Friday, February 19

What are your thoughts on South African style?

When I was 15 (That makes me sound ancient, I’m 27) we didn’t have blogs to read for fashion inspiration. Heck we didn’t even have dial up Internet. In fact, when I was an eight grader (or ‘Standard Six’er as it was then) clothes were the last thing on my mind. All I really cared about was beating my Mario Top Score and making mix tapes. We lived in slops and tops and life was sweet.

Now, teenagers - nay tweens - have front row seats at Haute Couture shows. The blogosphere is bouncing with seriously stylish under 21’s. When I got to London and saw all these young girls rocking boyfriend blazers and brogues down Oxford Street, I felt ridiculously uncool and stupendously inspired. It’s like a city of Olsen Twins and mini Alexa Chungs. But how did they all become so stylish?

Well, for one, they live in a great big city of creativity. And while Londoners set some of the world's biggest trends, they're not necessarily trend-led. Rather, they handpick the trends that take their fancy and work them into their individual styles. I think we’re a bit more trend-focused in SA, or Durban at least (I’ve never lived in Jozi or Cape Town so I can't really comment on the whole country) Remember when peasant skirts were big news in 2003? Everyone was wearing them! (Not you? Ok, nearly everyone) And who can forget the ¾ length black skirt and Kangol platforms of the 90's. Or the pedal pusher of 2000? When a trend hits home, it seems to hit hard and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I guess. But it is nice to see that some looks live on past their heyday in the UK... boys in bow ties and tweed jackets, girls in tea dresses and fifties flicked lashes. Wouldn't it be lovely if you could bundle some of that up and bring it back to SA?

Of course we have our share of amazing designers and stylish folk who wave our fashion flag high but wouldn't it be nice to throw in more international inspiration to the mix? It must be easier to find your own style when you're exposed to so many others. But why am I making such a big deal out of clothes? They are just clothes after all. True, true but London was a lesson in a number of fashiony things for me. The biggie was that fashion is for everyone regardless of your shape or size. And secondly, fashion is fun! London reminded me that I can wear Star Wars T-Shirts and ridiculous bows in my hair till I'm chilling in Shady Pines. Like the music we listen to and the movies we watch, our clothes can be a wonderful extension of who we are. So are we having enough fun with them in South Africa? Do we dress for the sake of dressing, to 'fit in' or feel fabulous? How free to do you feel to experiment with new looks? I think the confidence to express yourself comes with numbers and Durbs for one, is a fairly small city. It's not always easy to try something new, is it? Or is that just me?

I'd love to hear your views on fashion in SA. What motivates you to buy the clothes that you do? Do you you turn to local fashion mags for monthly blasts of inspiration? Or do you prefer the imported editions and if so, why? I sometimes feel the British mags do a better job of demonstrating how to put clothes together. The outfits seem more wearable yet they still have an element of edginess to them. How often does a window display influence your purchases? Or do you just do you own thing and if so, what inspires your choices? I'm super curious to hear your thoughts! My friend Taryn, feels we're more influenced by US looks as seen in our gossip mags and I think she's got a point there. I find street style blogs or personal blogs with outfit posts way more inspiring than runway snaps. It's great to see girls of all shapes, skintones and hair colours pairing Primark heels with Mui Mui bags!

So tell me girls and guys, what are your thoughts and views on local fashion? And if you live over sees, I'd love to hear what you've seen, heard and read about South African style. Over to you!


BiancaZAR said...

As per usual Lauren, I think you’re right on the money. Here in Jozi, people follow style trends as if their life depended on it.

At the moment, all the girls look they are auditioning for a role in the Gladiator sequel. I feel like must rush out and get my own knee length sandals, even though I think they are ridiculous.

There is some margin for individuality but it’s still compartmentalized into different looks which are like set subcultures that you must fit into to, whether it be hippie or glam.

Having lived on and off in Asia for the past three years makes it even more difficult. I have a wardrobe full of clothes that don’t fit in more about the story of a style outcast on

Lauren Setterberg said...

Hi Bianca, thanks for weighing in. Your comment about the gladiators cracked me up! My bro's girlfriend whose studying at Wits summed up Jozi student style as Mr Price with a Guess bag and I had to laugh. I saw sooo many Guess bags on my visit there. I will definitely check out your blog, thanks. x

JoJo said...

Interesting topic!
My boyfriend and I lived in the UK for last year and the clothes there are just to die for! The high street has loads of on trend pieces at really cheap prices too. But then, they also cater for other people who aren't so trend-conscious. It was really nice to go out wearing exactly what you wanted to without feeling slightly insecure, as I did (and still do now actually) here in SA. Durbs may be a small city but opening up to a bit of individualism never hurt anyone!
I think South African fashion - the trends of the moment - tend to play it a bit safe. I'd love to see more interesting things out there so that we can experiment and add things that we like to our personal, INDIVIDUAL wardrobes.
I used to spend a small fortune on monthly copies of the British Glamour, Vogue and Elle. Now that I'm back in SA I find myself spending even more just to keep up to date with all the wonderful high street pieces floating around Europe. I hope that doesn't make me somewhat of a hypocrite?
But really, any fashion loving person who goes abroad and comes back to Edgars and Mr Price will feel a bit sad - they will!
I feel bad for saying that now. Dammit.

Emma-Jane said...

