What I learned from SA Fashion Week

SA Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 2019 came to a close last week, marking 21 years since its debut, and celebrating its next chapter as a bona fide adult. What started in the late ’90s as platform to draw our attention to SA’s sartorial creatives, has matured into one that drives the industry across our continent showcasing the beauty, the art, the innovation, and the socio-economic value of design culture.

It is easy to dismiss fashion as frivolous, but to do so would be short-sighted, a sentiment shared by Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada when she famously said, [Fashion] represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry.” And, in truth, she has a point. While you may choose not be to cutting-edge, or to follow the latest trends, your wardrobe is proof enough that clothing matters.

I will freely admit that my first SAFW was, above all, fun. I loved being surrounded by designers, influencers, people who shared my passion, and those who just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I will also admit that putting together an outfit was nerve-racking. What do you wear to an event whose very purpose is fashion? The answer was surprisingly simple – you wear whatever it is you want. The local fashion community and industry as a whole, is among the most welcoming and inclusive I have ever met. Those in the industry are grateful to you for showing interest, and willing to share their knowledge. They celebrate diversity and welcome change. The rules go out the window.  A onesie emblazoned with countless images of SpongeBob? Go for it. (He told me it was to allow him to “absorb the fabulous energy”. I think that’s brilliant.)

And the shows…

Each was unique and wonderful and had much to say. From Rubicon, who celebrated diversity with models of different races and body shapes, to Klipa, whose menswear collection stayed true to its philosophy of 100% home grown. Collaborations by Erre and Cape Wools SA (among others) made it clear that ethical fashion and high-end fashion, were not mutually exclusive.


Amidst all this, you may be excused from thinking about how it all came together. Of course, the designers worked tirelessly to put together the collections, but what about the production of each show, and SAFW on the whole? Those in the shadows achieve a monumental task and, for the most part, don’t have an opportunity to even watch a show – they’re too busy making sure that we can. And it got me thinking about the role lawyers play in the event.

It was rather difficult to take off my spectator hat and put on the lawyer robe (metaphorically, of course – the robes are not flattering in the least). But when I (grudgingly) changed perspective, my first thought was, “How many contracts does it take t

o pull off a fashion week?” For starters, you need a venue. And anyone whose signed an agreement for any space, whether you’re buying, selling or leasing, knows that they run into pages of clauses that you’ve probably never previously considered. Then, there are the employment-related contracts – the models, the make-up artists, hair stylists, cameramen, videographers, suppliers… the list goes on. There are Service Level Agreements abound, setting out the do’s and don’ts, the costs, the penalties and everything in between.

And don’t get me started on copyrights. Who owns the image to what, boggled my mind. Unofficial photography was allowed in every show. By this I mean I could finally post something interesting on Instagram, as could everyone else in possession of a cell phone. Now, remember, these collections are for A/W’19. That is a long time away, especially in fashion terms. How do designers prevent copying, knock-offs and the like if you can leave a show with a close-up of a design? And what do you do if your design is replicated and sold before your collection is in stores?

For me, what was most curious, was the disclaimers. As any good lawyer will tell you, disclaimers are vital. Fashion, like life, is unpredictable and as undesirable as it may seem to place a legal notice alongside couture, it is among the most important aspects of an event of this magnitude in order to protect oneself. The thing about disclaimers, though, is that they seem rather standard and easy to get right. Right? Wrong. There are some basic rules as to what they should say, where they should be, and how they should say it – they need to include all the legal fine print without sounding like they include all the legal fine print. So, while other legal documents contribute a great deal towards deforestation, disclaimers are succinct, easy to understand, and leave no room for ambiguity. If you get them right. Get them wrong and you may find yourself on the wrong side of a lengthy legal battle. (And, what about the insurance aspects involved? Insurance policies can be tricky at the best of times. How do you ensure you are covered for an unfortunate eventuality?)

