It took me a while to change from being a normal girl, you know, the one who really doesn’t care about the latest trends of fashion.
I would just wake up and put on whatever I thought would look good on me. But as the years went by, I started to discover myself, I started looking for clothes that would complement my body, and that’s basically how I fell in love with fashion.
Today, my eye was caught by a young sophisticated lady by the name of Precious Dube. She catches everyone’s attention when she walks into a room, a friend of mine based in Johannesburg, South Africa couldn’t stop singing her praises, telling me how this young Swazi lady is dominating the fashion industry by storm.
The fashion industry is at once the most visible and overlooked of cultural sectors. Malls, streets, magazine racks, television shows, and runways are filled with people making fashion statements—some angry, some extreme, some incoherent. But while designers, celebrities, publicists and most young people in America understand the persuasive power of a fashion statement, most ‘serious’ cultural critics give little evidence of noticing, much less engaging the often pathological and destructive messages that fashion trends and fads market.
This is a mistake: fashion statements are often both influential and philosophy-laden and, therefore, often need to be considered, analysed, or challenged. I sat down with Precious, a young designer who was born and bred in Swaziland, who takes pride to calling Mafutseni district home and asked her to tell me her life story, and how she became a designer.
Surprisingly enough, she says she was born a designer, she always made clothes for her dolls and play house ever since her tender years. She describes the fact that one does not need to be a critic or designer to understand that fashion statements intend to send a message. The content of those messages is an increasingly important component of the state of our culture. There are several reasons why this is so.
She took seriously her gift of becoming a fashion designer in the year 2013, which was her gap year. She describes how her mother who by then owned several sawing machines helped her learn the basics of sewing a piece of clothing. “My mum taught me everything, i would watch her sew and thats when I knew I wanted to better myself in this”.
She says that because she values education so much in her life, she decided to go back to school. She was enrolled at the Vaal University of Technology where she did Biotechnology. In Precious’ opinion, fashion helps define and shape popular culture, which in turn, drives much of American culture writ large.
The last few years have provided numerous examples of the influence fashion wields in shaping popular culture. Television and movies have, since their beginning, spawned fashion trends, but are increasingly institutionalising their fashion influence. Models host their own television shows, open restaurants and star in movies. All-fashion programmes are making their appearance on cable stations and all-fashion networks are even emerging.
Her client base has grown, and for her she says she juggles between meeting deadlines for clients who are in the country and South Africa. “It becomes crazy, I have to travel almost every weekend to make sure that my clients are satisfied with their clothes, but I enjoy it. I love the praise they give me after the job well done, the money too…lol.”
As we conclude the interview, I gather a few things and similarly, the music and fashion industries are growing ever more intertwined. Music magazines, Rolling Stone, Spin, Vibe, and others, often feature fashion spreads, in addition to the fashion-conscious musicians they profile. Fashion becomes an integral part of what young people consider cool, attractive, stylish and entertaining.
It’s not just Precious alone that has helped me see the light and fall in love with fashion, there are plenty of these Swazi designers who are doing a great job at dressing us up for events. As fashion has grown more intertwined with popular culture, its reach and influence have extended to younger consumers.
Children provide an emerging market for the fashion world, and prove an increasingly lucrative one adult; their increasing purchase power is a sure sign that fashion advertising—and its institutionalised presence in much of popular culture—will target more and more marketing efforts toward children.
As fashion grows more influential, it will direct its statements toward the more easily influenced. Finally, and most importantly, fashion statements are significant because they purport to define what an individual and/or society believes is and should be attractive, desired and emulated.
The fashion industry’s primary purpose is to glamorise a particular ‘look’ and hold it up as something to be admired, purchased and adopted. It is about endowing a certain appearance with glamour and encouraging others to aspire toward its emulation. As one critic noted, “In virtually all forms of fashion photography, there is a patina of glamour. Once anything is touched by the hand of fashion, it takes on an enticing glow and a secular and commercial appeal.”
What we, as a society consider attractive and stylish is no trivial matter, as it reflects significantly on what we value, what we consider beautiful, and how we wish to appear and be known. As such, fashion statements are, as their name suggests, invitations to a conversation, one that we would do well to take seriously.