An Unconventional Modern-Day Fashion Affair…

I have attended every major fashion show in South Africa in recent years and have been in the midst of the debate which rages on, (before, during, and after) about whether South African fashion show are indeed dead or needed to be revamped. I sat in these front rows and observed attentively, not as a self-proclaimed fashionista or an Influencer Champion looking to land a new campaign deal, but as an enthusiastic brand architect looking to forge partnerships that would turn an industry upside down, ushering in a new season of activity as global trend analysts predicted this change. As the topic swirls through virtually every industry interaction, the intense, somewhat dysfunctional marathon turned out to be the perfect opportunity to gather marketing lessons from big and small brands.

With a record low number in show attendance at traditional fashion shows and dedicated sponsors now looking to barter, brands should literally change some of their plans on the fly while others, if they’re not clever enough to participate in the sea of change will fall by the wayside. It seems apropos to draw from sound business principles to distill insights on this particularly pivotal fashion movement.

Time to Pivot?

Just because you’ve always executed or participated in a certain event or done something the same way, it does not mean you should stick with it. Many global brands from Monse to Alexander Wang are completely rethinking the runway show.

By doing this, many emerging brands, influencers and skilled businessmen and businesswomen (wink) are looking to prove that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Winnie Harlow has changed beauty standards

Bullied for the way she looked, her peers at school taunted her with cruel nicknames such as “cow” and “zebra”. Fast-forward to 2019 and Winnie has over one million followers on Instagram, she’s the face of Spanish fashion label Desigual and she’s been shot by fashion photographer and director of online platform SHOWstudio Nick Knight, whose portfolio includes Kate Moss, Lady Gaga and Kanye. From social pariah to global “it” girl?

Photo Credit: Justin Dingwall’s solo exhibition ‘Albus’

We all know him as the first international African male model with albinism, but Sanele ‘Undercover Black’ Xaba is more interesting than one would ever think. Sanele continues to challenge stereotypes and has pushed against everything that stood in his way.

Sanele Junior Xaba has already modelled for Adidas and appeared in GQ. It’s a long way from being bullied on the streets of Durban. Now he’s fighting for diversity in his trade, and wants to raise awareness of albinism.

Sanele follows in the footsteps of model and TV personality Refilwe Modiselle, who was not only on Oprah Winfrey’s 2013 Power List, but was also the first professional African female model with albinism. 


With so many events cancelled or attendees opting to skip shows even if they’re in town because, heck, they could just watch them online versus running around the city, (with some of the biggest bloggers I know opting to stay in their hotel rooms versus attending major events), brands should now more than ever use the opportunity to create intimate and mutually benificial scenarios with influencers, buyers, and the press.

Depending on the brand, the strategies should be tailored to what they wanted to achieve and communicate as opposed to a one size fits all approach. 

So what are we seeing emerge on our doorstep?

Fashion Shows are fast becoming empowerment movements that promote self love, self acceptance and self worth. It is well-known that in this 21st century social media is rapidly redefining exclusivity. Social media is making it easier than ever to experience (or invade) events that would traditionally arise through word-of-mouth or, you know, formal invitations.

Social media is literally redefining the traditional understanding of exclusivity as supposedly private events are widely promoted to the public. So, what we should be looking at is how brands can tap into the experiential potential of social media while offering a truly inclusive, rewarding, and relationship-building interaction in the digital age?

A bigger focus on ‘real men and real women’

We’re seeing it and brands have started making more use of ‘curvier’ women on the runways.

Model: Candice Manual

Brands have started making more use of ‘curvier’ women on the runways. In SA, the standard body size is 12-16 and designers like Ruff Tung were recently seen showing curvier models alongside smaller sized models.

That brings me to the upcoming ‘Beauty Beyond Imperfections’ Fashion Show. It’s a cliché to say that fashion is shifting—fashion always shifts. While this is no doubt an industry predicated on a perpetual dynamic of change, of constant renewal and of fresh blood, these changes can be invigorating.

Candice Christians – Founder of ‘Beauty Beyond Imperfections’

This show was created to go against industry Norms and to do something that has never been done before in SA and history has proven that a really great fashion show concept can shift not just the what but the why, altering not only the physical form of the clothes on your back but the psychological ramifications of wearing them. Fashion can shift perceptions of the self.

While founder Candice Christians endeavors to celebrate people who are different due to uncontrollable events that occurred in their lives, I predict that the “rules” will soon be questioned, rewritten, or scrapped entirely. 

The signs have been there for years but now the dominance of social platforms and the changes in the fashion climate are being felt, and with seismic force.