Sunday, September 8, 2013

Thanks, you really like my outfit? - Why street style photography will continue to march to its own path in South Africa

A day without any good outfit sighting or a few refusals from rushed subjects can make any veteran street style photographer question themselves and their ability in that moment. But because the art is still fairly new and arguably less convoluted in terms of its relationship to and influence on the South African fashion scene, street style in this country is likely to emerge not only on African time, but more importantly on African terms.

We’ve all seen, followed and secretly tried to emulate some of the looks found by international fashion bloggers who report instantly from events and trips. Street style has emerged quite differently in the northern hemisphere though, with its current state being a mixture of appraisal and the arrival of anticipated professional recognition for amazing work by some, found in opposition to unoriginal wannabes with solely competition, fame and celebrity status on their minds. Street style photographers have received a fair share of backlash from the industry for no longer being inspirational but instead looking to capture those peacocking individuals who 'casually' stroll by during fashion week in the most outrageous outfits in order to gain some exposure for their work instantly. Although a season behind, South African creatives are perhaps more fortunate than they believe. Simply put, we don’t have to compete (yet) in a highly over saturated market where instant gratification trumps hard work and creativity.

What makes me think South African street style bloggers won’t end up being pushed aside in a sea of paparazzo? Firstly, street style has not yet reached the level of influence it has in the fashion capitals upstream. For the most part, other than fashion weeks here at home, street style is seen as a supplement to the fashion influencers and publications and provide a sort of authentic, sister-like advice on how to wear trendy garments. This is coupled by the overall sense of style we have as a nation in which comfort is more important. Our hopes and dreams for life are uniquely glocal – we subscribe to some of the glory a few seconds of fame may offer but our overall values sit uniquely in line with more holistic approaches  to living, consuming and dressing up. Although the idea of Michelle from Cinder & Skylark snapping your outfit on a day you feel particularly well dressed may seem appealing, you generally don’t go out of your way to hunt her down. (similarly when attending artsy events you know Mali from Skattie, what are you wearing? will too. Some may consider this a bad thing, the fact that we have not fully harnessed the reach street style can have on both industry and fans alike. I think that street style is a lot more genuine on our local shores because we have the time to browse through exactly what it-girls and models are wearing and wade through the snaps of stilettos on cobble stone roads and fur worn on sunny days. Being on African time may not be such a bad thing for street style photography after all – it gives fashionistas time to focus on other important aspects of trends and then interpret it on their own terms without any major pressure to influence designers or brands. We’re a friendly bunch, and perhaps it’s because of our relatively modest culture as a nation or the lack of a bounteous seesawing celebrity movement, but street style photography is still quite popular and is open to less hierarchical hate as our Parisian counterparts may be subject to. 

Scouting got me scouted by Elle South Africa.


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