Alongside the disclaimer, was another notice of the legal kind – a waiver, of sorts. Naturally, fashion week is visually documented. There are photographers aplenty, of both the professional and amateur kind, most of which will end up online and in print. The chances are that your picture will be taken, intentionally or otherwise. This means that you may not necessarily have actually consented, or even wanted, your picture taken, much less publicised. There have been lawsuits aplenty regarding image appropriation,  mostly of celebrity images being used in fast-fashion, without the permission of the person affected. So, by simply entering the foyer at an event, have you waived ownership of your picture if you’ve walked past the notice? By the same token, who actually owns the picture – the photographer or person photographed?


I walked in to SA Fashion Week knowing that I love all things sartorial. But, what have I learned from SA Fashion Week? Probably for being as guilty as one who dismisses fashion as frivolity – I didn’t truly appreciate that the beauty of the aesthetic was, to a fair extent, the product of those who had nothing to do with the clothes – the accountants, the insurers, the marketers and, yes, the lawyers.

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen

Digital Media Contributor


(Header courtesy of; Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada courtesy of Collection Christofel/Alamy via; Runway recaps courtesy of @safashionweek via Instagram)



The True Cost of Luxury

 Luxury diamonds image courtesy of:

A diamond, whether it is princess, marquise or asscher, is said to be a girl’s best friend. Dating all the way back to the 1600’s, diamonds were worn as a symbol of extraordinary wealth. Diamonds bear such great value that The Great Gatsby costume designer, Catherine Martin, elected to use fine jewellery as opposed to imitation, to effectively portray the obscene wealth and elaborate luxury of a glamorous world. It is no secret that luxury jewellery brands such as Jenna Clifford, Shimansky and Charles Greig pride themselves on delivering bespoke creations of which ancient Greeks truly believed are tears from the Gods, but a one-of-a-kind masterpiece may come at an expense far greater than that of its price tag.

Diamonds may be the symbol of great fortune, and for many impoverished countries battered by war, a stepping stone to first world status, but it is gravely ironic that the value of this mineral may easily be the leading cause of underdevelopment. Sierra Leone’s diamond-rich Kono District has attracted the attention of large-scale, mechanised companies who have provided many job opportunities for local, unemployed migrant workers to such an extent that the diamond mining sector is now Sierra Leone’s second largest employer. Yet problems of exploitation and poverty amongst the locals remain rife. While the wealth of the world’s most extraordinary natural resource continues to bring fortune to some, it also supports “a system of debt bondage and a contemporary form of slavery” explains Roy Maconachie, Senior Lecturer in International Development, University of Bath.

Image courtesy of: Elle Magazine @daniellecamera_jewellery

If you have ever purchased a diamond or been the lucky recipient of such an opulent gift, you would know that with each purchase the owner receives a certificate of authenticity. This certificate details the diamond’s characteristics and ensures its quality as well as its identity. While this certificate may constitute a stamp of approval, it is no validation for the ethical background from which a diamond is born. The purchase of this precious stone may either have a negative or positive social impact on the diamond mining industry, which will yours be? Freelance journalist, Rachel Briant, believes that ‘worldwide ethical wedding ring options are growing [but] like with many other things, South Africa is still catching up’. Well, South Africa has officially caught up thanks to home-grown jewellery brand Danielle Camera, which will soon launch the first line of ethical engagement rings. Danielle Camera’s ‘Say I Do’ collection guarantees fair trade by paying miners the fair-trade minimum price and premium to ensure deliverance of kind jewellery made from Certified Fairtrade Gold. The brand promises that “Fairtrade standards are met on working conditions, health and safety, handling chemicals, women’s rights, child labour and protection of the environment”. To the leading conscience behind this brand, the City of Gold thanks you for bringing ethical options to our doorstep.

As consumers, we forget that our voices and demands are more powerful than the corporate giants behind the brand. We are not slaves to exclusivity and certainly not prisoners of half-truths, but rather soldiers of Fairtrade forging an ethical path for the production of high-priced goods in the South African luxury market. So when you caption your magical moment as:

Image courtesy of: Pinterest

Please use the opportunity to show the world, and 1 800 of your closest friends, that the lives of miners, their families and communities are just as important as showcasing just how much he loves you.


