Our current fashion market is dominated by a few key retailers. The fashion market talks about, promotes and purchases mostly overseas brands that have somehow managed to – with enough marketing budget and strategy – convince masses of South Africans that they offer superior product quality. It’s in the names like Topshop, Zara, Cotton On, Factorie and Forever New just to mention some top of mind brands that fashion lovers will save, sacrifice and spend thousands of Rands in an attempt to look nice. While the overseas image is appealing these products are in many cases made in the same factories with the same low cost materials in the same countries where labour is cheap.
While we all want to look nice it doesn’t mean that we need these brands to do so. There is a great opportunity for local designers to take unconventional, imaginative and collective efforts to broaden their appeal and create a demand for their products and brands among the South African youth market.
Through research I’ve learnt that people are willing to buy local designers but there are a couple check boxes that need to be filled before people will purchase.
The number one thing is to offer something unique. People want to feel like they couldn’t get that item from anywhere else. Uniqueness is broad and can be expressed in a variety of ways. It would then make sense to understand who you are making clothes for and create offers that are unique and interesting to them. Concepts that they connect with, that is expressed through their clothing.
It’s about owning our African Heritage. The great thing about this heritage of ours is that it is filled with options. Explore what makes us different to the rest of the world and use that as inspiration to create garments that will cement Africa and South Africa as a fashion capital and cultivate a love for the place we live through clothing.
This goes hand in hand with a strong brand identity. People want to buy items that they can easily recognize and that they connect with. Linking clothing to African values and a personality that relates to the South African consumer will differentiate local designers from international ones in an impactful way as we know our people best.
Lastly and most importantly (besides creating products that can hold up against products sold at popular retail stores) would be to sell these products in an appealing environment. Research conducted with South African people aged 18-35 shows that selling at malls doesn’t cut it. People want an experience, even when they are shopping. Buying clothes is a sort of celebration and the environment in which it is sold should emphasise this.
The likes of H&M have adapted to the festival craze and aligned their marketing strategy to maximize their connection to the excitement of an event such as Coachella where people want to look good. This is a great example of how local designers can connect their clothes with relevant events that connect with their brand to increase demand for their products as well as sales.
I believe there will be a rise in the demand for local fashion and that the current fashion market which is dominated by a few key retailers will – in due time – change.
Article by Gabrielle Mixon
TrendER Insights’ Fashion Researcher, Communicator & Trend Analyst