The Same Clothby Dudumalingani Mqombothi / 18.11.2013
My mother used to sew clothes. There was no elaborate process in her dressmaking. The pattern, stitch, design and everything was sketched in her head – her brain was filled with dots of lines that when connected became a dress. Women would flock to my home and demand that she makes a dress they had seen on someone else. Because of this more and more women came to wear the same. My mother had to sew clothes everyday. The sound of the manual sewing machine became the soundtrack of my house, only to pause when the fibre ran out. The needles raced across a cloth, binding two cloths into one, and finally producing a dress. I remembered this a few days ago when I witnessed style icons who were dressed the same, in fact, in their photos they went on to further stand in a similar pose. In a time when it appears that everyone has a fondness for difference, this is shocking.
The interview of The Sartists popped up on my feeds as I tried to navigate my timeline- trying to find the meaning of life or find something more important than life itself. When the usual elusive dance between the eyes and the cunning cursor had come to an end and the clicking began, a sense of nostalgia hit me. I remember reading elsewhere about Shaka Maidoh and Sam Lambert, and as I read The Sartists interview, I was thinking that their style is awfully similar to Shaka and Sam’s. According to the interview, The Sartists who hail from Johannesburg have been featured on Dion Changs Flux trends and a Coca-Cola TV advertisement. The Sartist are,
“Two bloggers who are also writers and designers in their own right. They document their style using historical references with the goal to try shape the way we believe fashion should be.”
At least this is how the introduction to the interview described them as. The point to scrutinize is ‘shape the way we believe fashion should be’. They and Shaka and Sam are adapting old styles from the 1960s to the 1970s and this burdens them with, even though they try to interpret the styles differently, the view that but ‘what you are doing is not original’. Fashion, many centuries earlier, has already been like that. If then both are doing what has existed before, The Sartists, by copying Shaka and Sam are not doing anything worth talking about. Why are they then famous?
To the inevitable question; Who inspires you? The Sartists responds:
“In terms of designing it would have to be designer Thom Browne and Art Comes First”
Art Comes First is Shaka Maidoh and Sam Lambert. Shaka Maidoh and Sam Lambert who hail from London are renowned in the fashion circuits. Shaka is a photographer. Sam Lambert is a fashion designer. They have been featured in just about every fashion magazine there is. In 2011, Shaka Maidoh was nominated as Esquire’s best dressed male.
Jean–Luc Godard once said “It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to”. It looks very much, more than anything else, that things were taken from and not taken anywhere in this scenario. That The Sartists are copying Shaka and Sam’s style and trying to interpret and are struggling to tear themselves away from their inspirations.
The issue of originality or that of interpreting is one that fogs South African music as well. For a long time, and to some extent, to this very day South African hip hop could not tear itself away from the twang and content of American hip hop. Someone the other day was screaming in my ear that I should listen to some female vocalist who sounds like Erykah Badu. “International shit” she added.
South Africa is a country alive with possibility but it seems that originality is lacking. And also what helps propel lack of originality is an audience that regardless what you are giving them they are bound to accept and not question. The audience appears to be cut from the same cloth.
I am aware that I might be yelling against the wind because The Sartists appear to be carving their own cult following. But when the wind blows my yelling backwards, those behind me will hear it.