Alyssa Lewis

Digital Media Contributor


Let’s keep the conversation going…


A month has passed since Fashion Revolution Week, 2018. It sparked the debate, got people involved, and took the conversation to the street. But, with the dust having settled, are we keeping the conversation alive? We owe it to ourselves, to future generations, and to the planet we call home, to lend the revolution our voices. The Rana Plaza tragedy of 2013 made it our duty to ask the questions, to take a stand, and to speak out against the exploitation and the damage caused by the fashion industry that has gone unchecked for decades.

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For most of us, our fashion journey starts at a store – be it brick and mortar, or e-tailer. As a dynamic industry that is becoming increasingly competitive, brands are scurrying to deliver fast fashion that is on point, and affordable. But, before the apparel hits the railings, it’s gone through quite a journey. It all starts with labourers picking cotton on farms and makes its way through weavers, dyers, sewers and a host of others before being shipped off to retailers.

When we talk of ethical or sustainable fashion, we usually think going green. And while that is a significant part of it, we need to face the hard truths – that dress may have come off the back of human rights violations. So, where to from here? Do we boycott all retailers, and demand immediate change? That’s one option. Although it is likely to be effective, it may not be the most practical approach, or one that can be incorporated into our lives.

The key is to start small. Ask yourself…

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Ask retailers the same. Some may be open about it, while others may keep mum. Some may direct you to their corporate and social policies. Others may tell you half-truths. Persistence may be the most effective way of getting meaningful answers but, you have the right to know. You have the right to make informed decisions. And you have the right to choose. But with that comes the responsibility to remain conscious of how we shop. Do we by more, cheap? Or less, but better?

You can also make a difference by signing the Fashion Revolution Manifesto. “We have no doubt that fashion has the potential to transform the world. We know from our experience over the past five years that change can happen if we relentlessly speak out and call for action. The more people who sign this Manifesto, the louder we all become and the stronger our shared vision becomes for a better fashion industry. Join us!”- Fashion Revolution

(Images courtesy of Fashion Revolution and


Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen

Digital Media Contributor


The rise of SA designers

The SA fashion landscape has come a long way, and we are lucky to have some amazing designers call South Africa their home. Carmen Rochelle is one of them – a businesswoman who runs a unique brand called Bear Bear & Me, a vintage inspired footwear collection where creative meets quirky. The line is making waves locally and set to tackle the globe this year.


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Carmen’s design story began in the late 90’s and quickly made her mark on the industry showcasing at various events. Carmen’s journey hasn’t been a walk in the park though. As both a designer and entrepreneur, she’s had to face some difficulties but has successfully navigated them, and continues to do so. “The biggest challenge has been managing the efficiency within the supply chain,” says Carmen, “if you choose to support the local industry [as Carmen does]…you have to find ways to make it work.”

Another challenge faced by the industry as a whole, is design infringement. According to Carmen, in the age of social media, it has never been easier for people to produce knock-offs and the effect on designers is catastrophic. “As a designer, it is important to protect the intellectual capital of the brand, not only in the South African context, but a global one as well,” she says. Carmen is proactive in this regard, and takes measures to protect herself and her brand at various levels of the supply chain (something many designers may overlook, or simply see as dispensable). By engaging the services of SA Fashion Law – from the preparation of contracts, to the protection of her intellectual property, Carmen ensures that she is covered.

But what separates her from the rest, is her commitment to the integrity of her brand. Carmen is keenly aware of our footwear needs and ensures that she uses superior materials, has a commitment to comfort, and a signature style that makes Bear Bear & Me standout. Her commitment to #ShopLocal sets her apart as well, and she recognises the shift to conscious consumerism saying that customers have become dissatisfied with cheap knock-offs – they’re looking for real value for money, and ethical, sustainable fashion. For most, this seems like a mammoth task. But Carmen is not like most – she’s been able to maximise the benefit to communities while minimising her impact of the environment. Having consumers become “conscious consumers”, requires that designers become “conscious designers”. For Carmen, this means being mindful in every decision she makes, from the little things all the way up.