I love this lauren.. i've been thinking about this a lot lately.. I LOVE clothes and i love perusing over the satorialist and look book. they have such beautiful clothes overseas! and i find myself wandering around the shops trying to find similar things but they're just not here. and if i do find reeeaally beautiful unique dresses and skirts they're imported and waay over priced.. like at 'the space' and vertigo/urban/trenery/country road.. so pretty. but you cant justify spending R1000 on a simple cotton dress. :( :(..

I think Mr P definitely has some high fashion winners that can be spruced up with a great belt or cardi and its so cheap! :)
but edgars/truworths/foschini are really awful and overpriced (you'll occasionally find a winner)

i feel like i'm rambling on... but i agree with Jo - South Africans play it a bit safe with fashion and don't really have individual personal style.
It makes me sad.
I'm going to Europe in June and plan to find some nice pieces :) :) any must-visit shops lauren??

Lauren Setterberg said...

Hey JoJo, thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. It's so interesting to hear everyone's viewpoints. I also love how the highstreet caters for all budgets. I think there is some gold in our chainstores but you have to dig for it at times. Stores like Urban Outfitters do a great job of merchandising and it sparks off outfit inspiration. I'd never thought to pair a Darth Vader tee with a floral dress until I saw that in the window, loved it and snapped up the pieces. I found those displays really helpful cuz sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the choices and can't figure out what to put with what. Some would say that's a bit unoriginal of me but for a fashion newbie, it helps! I could also write a page long essay on the brilliance of H&M branding! They're in the low-end price range and yet there's none of that 'shopper shame' of buying there. If stores can do cheap without being cheesy, you're got it made I reckon. Just my humble 2 cents of course, I'm no fashionista and I don't really know the biz at all.

Lauren Setterberg said...

Hi Emma, thanks for your comment! I hear you hon, perusing the Trenery range and the lovely dresses in The Space is heart breaking when you just don't have that kind of dosh. I sure don't although, I do feel good supporting SA design when I can, even if it's just a pair of earings. It'd be great if we could foster a culture that celebrates diversity in style. Overseas...Mademoiselle Robot has written some great articles on the best vintage shops in Paris and London which you may wanna check out. You must go to all the biggies like Topshop of course! Ah, I wish I was going to, you're gonna have an amazing time! xxx

Nadia Jonker said...

Some nice essay comments here. Good work. difficult to find really inspiring new pieces in SA. I love Brit mags for inspiration + Teen Vogue. Wearable, layered lookes that you can actually wear. x

Lauren Setterberg said...

Hey Nads, I've never actually flicked thru a Teen Vogue but I've seen quite alot of their scans on people's blogs and it looks amaze - wearable layered looks as you say. What are our teens reading for style advice, I wander? Thanks for your comment hun. x

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Jojo had to say - SAians play it a bit safe...

BUT I think it's to be expected considering most of us grew up in an SA that was isolated from the rest of the world and like the new kids being thrust out into the playground for the first time we're a bit conservative and try to 'fit in', yet to fully find our own style feet and give conformity the finger the way the girls do over here in England! Taryn

Lauren Setterberg said...

Hey Taryn, cheers for your comment. As you say, we're so isolated from other cultures and styles. Hurrah for the internet and big city street style blogs! x

La.K said...

Great post La!
When I was 15 (we are going back to early 90’s EEK!) it was very important to own a pair of Levi 501AND if you had another colour, besides the usual blue denim, like a white pair, you were just super cool! I think they refer to those 501’s as “mom jeans” now. HA! Today, I do not care what the label on my jeans say! If I find a great pair of skinny jeans from woollies and they look good on, and only cost R150 then happy days :0) I agree with the comments here – South Africans definitely play it safe! I also find most South Africans to be very brand conscious?!

I too find British mags great inspiration, people and friends inspire me, and now all these great blogs such as yours La, and all the ones you have introduced us too. It is just so sad that most of the wonderful things that we see we can’t seem to find in our shops.

I was most inspired when I lived in London and definitely experimented more with fashion. Gosh, I remember that first time I walked into Top Shop on Oxford street – I had to stand still for a moment just to hear the heavens singing :0)

Another thing we lack in SA is SHOES!!! Oh how I miss all the great shoe shops in London. Office was one of my favourite, amongst others. I just cannot seem to find great shoes in Durban, and when you do, you pay a small fortune. [Aldos usually has some winners]

I must say, with this heat that we are experiencing in Durban it is hard to experiment with an outfit or accessorise for that matter! Today was such a scorcher I did not know what to put on! When my boyfriend walked into the bedroom his words were “Lordy Lauren, why is your wardrobe all on the bed” hehehe - its times like this that I wish I could pull off a pretty dress. Sigh. I am determined to find one that suits me.

Do you think our SA weather/climate plays a big role in what we wear?

Sorry, I have gone on long enough but before I take up all the space, I just wanted to say that I also find that the fashion differs between out three major cities - Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. Cape Town definitely being my favourite for inspiration.

Lauren Setterberg said...

La, thank you so much for your lovely long comment! Actually, I think the heat/climate in Durbs plays a big part. I can never pull off the bronzed natural look and I find it so frustrating. Bring on winter! I also wanted to write another post about 'if crime affects the way we dress in SA.' Think you're right on the varying styles, I found Jozi girls were alot more experimental than Durban girls in general. My bro's GF says you can spot the Durbanites a mile away in Jozi cus they're all in tops and slops with bare faces, heehee! You and me both with our wardrobes on the bed, haha! I'll email you about tea this week lovely La. *hugs* x