Jozi style battles

Johannesburg / South Africa

When the Smarteez exploded onto the South African pop-culture scene….they  rapidly gained popularity for reviving the very style that was available to them into extraordinary avant-garde fashion. The Smarteez opened the door to more style tribes who also had something to say through fashion. Cool hunters and fashion writers around the world were talking about them. For a country that had long been spoken for, that had long been muzzled and held back from being everything it wanted to be, this was exactly what was needed.

The Smarteez were daring creatives who created compelling customized looks—true to the resourceful nature of Africans. They used the streets as their fashion runway, wearing their creations, which were as colorful as the candy-coated chocolates themselves… Anyone born postdemocracy in South Africa is referred to as a “born-free.” While the struggle pre-1994 was for democracy, change, and equality, the struggle among the contemporary youth is for identity and acceptance. They are living the dream. struggle heroes fought for everyone in our country, for everyone who lives on the continent to enjoy complete and total freedom…

Vintage Crew is a perfect example of people working together as a collective yet utilizing individual specialties and opinions. They wear vintage clothing, pairing it with unexpected pieces they themselves call “absurd.” Fashion is capable of expressing the social or political. They educate and raise awareness about the issues close to them, such as lesbianism and homophobia. In their crew, each member feels respected, valued, and a part of something magical…

The Sartists (or sartorial artists),  are the most dapper gents in town, thanks to their innate ability to breathe “new life into the old.”…Through dress, they explore themes of politics, history, and culture, drawing from Italian, British, and American vintage style, especially the civil rights movement. They lead the way in wearing clothes with style and individuality.

What has been most important about these key style tribes is that, in South Africa, “They have started a conversation”. South Africa is more than African print and animal skin. We are more than braids, turbans, and beads. There is a vibrant, irreverent, pulsating freedom. They help to tell of a hopeful new chapter and the colorful present of an unshakable continent.

Asanda Sizani Fashion editor of ELLE South Africa. Excerpts  from Fashion Tribes Book 2015