(Shop online at and

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen

Digital Media Contributor


The legalities of online shopping

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There is nothing better than a little retail therapy from the comfort of your favourite chair. Online shopping is on the rise in SA and seems to be here to stay. But, have you ever stopped to read the fine print before hitting the “checkout” button? Before making the e-purchase, it is likely that you’ve had to register with the site and provide personal information from your full name to your address, and your banking details. (As a quick bit of advice, never agree to save your card details online, however convenient it may seem.)

There are various laws protecting online shoppers, as there are if you had actually stepped into the store. The Consumer Protection Act, the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act (ECTA) and the Protection of Personal Information Act are to name but a few. For example, the ECTA gives you the right to cancel certain of your purchase agreements (N.B. you are, in fact, “signing” an agreement) within 7 days; known as the cooling-off period, you are entitled to a full refund when you return the merchandise – the only thing you may be liable for is the cost of returning the product to the supplier. To be fair, some of the local web-stores are happy to take back a product you simply don’t want at no charge, provided the tags are attached, original packaging undamaged and you log a return online within 30 days.

If you’ve e-shopped on various platforms, you’ve likely been inundated with emails from online retailers plying their wares. And let’s be honest, who can resist a flash sale? But being automatically added to a mailing list can become rather annoying. E-tailers are obliged to give you the option to be removed from the mailing list, and even to disclose to you the source of your personal information, if it was not you who provided it (various companies have information sharing agreements in place and you may, at some point, have inadvertently given your consent to have your info shared). But with the Protection of Personal Information Act (affectionately known as POPI) due to come into effect, the storage and use of your personal data will be stringently regulated.

Along with the ECTA, the Consumer Protection Act gives you the right to return goods or merchandise you have not had the chance to inspect prior to delivery. So, before grabbing the pen out of the hand of the delivery guy so you can tear into the package, think about doing the opposite. Before you actually take delivery, you have the right to inspect your purchase and make sure that it is of the type or quality that you reasonably expected. If it isn’t, you’re free to refuse delivery and cancel the agreement. What’s more is that you won’t even have to pay the costs of returning the goods.

It is important to remember that whatever your preferred method of shopping, you are entering into a binding contract with the seller. By ignoring the little “legal” button usually found at the very bottom of the page, you may find yourself agreeing to be bound by terms and conditions that aren’t necessarily in your best interests. That 3am shopping spree may not have been your finest idea, so it is important to know your consumer rights before you splurge.

[Image via]

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen

Digital Media Contributor


Is Fashion Art?

Is it? It’s a controversial question with the debate spanning decades, and no definitive answer. In The Devil Wears Prada, Nigel tells Andy, “Don’t you know that you are working at the place that published some of the greatest artists of the century? Halston, Lagerfeld, de la Renta. And what they did, what they created was greater than art because you live your life in it.” But then, Karl Lagerfeld famously said, “Art is art. Fashion is fashion. However, Andy Warhol proved they can exist together” – a sentiment seemingly shared by Miuccia Prada and Marc Jacobs – they’re complementary, but distinct. On the other side of the spectrum, rival to Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli wrote that dress design “[is not] a profession, but an art”.

Perhaps the key difference between fashion and art (in the traditional sense) is functionality. Clothing, be it haute couture or pret-a-porter collections, is somewhat limited simply because it is designed for the human form. Paintings, sculptures and performance art, to name a few, are limited only by the imagination of the artist. Another distinction may be that the economic value of art is less important to the artist. Picasso often painted the women with whom he was in love, and his paintings reflect his tumultuous love life. But legendary couturier Yves Saint Laurent’s designs were intended for sale, as are the collections of most designers.

All things said, the jury is still out. Ultimately, art and fashion are about self-expression. They both have the ability to make a statement or just be aesthetically pleasing; and they both possess the ability to make you feel alive. Oscar Wilde famously wrote, “life imitates art, more than art imitates life”. Whatever your choice of canvas, the freedom to paint, sculpt, design or style is a reflection of creativity, and allows you to capture, and make known, the essence that is you.

