Reshaping African streetwear trends

Urban or streetwear has always been a part of the fashion space. Those who can will remember the days of Sean John by Puff Daddy-now P Diddy.

Earlier than that, the baggy fashions of FUBU and the loud ghetto fabulous ensembles by Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat label that came after.

For the African continent, the streetwear of the 90s, which was largely influenced by the American mainstream, has slowly over the years started showing its own identity.

Key to this reshaping of African streetwear into something uniquely ours are entrepreneurs like Mogomotsi Magome and Mthunzi Nkosi the duo behind urban wear label Iintsizwa Ziphelele. The brand was founded a little over five years ago and creates streetwear using African fabrics.

"We started the label because we have always been people who were interested in fashion and clothing.

"So we wanted to create a clothing label that could represent young people that can be something fresh, original and South African," says Magome.

The duo also offer printing and embroidery services, which specialise in corporate branding.

They struggled to raise funds to get the printing and embroidery machinery, eventually using their own money in conjunction with some government help they were able to purchase some equipment. Another challenge was getting customers.

"As the brand grew the challenge became getting access to the market. It's very difficult as a small business to compete with an already established enterprises because you compete for customers and they often beat you out because they have more resources," Magome added.

What also adds to the difficulties is that, a lot of cheap clothing floods the market and chokes out the local industry and also resellers can get access to clothing in bulk at a cheaper price, and therefore selling at low prices as well.

Magome acknowledges that the clothing and textile sector is in a difficult spot but he believes it's not the only industry under pressure currently.

"If you're selling an original product and put in effort into the quality and if you put a bit of effort into your distribution you still have a chance to survive in the industry."

He advises that staying ahead of the curve would work in one's stead as the industry can be very competitive. He notes that over the years consumers have been gravitating towards brands that have been producing African streetwear.

He also adds that personalities like Scoop Makhatini, an urban wear enthusiast, show support for local brands.

"It seems like there's an overall sentiment that people have to be more representative of African culture and African design. for me that's very encouraging as it means we can be able to express ourselves more clearly and we can be able to relate to the people we print our clothes for."

Magome and Nkosi are trying to raise funds to establish a one-stop shop for local brands. This idea was born out of their struggles as their current business address is in a residential area in Soweto.

This curtails access to customers. Magome ended off by stating that with the drive to encourage young people to start businesses they should also be furnished with bare truths about the struggles of entrepreneurship.

"It's easy for people to say 'no it's not only money that will help the business'. Yes, we understand that but you can only mentor and train an entrepreneur for so much and for so long.

At the end of the day their companies need a capital injection if they are to migrate from being a small business to actually being big businesses that create jobs."

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