South Africans started giving our local small businesses a shout out on social media to help them gain much needed support and exposure. I personally now will prefer to shop locally for my fashion pieces. I prefer to also have more control over how I spend my money and the product in the case of returns etc.
I know one major issue with local SA fashion, is that if they are not part of a large retail network, they can be really expensive. Sourcing everything from manufacturing to fabric is costly in the creation of garments in this country and hence SA fashion is not accessible to most income groups. However, supporting SA owned business in this case can still help as they help keep locals employed. I think we all realise that in 2020/2021 keeping the money in SA through support is essential in keeping our economy going. This includes everything related to lifestyle from our travel, accommodation, food and wine industries.
What can I do?
Honestly, I have become more aware of what other fashion brands there are in SA since lockdown. The fashion shows online have also helped and the amount of support from local bloggers on their social media platforms have also been amazing. I have a feeling sustainability will be the next step for the future for all our lifestyle brands as we pour our support into locally made goods and services while looking to preserve our natural and economic environments for the future. If anything, SA brands have learnt over the course of the 6 months is that accessibility is key to survival. The political problems faced in SA during lockdown has once again made us wary of spending. Major concerns such as economic instability, safety and corruption will have a negative impact on our livelihood, making it hard to even support one another.
What am I doing? Like many, I still have to work in a budget but I will be doing my best to support local fashion brands and all businesses. I’m also going to do more local trips and have two planned for the rest of 2020….oh and to definitely visit to more wine farms here in the Cape!