Botswana Fashion (no)Shows… and other Golden Calfs

18 Sep

The “first ever” Botswana Fashion Weak took place at the Three Kings Monument in Gaborone this past weekend. So the country bore witness to yet another side show that passes for the fashion industry in Botswana… speaking of witnesses, apparently ony three showed up for the Fashion (no)Show. My ear was disappointed not to hear fashion professionals across Gabs collectively slapping their foreheads in embarrassment or gnashing their teeth in frustration.

I call it the fashion side show because local fashion worships a golden calf. Tickle your bible for a minute to get the whole story of the golden calf, but basically it was all about people collectively worshiping a man made god. It was great that the calf worshippers all threw some gold together to melt down into a benign animal full of promise and made benevolent by its very youth. However, it was a futile effort as there was no way the calf was ever going to make a tangible difference in anyone’s life, except the loss of some gold. Botswana is in a similar situation, many resources are being collectively spent to erect this creative industry and the current results are (at times) beautiful looking events and parties, mainly without a purpose… ok, money I guess… and… err… not much else.

In the words of Thula Sindi, “Fashion is a multi billion dollar industry, yet it is considered a frivolous business.” Thats right; even now when the world is still broke, the fashion industry is still making billions, yet we do not take it seriously in Botswana. Here designers and the adoring public tend to rush to the cat walk before there is even preparation for what comes after the high powered strut-fest. A Facebook profile full of gushes doesn’t actually pay the designers’ their seamstresses, tailors, assistants, interns and the rest of their support staff a single thebe. Where as a one line mention from Aspasia Karras or a nod from Malibongwe Tyilo might just change a local designer’s life positively and this is just in the regional market, which isn’t a bad start at all.

Anyway without writing a thesis about fashion in this country, the point is that there are too many cooks all sticking a thumb in the broth, many of them with dirty hands nogal. To stretch the analogy a bit further… with all the cooking going on in the back, there isn’t anyone minding the shop or taking care of the bursting-to-spend-on-quality local fashion customers. For the dirty handed c(r)ooks this is an ideal situation because great opportunities exist where there is chaos.  With this sort of confusion it’s no wonder the dirty handed survive… well. Now I just need to find a designer to enslave for a couple of years… know anyone?

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