Normalising gender neutral fashion

Two talented fashion professionals and enthusiasts – Messrs. Emmanuel Dihangwane and Tshepo Mosokotso – have collaborated on a special capsule collection with a powerful message about gender neutrality. To find out more about 1927.ZA, we spoke to Mr Mosokotso. In his own words. 

I have had an idea of what I wanted to do after all the things I have done before and continue to do (blogging, selling vintage clothing, styling and digital marketing). I wanted to grow, to challenge myself and see how far I could reach/influence with clothes that I helped to create from the beginning. It has not been easy but I appreciate the whole process.

We created the collection to challenge gender roles in fashion. It’s unfortunate that society created “these are men’s clothes, oh these are women’s clothes. You shouldn’t wear that, what will people say”. It’s tiring, we wanted to create an alternative to what is offered in the fashion industry locally while being aligned with international trends. I guess the inspiration is that we shouldn’t be afraid to express our individuality through clothes. Gender roles shouldn’t dictate one’s individuality at all.

We are introducing some conceptual designing into the ‘gender bender’ trend, we want to try and blur the line between men’s and women’s clothing. We bring gender-free staples with a cool and contemporary twist. We have not faced challenges as yet – we are fortunate this is a self-funded project. We are still a young brand and will see where it will take us.

We are both responsible for every aspect of the business – from the design perspective to the marketing part of it. I guess it’s just designated titles for the sake of titles. I come from a strong marketing background and he comes from a strong design background but we do everything together. We have opinions about everything we do that concerns the brand.

We didn’t create the brand to try to convert heterosexual men in any way. If they warm up to the idea (of gender blurred clothing) that’s great. We are using the brand to reflect progression and the current times. I think Gen Z is a generation that will help to spearhead the gender fluid movement more. I read an article by Bronwyn Williams on Bizcommunity on “what Generation Z wants – how to attract the ‘next’ generation to your brand and business, the article citesGeneration Z is all about all kinds of diversity. They celebrate differences and uniqueness in terms of gender identification, sexual orientation, race, culture, style and body type.” I really think that our brand is reflective of the spirit of that Zeitgeist.

“We didn’t create the brand to try to convert heteresexual men in any way. If they warm up to the idea that’s great. We are using the brand to reflect progression and the current times.”

In the near future, I think we are going to start shying away from fast fashion. We are going to look into buying good quality clothing that will last. On the bigger scheme of things, it will continue to be tough for emerging designers, I think creativity is still seen as an extramural activity, it’s not taken seriously by our government. We will still be complaining about funds even in 10 years time. I hope the economy will improve eventually, and when it does, a lot of black people get jobs and be conscious enough also in supporting fellow black people’s creative businesses especially in the fashion sector.

In 10 years time, we will also see a more intensified battle between bricks & mortar, and online shopping, but I feel the former will still be king. Retail spaces should have strategies that include injecting new creative talents (fashion designers) into their spaces that will also help promote the ‘proudly South African’ mantra.

Internationally, fashion weeks are still relevant. Locally… well, we could do better. Fashion weeks are meant to be a platform to expose local talent and give them a proper headstart in the fashion industry, beyond the runway. I don’t actually see this happening locally. There is a lot I could say… but I think we should podcast this. What do you think? (Definitely – Editor)

Whatever lifestyle trends that happen overseas, will eventually filter into the country. Technology  has made the world so small, so as local millennials, we are aware of how the earth is being damaged by too much consumerism; the ocean and marine life is suffering because of pollution; the air in urban areas is just poisonous and landfills are full of rubbish. On that point; I had an interesting chat with Emmanuel (my co-founder) on this and he said something interesting that I agree with.

“The consumer only informs themselves with the data they feel necessary to influence their buying power,” he said. “The fashion industry itself does not inform nor educate the buyer, for instance, on the processes it takes to make a single pair of blue denim jeans and the amount of wastewater it takes to develop the wash process.” He added that the scourge of child labour and inhumane working conditions in some of these manufacturing nations in Asia needed to be addressed.

“Conscious spending would give birth to a whole new idea around sustainability.” 

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For sale @1927.za on Instagram.

All images: Mr Thabiso Molatlhwa

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