[Photo/image credit : Derek Gores]

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen

Digital Media Contributor




Can Black Friday save our economy?


Whichever country you call home, the mention of Thanksgiving would ordinarily conjour images of turkeys, family, and the annual Macy’s Parade. Recent times have, however, seen a shift as the US holiday is now the eve of Black Friday. 
Since 1961, retailers have claimed that the day after Thanksgiving has yielded their highest profits for the year. Taking advantage of this, retailers offer merchandise at significantly reduced prices, attracting thousands. To cope with the demand on the day, thousands of temporary or seasonal workers are employed which is, no doubt, a significant benefit of the day.
Image result for black fridayHowever, the day is also marred by stampedes and violence, which have even resulted in death.  (Follow the link to get an idea of the chaos that ensues in the pursuit of a bargain- Additionally, identity theft and credit card fraud have been recorded as higher on the day.
South Africa is one of the many countries that has adopted Black Friday (as well as its counterpart – Cyber Monday). But is it really a boon to our economy? Yes, it boosts sales, but at what cost? Increased spending begs the question as to whether our society actually has enough to spend.
In a country in which millions are in debt, one is forced to wonder whether consumers are spending responsibly, particularly given that there are also millions under debt review – a process created by the National Credit Act to aid individuals who cannot meet their financial obligations.
With retailers having commenced their local Black Friday marketing campaigns for this year, and predictions that it will be the best ever, people are now asking : Can one day a year save our country’s economy?
[Photo credit : Black Friday –; Confessions of a Shopaholic –]

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen
Digital Media Contributor


False advertising versus puffing

Can you contour like a Kardashian? Contour beauty products have flooded the market enticing consumers to recreate the make-up looks of their style icons. Beauty and make-up products make bold statements when advertising, promising everything from boosting your genes to multiplying your lashes.

But is it all true? Research has found that only 1 in 5 claims are actually true, making the rest of them false advertising. There is, however, a fine line between false advertising and, what is known as, puffing.

The latter is a mere exaggeration, and are usually so obvious they are ignored by the consumer. That matte lipstick may be your favourite, but it’s very unlikely that you decided that because they told you it was the best lipstick in the world.

But maybe you chose to purchase it because they told you that it was the only dermatologically tested lipstick on the market and that it would naturally plump your lips. That’s false advertising.

South African consumers are offered protection by the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASA) and seek to regulate the marketing industry. It appears that most of the complaints lodged with the ASA relate to false advertising.

Consumers are entitled to know what they’re buying and how it will perform. We’ve all been duped into a purchase – the serum guaranteed to reduce the orange peel effect in 5 days, the eye cream that instantly reduces puffiness and wrinkles – but, you are entitled to make an informed decision. The industry has a responsibility to help you do that.

(Photo credit :

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen
Digital Media Contributor


Corporate control in the world of fashion


Let’s play a game. Take 45 seconds to name every fashion and beauty brand you know. You can comment below on how many you got to, but we’re guessing you reached about 20 without breaking a sweat.

What you may not know, however, is that more than 40 fashion brands are owned by just 6 companies. These include Louis Vuitton and Dior, owned by LVMH, and Balenciaga and Alexander McQueen, owned by Kering. The beauty industry is no different with 7 companies owning more than 180 brands – L’Oreal owns its namesake, along with Garnier and high-end products, like Maison Margiela. Coty has many, including OPI and GHD.

Competition in the fashion and beauty industry is fierce, and many new players are trying to break into the market. For these small to medium enterprises, the barriers to entry are high particularly since they don’t have the backing of Moet Hennesey Louis Vuitton or Proctor & Gamble.

It seems that there is an emerging debate as to whether these massive companies have the power of monopoly and exert a level of control that may not be in the interests of consumers. Maintaining healthy competition in a relevant market fosters a healthy economy.

Local companies in the industry are far smaller than the international conglomerates, but they are forced to compete with them on all levels, be it Woolies versus Zara, or Kluk CGdT showing alongside Dior at Paris Fashion Week. South Africa has legislation such as the Competition Act to regulate these issues but, it has to be asked if local brands have meaningfully benefited.

