Lies, Deceit and Betrayal

Thursday, April 15, 2010

One day when I was 16 years old (2001) I was reading a Cosmopolitan on a Sunday afternoon. While reading, I saw a new designer with a label called Darkie, whose name was Themba Mngomezulu. A few things excited me about him: that he was black and using vintage clothes as inspiration - my favourite items were his skirts made from ties. I went mad for them, fell instantly in love and did something so stupid, I'm convinced it's the reason why I have to be introduced to him everytime I meet him all these years later (he "never remembers me".bucket please)...I sent him an SMS saying I wanna be in fashion or something so teenagly stupid, I wish I could remember. Of course he never responded and I totally understand why.

As a 16 year old growing up in East London there were a few limitations:

a) I was dead bored and so anything from the outside excited me - 60s rock music, encyclopaedias and y-mag.
b) I had a very distinct and otherworldy fashion sense, mostly vintage and i would break my clothes and put them together with paint, losing "respect" from my mother, her friends and my peers everytime I stepped out the house.
c) I'm not going to carry on with this list because I wanna get to the bottom of why I even posted this at 12.35 am

I was looking at Tavi's blog (as one does) and she was going on about Sassy Magazine - a now defunct American teen mag from the late 80s. One of the images on her site is this:

Take a good gander at the image on the bottom right. He totally copied it. I've spent the past 20 minutes trying to look for his "rendition" of the skirt but can't, though I remember that he used bluish ties for his. Did anybody else know this and am I the pitied fool that found this out literally 10 years later?

Is this nothing or am I freaking out about nothing? Do other designers do this? Because if that's the case, then I shouldn't blame him only but it's still something totally uncool. I mean you can be inspired by something, but direct plagiarism? I feel lied to, deceived and betrayed.

At times like this I wish Fashion Police wasn't just a tacky show on E!



HEADGIRL said...

Hey Mil - well, I see your point but it is rather unlikely that Themba would have seen this mag? I truly believe in a fashion consciousness, the power behind a trend - that whilst we all have 'original' ideas that at some point during the process between 'idea' and 'execution' there are other people worldwide who have the same idea, perhaps not many but definitely some. If you look at the process of trend forecasting and it's journey from start to finish I think it is highly probable that a trend or concept can find legs this way.

However... I do believe that that there is way too much derivative and highly referenced fashion in this country, and that it is not honest.That is, I haven't, as yet, come across a designer who will admit that they were inspired by a particular designer and experimented with their concepts. That would at least be honest. Here it seems referencing is so blatant. Take Clive - long before Darkie's ties range he was using ties.

And we were there at fashion week to see numerous examples weren't we? Open a local magazine and feel the power of the photocopier! EEEK!


Milisuthando Bongela said...


I think he may not have seen the mag in the 80s but he probably came across that image later in the 90s. I mean it's literally exactly the same Sara - that's way beyond inspiration. Anyway, you're right - designers won't admit to direct referencing sometimes even though they do! I understand trends like say, the harem pants that everybody's made in the past two years. That was cool because it's such a ubiquitous pattern and it's old. The tie skirt is very distinct. Maybe I'm the naive one for believing that that was actually his idea. Those skirts defined his career and people will never forget, I just feel like I've been hoodwinked! Trends or no trends, I think it's wonderful to be inspired and do something similar to what you've seen on the runway or in magazines, but I have no respect for copy cats who call themselves "designers" because they are dress makers. God, don't remind me of those examples.

Anonymous said...

Ha Mili, have you read Fashion Babylon!!there's only a handful of creatives out there!

Maque DeGorgeous said...

StyleIdol: Fashion Babylon is a must read on this topic, Agree with you!

It gets worse than this: a vintage number bought, tag removed and designer replaces it with their own and it makes it to the ramp. Love it!

Fashion industry!

Great eye for catching it!

I am all about who did it first: i have a great idea and i think you'd be the perfect person to do it with. i'll drop you an email and let me know if you're interested! (what's your email addy btw?)

Milisuthando Bongela said...

Maque my email is
I need to read fashion babylon - have been meaning to.

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