After last night's African Fashion Week Awards, I finally feel the need to say something about something I've kept quiet about and far away from. African Fashion International hosted an award ceremony last night, in which Michael Jackson, Yves Saint Laurant and Grace Jones were amongst the winners.
The categories: Style Influencer, Lifetime Achievement and Miriam Makeba Style Icon. AFI are the only ones that know why they decided on these categories and people (two of whom could obviously not pick up their awards, did they have reps? are their estates going to be told of this prestigious honour?)and I'm still keen to find out who the judges were, who would have agreed to be part of thinking of all the black people or "African" people in the international fashion industry, and making up awards to give them just because they are black or they are from Africa.
Cecily Lopez, Koto Bolofo, Albertus Swanepoel, Oswald Boateng and Pat McGrath won awards because they are good at what they do, but also because they are black or can be linked to Africa. Who were they up against? Was Albertus up against any other Milliners like for e.g. Phillip Treacy? Was Cecily Lopez compared to any other top models like Lara Stone perhaps? I wonder how they all felt when they got these awards seeing as though most of the people that would have made the whole thing credible were not involved. Who wants to win because they are black or African?
I really hate it when black people make black people look stupid. Those awards made our industry look as random as it has become. As if African fashion doesn't have enough struggles within our own continent and how the world receives us - we have these guys to thank for making fools of an industry they have played a major role in tearing apart.
The second week of August sees the start of Cape Town Fashion Week, yet another pie that AFI has its fingers in. Why are there so many fashion weeks and what good is this doing for the amelioration of South African Fashion? Exposure is no longer a good enough reason - people who have traveled overseas with their names in lights are still hungry, and dying of exposure. How many more fashion shows are there going to be in South Africa before anybody actually MAKES MONEY legitimately?
Some designers were already complaining about being part of the opportunistic Africa Fashion Week (I've heard some ask, "what's going to happen after this fashion week? What good is listening to the CEO of Woolworths to an emerging African designer?) but I just have one question: What do they hope to achieve by all of this?
I wonder if AFI or the designers actually made money from this. If they did, then I'll sew up my words and eat them along with a generous serving of humble pie.
When are people going to stop attending anything that says "fashion week" for the sake of being fabulous or supporting their friends or because it's the done thing? The whole concept of fashion week has been completely devalued in this country yet people continue to want to start more. It's no wonder that somebody in PE was threatening to start an Eastern Cape Fashion Week and a Mpumalanga Fashion Week - because the role and meaning of fashion week in South Africa has lost its meaning.
Three years ago, this was different - the ceiling for growth in this industry was very high and now, it's a matter of mentioning somebody on your blog or being a black star - and you've made it to "the top". Sadly, the joke is on all of us who actually want to see genuine growth in this industry. It's not nice when people's shows have to be cancelled because of lack of attendance when they have worked hard and spent money on making those collections. It also doesn't help that local designers don't have a guild or anything that protects them and their interests collectively as designers do all over the world.
I'm not the first and I wont' be the last person to complain about this - but what are we going to do? Is it okay to just let an industry that was once more exciting than all the overseas ones put together, dwindle at the hands of vague "visionaries" and their nebulous "visions"?
Fuck, I don't know the answers! If I did I would have pasted them on there for everybody to cut. What I do know is that I would much rather be writing an angry piece about people who have embezzled money and did clever things with it than people who have been given wads and wads of cash, and spend it on bullshit and parties.