It would seem that the power is in the hands of the consumer and supporting South African designers and products is a way in which to effect change. After all, #ShopLocal isn’t just about organic veggies.


[Photo credit : LVMH,; Kluk CGdT,]

Alia Goolam Mahyoodeen
Digital Media Contributor



Feminism in the fashion industry

Fashion has often been described as trivial and, if you’re being particularly disparaging, anti-feminist. This would seem rather unfair since feminism is about women having the right to be who they want to be, and wear what they want to wear. All things considered, it would be hasty to summarily dismiss this multi-billion dollar industry, as being without substance.

It may be cliché, but first impressions are lasting. New Yorker writer, Malcolm Gladwell, discusses in his book, Blink, the instantaneous choices we make and perceptions we form in all spheres of life. And, the truth is we’re judged based on our appearances. It is arguable whether or not this is a fair assessment, but what you outwardly portray is how you are first judged. Demonstrating your insight and intellect follows. Think of any instance in which you’ve interviewed for a job – the outfit you selected was chosen to create the image you wanted to portray.

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This is not a bad thing, not in the least. It’s about creating a statement and letting the world know who you are. The recent popularity of statement T-shirts has allowed you to express yourself, to a greater degree, without having to say a word. And is this not what it is all about? Expressing yourself? New York Fashion Week saw designers like Prabal Gurung and Alice + Olivia use their substantial influence to promote their messages in their collections, and Gurung didn’t hold back in showing his support for the feminist movement.

The South African Constitution enshrines your right to express yourself freely, and respectfully. Remember the satirical take on Black Label beer, by creator of  the brand Laugh It Off, Justin Nurse, of Black Labour, White Guilt? At first glance, it’s a funny statement, and may cause a bit of a chuckle. But it goes far deeper than that and is indicative of the opinion of the creator, as well as those to choose to wear it. It starts the conversation that we’re often too afraid to have, and to challenge societal constructs.

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For years, designers have challenged the constructed sartorial distinctions between men and women in an effort to highlight and eliminate gender stereotypes and the notion of gender-specific roles. Men’s skirts featured in the collections of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Giorgio Armani, John Galliano, and Marc Jacobs to name a few. The 21st century has seen the rise of androgynous fashion, but it isn’t where it all started. Coco Chanel gave women the gift of the trouser, and Yves Saint Laurent, the iconic tuxedo. David Bowie and Grace Jones threw the rule book out the window entirely.

You may not wish to wear your opinion, and express it in other ways like boycotting brands that promote a size 0 as the ideal, or for going on record to suggest that victims of sexual harassment were asking for it because they dress a certain way (here’s looking at you Donna Karan). The point is that everyone has the right to express themselves freely, and using the fashion industry as the medium by which to convey your message, or just give a glimpse into your personality, is as good a way as any other.

(The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, enshrines everyone’s right to freedom of expression in section 16, and the right to be treated equally in section 9.)

[Photo credit : Dior – Highsnobiety; Marc Jacobs – Independent; Coco Chanel – Amazon]


Fashion, Photography and Copyright

Fashion photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Patrick Demarchelier and Mario Testino are artists and visionaries who have made tremendous impacts on the industry in both the commercial and editorial spheres.

Then, there are pictures taken without the consent of the subject. The paparazzi have sated our voyeuristic tendencies, and given us some of the most iconic images of our time – think Jackie Onassis on Madison Avenue, circa 1971.

For years, popular clothing stores have made attempts to capitalise on this with the images of the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain and Che Guevara being emblazoned on T-shirts and sold internationally, without consent.

But, is this legal? Celebrities are calling brands out on the use of their image or likeness, as was seen when Rihanna took on British giant, TopShop. In the absence of an agreement authorising the use of such images on merchandise you may well be violating copyright, and other laws, and creating a perception that the merchandise has been endorsed by the celebrity. Using the image for commercial value could land you in hot water. Your best bet is to seek legal advice before silk-screening Beyoncé onto that basic white Tee.


*Disclaimer: Nothing on this website constitutes legal advice