South vs west: Who wins in the red carpet fashion stakes in Africa?

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From The Bridgterton Affair soiree, to the Real Housewives of Lagos premieres in Lagos and Hyde Park and recently the Africa Magic Viewer’s Choice Awards, we sure have seen interesting fashion at these red carpet events.

Judging by the public reviews, most people seem to be fascinated by the fashion choices of West African celebrities and public figures. And it’s easy to see why: the men and women from West African countries such as Nigeria are always on par when it comes to fashion.

It’s a pity we can’t say the same about some of the South African stars when it comes to the red carpet.

While there are those who always show up, mostly Bonang Matheba, and know how to dress accordingly for occasions, many can’t seem to get it right.

Speaking to Lineo Molefe, co-founder of Fashion Spaces, fashion entrepreneur and career wardrobe stylist, she says what makes West African celebrities dress better than their South African counterparts is that there is a lack of rotation in new talent. She thinks that South Africa needs to start practising finding new talent as a culture.

“Besides the lack of budget with most influential people, I believe we suffer from tunnel vision, whereby we only look at the same handful of designers and stylists instead of cultivating the massive pool of talent waiting to put in the work. West Africa’s influential people spend more time and money nurturing young talent and are not afraid to outsource talent from neighbouring countries,” says Molefe

And we agree because if you look at stars like Toke Makinwa, Okuneye Idris Olanrewaju, Chioma Ikokwu and many others, they have a team dedicated to their looks.

Whereas in Mzansi, celebrities want to be all-rounders by dressing themselves instead of getting stylists. However, all is not lost as we do have the likes of Ayanda Ncwane, who has a full-time stylist, her brother, Phuphu Gumede, who deals with her wardrobe. Ncwane supports African brands such as Tomi R, Zazi Luxury, Masango, Zuri Azalea, Otsile Sefolo, and Ryan Keys, to name but a few.

Another thing is that South African celebrities focus more on everyday wear and less on couture. They need to start attending fashion shows and be able to spot trends for the upcoming seasons. There are a few South African celebrities who wear clothes that are straight from the runway.

That’s why the general public thought the late Riky Rick was ‘crazy’ when he wore an outfit from the Chulaap Autumn/Winter 2018 collection at the South African Music Awards. They are not used to our celebrities doing such because if they did, people would understand pop culture better.

Meanwhile, in West Africa, they invest more in traditional attire and couture. Street wear and relaxed pieces are for running errands. You seldom see West African stars wearing causal clothes on the red carpet. For prestigious events, they go all out and prefer customised garments.

To improve the way South African celebrities dress, especially for red carpet events, Molefe says they need to invest in personal glam squads.

“I believe in having a retainable glam squad with a fluid creative mind, who would help you plan attires ahead of time in case you get invited to red carpet events suddenly. It is important for celebrities to choose wisely when picking those individuals, bearing in mind that they have an open mind in finding new, young and fresh talent that possesses the eagerness to learn and pay attention to detail while coming up with new ideas.

A perfect example of such is the late Riky Rick, who constantly uplifted young creatives and was never afraid to try something new or give an opportunity to young or new talent of that time,” explains Molefe.

In terms of the state of pop culture in South Africa, she is confident that we are on the right track.

“We are at the age of cyberspace, where the internet is our main source of inspiration in interpreting pop culture, not only in SA but the world as a whole. For this reason, I believe the state of pop culture in SA is on par with the rest of the world,” she says.

“From introducing the world to our own music genre to having an LVMH prize winner (Thebe Magugu). I believe we have a greater influence on the pop culture of the modern world compared to 20 years ago.”

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