JANIQUE AMBER OLIVER
Janique Amber Oliver interviewed Viwe Benxa and Milan Smedley to discuss the history behind their fashion.
Co-founded in May 2017 by Bagcine Gabelana. a final year BA (Social Work) student, Viwe Benxa, also a final-year BA student in Social Work, Style Indaba proved to be more than ‘the new kids on the fashion block’. By stepping away from stigma and stereotype, they aimed at creating a platform that would promote and display distinctive and versatile style on campus.
Benxa expressed that they view style as relative; moreover, there is an element of effort and confidence that plays a big role in completing any look. “I think that there is a difference between looking good in what you are wearing and actually dressing fashionably,” expressed Milan Smedley – a member of Style Indaba and sec-ond-year BA (International Studies) student.
Essentially style is a subjec-tive notion but not everybody is fashionable, and so Benxa and Gabelana saw an opportunity to narrate the stories that stand out. As one can attest, there are many facets to the average, student’s routine – academics, socials and socialising.
There is much to consider and to account for, both in room for a shift, or in a new focus, and Style Indaba as a unit wanted new meaning to be attached to life on campus, specifically breaking the stigma surrounding campus being only one experience. Hence, “to change the narrative”, noted Benxam also expressing that Style Indaba is not an exclusive or elitist clique, but rather a community of people who love fashion, care about fashion and put in the effort to look fashionable.
Style Indaba are all the people who are featured on the Instagram page. TO document a range of style you would need a group of individuals who see style in a different way and think about fashion in a unique way. “Being versatile makes up a large part of what we are as a group and who we are as group and how we perceive people in terms of their style,” stated Benxa.
Versatility was the word Benxa presented as the collective identifier for their style. Even as members, their style is not fixed or rigid as they change it on a daily or on a weekly basis. “We change our own style and we complement each other’s”, expressed Smedley. And even in that change, they reman true to the notion “fashion forward” and “trendy” – in addition, this constant evolving creates a ripple effect on campus style as people are either inspired by their style or motivated to dress well.
Style Indaba is determined to break down the stereotype surrounding “basic”, “cut-out” looks and instead emulate individuality and influence the way we as students think about and feel about everyday fashion. According to Style Indaba the big misconception is that being fashionable is based on brands or owning expensive items where the reality of it is being able to put to-gether separate items in a unique way and wearing it confidently.
Style Indaba certainly did not expect people to replicate their style or what is trending, but rath-er to draw inspiration from their looks and what’s in trend and make it their own. According to Benxa,“this is what else Style Inda-ba is doing in terms of moving in a certain direction,” .
They have not prepared a set of rules for campus to follow but rather set a standard, which gives campus the choice to adopt or reject the fashion. Instead of enforcing a linear movement, they encourage people to remain true to who they are but also challenge them by stepping outside of the norm.
The name was not difficult to get, but the process of attaching meaning or content to it was, ex-plained Benxa. Style Indaba refers to style news, and reporting on campus style – “it’s just specific enough to be memorable,” stated Smedley. The idea was to break away from the routine Stellies pages and have a name that is “just off the trail enough for people to remember if they have heard the name before” expressed Smedley.
There is a mental checklist they have from which they deduce whether a look is Style Indaba ap-proved or not. It is normally an 80% ratio of well-dressed to poorly dressed, or an 80% overall win on a specific good look. A pre-set is not predetermined for the day as you cannot predict or influence people to dress a certain way on a certain day. Therefore, they refrain from themes and use their own opinion and discretion.
“People that people look up to are really starting to get into fash-ion, like everyone cares about their Gucci or whatever,” expressed Smedley. The fashion scene has expanded as more artists from the movie or music industries have started to care about fashion, and it has become a sort of status symbol in modern day society.
Similarly, relatable and afforda-ble brands have become more competitive with what they put out there “your Mr. Prices, your Cottons and Factories” are starting to promote the bloggers and influ-encers we follow, hence trying to close the communication gap be-tween unattainable fashion (high fashion) and easy accessible fash-ion (fast fashion). There is a con-stant evolution within the fashion industry where trends go “out of fashion” and new trends take over.