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Fashion fails or just slip-ups?

By Crystal Okusa | January 3rd 2016 at 01:31:16 GMT +0300

sauti sol

There were several fashion hits but it is the fails that had critics trolling the culprits on various social media sites.

Ending the year on the fingers of many is Sauti Sol, thanks to their mosquito net catastrophe that got Kenyans on Twitter lamenting for over 48 hours, and giing them all sorts of names ranging from fishers of men, to Kick Malaria Out of Africa campaigners.

Ironically, those who called them names were their fans, the legion that had crowned them the Most Stylish Men, but were now proclaiming that if they continue dressing that way, they will live up to the title of their latest album — Live And Die in Africa — and die in Africa.

The mosquito nets — as they were called by their fans on social media — were designed by Munga, the designer of Monoxrome, who also "designed" Sauti Sol's shawls that were also shredded by their fans.

Munga defended his shawls saying the backlash was expected but fashion is about pushing boundaries and setting trends.

Stylist Sunny Dolat, who dressed Sauti Sol in the mosquito nets somehow blames the fans for "not understanding."

His view might not go down well with the fans who have stood by the boy band, and praised them when they dressed well.

"There is a safeness and conservativeness that Kenyans are used to and we are trying to move away from that as the guys like experimenting through fashion," Dolat says. "This is supposed to be fun and take a few risks while at it."

If the fans do not understand fashion as the stylist alludes, then it means whenever they praised the group for dressing well, they were wrong too.

Ideally, if they do not understand, then why accept their accolades but brand them ignorant haters when they are not impressed?

"Usually, we sit down as a team and decide on the theme and the colour, and consider the weather as well, then we give the designer the freedom push the limits with his creativity," Dolat says.

"Munga is very good at that. It is hot and humid at the Coast so we went for white and mesh. What they wear starts a conversation, and they then remain popular."

While Dolat is being adamant that they are right, and the legion of fans are wrong, he fails to understand that just because something starts a conversation does not mean it is good.

But probably they throw it back at the fans because Kenya's so-called fashion gurus are busy jostling for friends in high society, or among the well-known, and are just praise singers with little substance.

Truth be said, a few years ago, the fashion gurus could not even move within a few kilometres of a Sauti Sol concert because the young men — and their compositions — were not their type. The fans however stuck with them.

To Kenya's fashion gurus, only the little-known, the man or the woman they never hobnob with, is the one who is forever badly dressed.

The people they address as "my good friend" before their dress sense is discussed, are congratulated for dressing well even when they are naked.

Maybe it is because of the size of the critics' and stylists' field. It is small, they all belong to the same clique, and do not want to hurt the feelings of one of them by criticising his/ her clients.

There is probably nothing wrong with seeking street cred, but by massaging the egos of the designers, stylists and their clients, are the fashion critics really helping them or Kenya's over shouted-about fashion industry?

In the well-established style world, no one above the law, and any one can be pilloried for crimes of fashion.

Even Lupita Nyong'o, who cannot go wrong in the eyes of Kenyans has been pilloried. Genuine fashion critics were taken aback when she wore a two piece look from Suno.

Fashion Police described it as "something a Lost Boy might wear in a weird production of Peter Pan."

Lupita had another miss when she wore the Ellie Saab gown — the shiny fabrics just do not flatter her — at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Considering her circles, it is easy to drop the racism card. In the fashion world, there is a continuous discussion whether racism will end because the it rears its ugly head every time you think you have heard the last of it.

At 2015 Milan fashion week, designer Claudio Cutugno used models with glittery black faces. This appalled African-Americans who felt it was insensitive. He clarified that the collection was inspired by Emilio Isgrò artworks.

Even as Kenya's fashion gurus fall over themselves, and on their swords to defend Sauti Sol's mosquito nets while castigating the loyal fans for being ignorant, they should know that that even Kanye West with almost every imaginable award on Earth under his skirt, gets criticised over his choice of clothes.

Kenya's fashion gurus need to give Sauti Sol's fans a break, and either accept that stylists do get it wrong at times and that all these fans cannot be wrong, or find something better to do.

Unlike Munga, Dolat and other Sauti Sol handlers, these fans never hold meetings and decide how to view the clothes.

If Kenya's self-styled fashion gurus who worship the ground Sauti Sol dance on, and their designers and stylists cannot admit that fashion slip-ups and fails do happen, then they are the ignorant lot, the liars, the haters — but  the fans are totally right, innocent and loyal.


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