Our retail market is now home to more global brands and just as many local start-up fashion entrepreneurs. Product parity has been a result of global players who have built their enterprises on mass production. Seeing the same or similar designs in several stores can result in an ‘inauthentic’ perception of a brand. Making it increasingly difficult for consumers to connect with a store that mass produces. When there were fewer stores, product parity was less noticeable. However, in this current time of excess it shows that offerings and stores such as these have less soul. These brands are losing the human touch that inspires creativity resulting in unique offerings that connect with people. Who are now indifferent or turning against mass production as a result.
The antithesis of mass production is going against trends which people are increasingly drawn to. This is most often brought to life for people through their own DIY projects or buying from smaller fashion players. At the core of this, it is about expressing one’s soul and individuality through items that have a unique flair to them.
South African people are still rooted in Ubuntu. Having a tendency to lean towards togetherness. An inherent ‘African’ trait. There is, on the other hand, a greater sense of independence to do things for themselves and this is showing in the clothes people wear. They don’t want to look like everyone else because they aren’t like anyone else. As much as they want to contribute to and be accepted by society in general.
People are not afraid to call out mass producing brands (with big reputations) in our market for what they do wrong. Recently, H&M came under fire for their offensive communication. Not the first incident where South Africans have been enraged by their lack of care in communication. Not only did the communication lack connection but the product itself missed the mark with what consumers would put on their child. As businesses you must know, people are increasingly looking to brands for ‘African’ offerings that show respect. Transcend racial boundaries and address or solve cultural inequality on one hand. On the other hand, individuality that connects with their psyche.
Beyond selling a physical piece of clothing that may or may not have a unique flair, communication must exist to restore African pride and identity in order to connect with the individual in South Africa.
To connect you really need to know the market. This is a challenge for global mass producers and a golden opportunity for small local businesses.
Areas like Braamfontein are well-favoured because they create solutions that connect with the people in the area. Creativity thrives, fashion is celebrated and each person is free to bring their unique flair while being a part of a bigger ‘African’ picture that’s rooted in togetherness.
These are key values in fashion that counteracts the current offerings of mass producing brands. Creativity, celebrating fashion and unique flair. Pillars through which people will connect and gravitate towards. To gain the love and approval of consumers it is important to pursue these as a fashion player.