It has been said many times that South African celebrities exploit designers for a non-existing Instagram exposure. Whenever the topic is brought up no one wants to really engage. The formula works, sometimes; if you’re dressing the likes of Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Kefilwe Mabote or the Kardashians sisters; these are just some of the celebrities we can all agree are bankable and unavoidably influential.
Most South African celebrities don’t know anything about style or fashion, have no fashion influence, they’re talentless and can’t dress to save themselves. This is simply pointing out the facts on the current fashion situation in South Africa with hopes people will listen and improve. It’s unfortunate that most designers have come to believe just because these girls are in the public eye, they can sell their work and elevate their brands. In fact, they end up compromising their brands and putting it at huge risk. What’s more, the rise of these fashion labels risk drowning out of creativity and capital to keep the production going.
It shows local celebrities don’t care about supporting local fashion designers and really understanding what that support means for designers. Celebrities like Blue Mbombo, Kelly Khumalo, Pearl Thusi, Minenhle Jones, Pearl Modiade, Khanyi Mbau etc. have allegedly admitted to exploiting designers for exposure because they don’t have the money to pay for their outfits. On V-Entertainment’s Round Table, Nomuzi Mabena also admitted that she doesn’t pay designers because she doesn’t have the money to. Does she really? They all lie because they’re always at the Diamond Walk in Sandton shopping high-end brands, if not flying across the world to buy them. They need to do better because designers have bills to pay too, they want to fly Emirates too, and they can’t always rely on exposure – it’s not sustainable. They’re running businesses not charities.
South African celebrities are underpaid, it has been proven many times in the press and we empathize with them. We’ve seen actors and actresses standing together to voice their grievances about being exploited and pleading with the President to sign the Performers Protection Amendment Bill but that’s still not an excuse to exploit fashion designers who are also trying to make a living as well. Sourcing good quality material takes time, money, electricity is expensive, petrol prices keep skyrocketing and they have other expenses to take care of. These are just some of the necessities’ celebrities must keep in mind the next time they want to exploit a fashion designer. Yes, we all want to look good on the red carpet and have our own personal brands look fantastic on social media; unfortunately, South Africa is not Hollywood; our 3rd world struggling fashion designers need to be remunerated to keep their creative work going. Also pay your struggling stylists, photographers, make-up artists and hairstylists for all the hard work in elevating your brand without asking for a discount – it is not like you’re paying them the full amount anyway. Or you promise them exposure too, for working for free?
Exploiting designers is wrong and coercive. It does not benefit the designer anyhow, except the exploiter gains at the expense of the designer by inflicting relative losses. It hurts seeing young men and women designers going through this type of abuse, being used and lied to for personal gain.