Why African celebrities need to wear African brands

Thuso Mbedu in House of Sass. Picture: Austin Malema, RTC Studios.

Thuso Mbedu in House of Sass. Picture: Austin Malema, RTC Studios.

Published Jul 4, 2023


Unity will always prevail because when people see you’re supported by your tribe, it’s easier for them to do the same.

Africa is blessed with creative people who have the potential to compete on the global stage. Some are already there, I’m talking about the likes of Thebe Magugu, Gert-Johan Coetzee, Claude Kameni and Maxhosa Africa, to name a few.

Burna Boy wearing Thebe Magugu. Picture: Instagram

Fashion plays a huge role in the entertainment industry and vice versa. It’s like one cannot exist without the other.

I’m not sure if it happens in other African countries but here in South Africa, most celebrities like flexing with international luxury brands once they make it.

To them, wearing brands found at Sandton City’s Diamond Walk is a symbol of status, which is fine because it’s their money, but imagine the power and the influence they would possess if they had the same energy for local designers.

“I think it’s very important for us as South Africans to be aware of what is happening in the rest of the world,” says Gert-Johan Coetzee.

“However, it’s equally important for us to support each other and our people, as we have seen over the years, the more people support each other, the better the local fashion scene will become and thrive.

“Taking from my personal experience as well as of my other designer friends and clients, there’s an undeniable sense of pride when they wear proudly South African brands, and it’s such an honour to see one of my creations grow from an idea, to sketch into a final garment, to see it compete with the best in the world.

“I think what is produced by our local creatives is world-class and the future is very bright for local fashion.”

Nomzamo Mbatha in Maxhosa Africa for ‘Coming 2 America’. Picture: Quantrell D. Colbert/Amazon Studios

If you’ve been following local fashion, you would have noticed that there are many emerging designers who are hungry. Not only are they innovative but they are also conscious because they are all about sustainability – something that fast fashion doesn’t care about.

They have the potential to make it internationally. So many doors could open for them, and it would take one person to wear their brand and take it to the world.

Look at what happened with Elie Saab in 2002. At the 74th Oscars, when she won Best Actress for her role in “Monster’s Ball”, Halle Berry was wearing an Elie Saab dress, and that moment changed the game for the Lebanese designer.

It opened so many doors for him and just like that, he became a global sensation.

The same could happen for any other African designers, all they need is a little support from African celebrities to wear their brands.

Check Thuso Mbedu for example, she always mentions the designer she’s wearing.

I remember during her “Woman King” South African premiere in September last year, she wore a stunning dress by House of Sass and told her 2+million followers on Instagram to check out the designer.

And she does that not only for fashion designers, but for photographers, make-up artists, hair stylists and so forth.

Thuso Mbedu dressed by House of Sass. Picture: Austin Malema, RTC Studios

Our celebrities can learn a thing or two from her and start small by incorporating local designers in their everyday wear.

Wear that Ascend T-shirt, carry that St Reign bag, and rock a Sixx6 mini dress when going out with friends. It’s those little outings that will pave the way and make our stars get used to the habit of supporting their own.

Not only will that help the designers get more recognition but it will shift the minds of our people to support local because in most cases, they are influenced by their favourite celebrities.

Seeing them wearing local brands would make it easier for them to follow suit.

“It’s important for public figures to wear local fashion because to some extent, it could help increase the value around local fashion,” says Mimangaliso Ndiko of Sixx6.

“General public individuals already place European retail brands above local brands, and you can see it in their willingness to pay loads of money for European brands and complaining when it’s time to spend just as much on South African brands.

“It doesn’t help steer the narrative either when our influential public figures are also dripped in European brands, and by this statement, I mean (ready to wear).”

Another great example would be Tshepo Jeans. When Tshepo Mohlala introduced his brand as a luxurious local denim brand, South Africans were complaining about the prices.

They said he was too expensive for a South African brand, yet were willing to pay twice as much for brands like G-Star Raw.

However, he didn’t listen to the noise when they saw that his brand was thriving and getting international certification, they started opening up to the brand.

Today, Tshepo Jeans is one of the most loved brands in South Africa, proving our point that once you go international, South Africans will support you without a flinch, which is also absurd, because our designers don’t need international approval to gain support from their people.

The quality of their work speaks for itself. It is up to us to stop undermining our designers while putting international ones on the highest pedestals.