by Brigette Mashile, founder of Roka Roko
The world follows the US and UK for everything…literally everything. Maybe it’s because these places monopolize our media? It’s tougher to find out what is happening in Malawi than in Los Angeles. And see how far Los Angeles is compared to Malawi and to us? In fashion as well, retailers do their research in the UK and US first; then the rest of Europe. We are one season behind, so we are well set up for this follow-on game. But I can tell you that South Africans, just like Africans, have their own preferences. We take some of the trends, leave some, and make others in our own way. This is a list of what I have noticed this year making clothes for South African ladies.
Yellow and Navy
Navy is the next black. Navy thread runs out first and more regularly than the rest. I mean, why not? Navy is such a stunning colour. Absolutely not sad, not happy, just cooooll! And it can be in many prints including Ankara, Seshweshwe and plain fabrics. It plays roles in casual wear, semi formal and many traditional wedding dresses.
Did someone say yellow? This is the new ‘black girl’ magic colour. Who ever thought we would have full on yellow dresses on our bodies? And guess what, it works. Yellow is the brightest colour I am working with constantly currently. It is requested by wedding guests and matric farewell dresses alike.
People love flair. Whether it’s a skirt or a dress. This cut is always stunning - on anyone. The trick is to ensure you use the right amount of fabric for that specific body. This cut works differently with cotton, satin, chiffon, etc. You will get a different look with each. And the shorter the dress, the more flirty - the longer the dress, the more elegant. I make a lot more flared dresses than any other type; maybe it’s because I live it too.
South Africans get married - throughout the year. We are all attending at least one wedding a year. And we want to dress up. Weddings are simply the number one sales driver for most fashion designers in South Africa. Whether you are doing bridesmaids, groomsmen or the bride herself… we have at least one of these. The fun part is that in South Africa we have so many traditions, which means you are creating newness with almost each and every wedding order you have. I enjoy dressing guests who are going to weddings, we have more freedom and fun.
I don’t know how many times I tell people, please order in July for September! But no! It’s as if we all aren’t sure about what we are doing in the month of September until the week of the event. I have received requests on Tuesdays to make outfits needed for Fridays…same week…a whole outfit. It’s so challenging to say NO; but so necessary. This is another reason not to answer calls beyond a specific time or on specific days. 9 out of 10 times, a call after 7pm or on a Sunday is someone who needs a dress delivered in a week’s time. They are panic calls, over and over again. It’s so important to be aware of this so we don’t find ourselves under way too much pressure.
Out of all the weddings I have done, only 2 to 3 were representative of other colours in life. The rest, variations of blush pink. The first wedding I ever did, the dresses were blush pink; the worst wedding I ever did, blush pink; and the best…still blush pink. I have learned to accept and keep moving. People follow what they see most on Instagram. This colour is not leaving us any time soon. Make peace with it!
There are numerous other things we all pick up as constants in our businesses. These are gold mines; if understood well and strategized for well, you can find your next cash cow. All 5 points above are possible business directions for us. If we decided to fulfill only 1 or 2 of them, that could be another new idea. Imagine if we set up in a way that we can satisfy those last minute orders? That could be our core business. Interesting, hmmmmmm…
Brigette Mashile is the founder and creative force behind Roka Roko, a custom fashion design business based in Johannesburg, South Africa. The company passionately delivers quality tailored and trendy fashion to make their customers happy, and specializes in styling women by creating unusual combinations with fabric, culture and style. Brigette has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Witwatersrand and a Fashion Diploma from Studio5 School of Fashion. She’s a former fashion buyer for a major retailer in South Africa, and an international direct selling company. She’s been passionate about fashion since the age of 10 and gained invaluable experience in the fashion world running informal fashion creation businesses until the day her own Roka Roko brand was born. Find out more by visiting the Roka Roko website www.rokaroko.co.za
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