It has been quite some time since I have had this deep urge to speak about the current problems that young fashion designers are going through at the moment. I would like to begin by saying that I feel fortunate to be in an environment where I share so much in common with other creatives, especially those that are specifically in fashion design and understand the true technicalities that all go into the design process from the inception of the concept to the creation of the finished piece. The clothes have become our identity and our own personal means of making a positive contribution to society through fashion.
A conversation with a friend sparked this topic. As a final year fashion design student, I have been juggling so many options in my mind on which avenues in fashion I’ll be taking this coming year ahead. Indeed, because fashion is not a hugely celebrated culture by the South African masses, it has made the word ‘hustle’ a constant action that young emerging designers must abide by! The thrill of struggling truly drives me and those that I am close to, but how much struggle can one take before they completely burn out from dreams being shattered? I believe that those that remain consistent and have pure love and determination will find their own means of reaching their goals – just as long as they don’t listen to the exterior and choose to rather stay true to their dreams then they can do it. After all, consistency is the key to excellence. The ones that I observe are true forces with dynamic skills of design and craftsmanship and have chosen to take the leap in going into production by starting small and letting the potential customer make the choice of whether they want to support, reject or just simply appreciate.
This post is an interpretation of what I have been witnessing in the past year and how it actually could potentially be the beginning of a disastrous journey for young aspiring fashion designers. Even though I am not in production yet, using myself as an example; the two previous collections that I had created set the tone of where I am going with this post – The response of both collections, especially my ‘Basics’ collection was beyond anything that I had ever imagined. The appreciation and commending on my design skills was truly gratifying, finally after 3 years people had finally gotten a taste of what ‘Lukhanyo Mdingi’, the designer was all about. But that’s where it pretty much ended, the comparisons between emotional support and customer support was words apart. The people that commended just commended and very little of them took action by investing their monies in my pieces. Does this go down to bad marketing? Too little exposure? Lack of business skills? Or just no interest in purchase because people couldn’t go beyond in asking to buy ones piece? Has self – indulgence become a means of why people design? Where you crave praise but absolutely nothing more because all in all time passes and irrelevance becomes a real thing.
The year has nearly come to an end, but within this time bracket i have observed even more from young South African fashion designers and local Cape Town brands; we as young designers spend so much of our time and passion in our craft and design, that once we have the finished product, it never goes beyond a Facebook or Instagram ‘like’. It is such an unfortunate thing for me because I truly do believe that not enough people support local designers because of X, Y and Z, but how are we suppose to make a sustainable business and life if people are eager to use our pieces for shoots and ‘exposure’ but even with those features we don’t get any or much means of compensation. Is this going to be a cycle where designers start designing for instant attention instead of recognition?
Photographer : Mpumelelo Macu