The paradox of fashion shows

ZIMBABWE-FASHION-WEEK-2015Tafadzwa Zimoyo Arts Reporter—-
One observer once noted, “Zimbabwe’s fashion shows seem to be mushrooming to satisfy the tastes of each and every fashionista.” Fashion fanatics no longer have to worry about how their fashion tastes are being catered for because, as the above quote suggests, there are now many fashion shows in the country that present various styles and designs. Shows like Zimbabwe Fashion Week, Edgars Extravaganza, Fashion Weekend, Harare Fashion Show and many minor showcases, which are always held in various restaurants by local designers, have flooded the fashion industry.

With fashion playing an expressive role in all spheres of life, be it in social, business, political, religious, sport, arts or cultural circles, it seems local designers and fashion show organisers are competing to serve the various tastes in their industry. Fashion is dynamic and, with time, more people get interested in particular designs. Fashion gurus have therefore capitalised on this increased interest in fashion and have conceptualised fashion shows along lines which they know will attract the attention of many.

However, there have been various debates in fashion circles on whether the many shows are adequately serving the different tastes or are mere duplications that leave a lot to be desired. The increase in the number of fashion shows and the controversy that sometimes surround these events have led many critics to question if we need this proliferation of outfit exhibitions. Some have suggested that organisers should come together and pool their resources and come up with fewer major shows that can attract international attention as well as serve local tastes in an emphatic way.

South Africa’s fashion extravaganza, that goes along with the Durban July horse race, is often cited as an example of how fashion gurus can combine to make serious fashion statements. Various critics, designers, fashionistas and observers have different views over the sprouting fashion shows.

“There is nothing bad in having many fashion shows. They are actually serving the purpose of marketing products by local designers and putting Zimbabwe on the international fashion map. The increase in the fashion shows actually shows that we are filling that gap that used to exist in the past and which was occupied by fashion gurus from other countries like South Africa.

“This time around, we can actually grow the local fashion industry and fashion shows are a way of marketing ourselves,” said fashion designer Charity Makuba. Makuba added that the proliferation of fashion shows also meant the creation of employment. “Local models, make-up artists, choreographers and even boutique owners are also taken on board at the fashion shows and what this means is that more people are being employed, thanks to the increasing fashion shows.”

Another designer said there is immense talent among local designers that should be exposed at the fashion shows. “The aim is to promote local designers and let people know the talent and creativity we have in Zimbabwe and get them to wear local styles,” Danayi Chapfika of the Fashion Collective Market said. Agnes Simon, a fashion enthusiast, said the increase in fashion shows is a reflection of how Zimbabweans have honed their fashion tastes.

“These fashion shows actually show that Zimbabweans have now an improved taste in fashion and are discerning between what is good and bad. If anything, the fashion shows are actually a barometer of what is trending in the fashion world,” she said. Simon said the fashion shows were impacting on the lifestyles of Zimbabweans who look up to how the models would be dressed during the fashion shows and then copy from them.

“The shows also benefit those in business. It means that more people want to be well-dressed and fashion shows help in showing how one ought to dress when doing their business,” she added. She emphasised that people now know what to wear when and where. “I dress myself and my family in a way that will leave an impression, tell a statement about us and also portray us in a way that will make others want to associate with us. All this is because of the fashion shows that I follow and which help in refining my fashion taste,” Simon said.

Some fashion retail shops like Edgars and Barbours have even gone an extra mile by organising and holding street fashion shows as a way of attracting clients. “This then tells a story about how fashion shows and an increase in them is not anything bad because they serve the purpose of marketing products, especially during these times when people are resorting more and more to cheap second hand clothes which is an a way affecting the sales at these shops,” Simon added.

While some concur that many fashion shows are good, the darker side of the events has led some people to condemn them. Of late there has been a lot of controversy in some of the elite fashion shows where reputable designers pull out due to poor organisation. There have also been allegations of abuse of models that are reportedly starved and sometimes go unpaid after shows. Lack of proper organisation at some of the shows has led other critics to conclude that the events are being done in search of quick returns, which makes them unfit for the industry.

“Almost each week there is a show at different restaurants. Does this mean we are so much obsessed with fashion? Is it lack of entertainment? These too many fashion shows are made worse by the fact that most concepts are the same. I think these fashion shows are boring and losing lustre, especially their importance. It is better to have few meaningful shows that properly serve their purposes,” said Tinotenda Makichi, a stylist.

He said fashion is essential but its display should not be too much. “South African fashion shows and even those in big fashion cities like New York, Milan and Paris are done based on seasons. This then makes the shows more valuable because we can relate to them rather than having fashion shows almost every weekend with same models and same designers. If it is about marketing, I guess they should up their game,” he said.

“The proliferation of these so-called fashion shows is nothing but a mere money-making venture by these guys who just wake up one morning and think they can organise a successful fashion show without taking into considering what it takes to run a successful event. These are the same people that you see the next day having eggs on their faces because of poor organisation. A fashion show is not just about dressing people but having the desired business acumen, background, clout and influence in the industry.”

A designers who was interviewed on condition of anonymity said there is nothing wrong in taking a leaf from those successful organisers in countries like South Africa, Italy and the United States who run fashion shows well because they would have invested a whole lot of their time, money and resources. The designer said the organisers should come together and pool their ideas and resources and come up with one thing that will be bigger, better and assume not just a national but an international appeal.

“The problem with most of these people is that they all want fame and fortune yet they forget that there is strength in numbers. Pooling their resources together will be an advantage, for as long as they spell out a clear and transparent working plan which does not leave others grumbling,” said the designer.

One wonders why such designers too want fewer shows yet they are the ones who plead for more exposure. The fashion show organisers have also been criticised for promoting foreign labels like Gucci and Louis Vuitton among others at the detriment of local labels. Most of the international labels exhibited are actually counterfeit designs.

“Local designs can sell. The fact still remains that ‘local is lekker’ and that we have some very good local designers who are even sought-after on the international platform. It would be good to promote their designs during these fashion shows. Unfortunately, few shows promote local designs and one begins to question the credibility of these fashion shows and the purpose they serve,” said designer Munemo Munemo.

Munemo is known for his local ensemble of “zambia style”. Also, to prove that they are not there to serve the real purpose of dressing people, some of these fashion shows compete rather complement one another. Some of the shows are held around the same time in a move that some observers have described as counter-productive to the industry. This has been blamed on the lack of a fashion regulatory body which administers and monitors the operations of these fashion shows.

“In the arts in general, we have the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe; in music we have the Zimbabwe Music Rights and Zimbabwe Musicians Association; and in football we have Zimbabwe Football Association. This is the same thing that should be happening in fashion so as to ensure that all this confusion does not happen and sanity prevails. If this confusion continues, one day we will see models walking on the ramp completely naked!”

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