Earlier this week, South African Fashion Week (SAFW) found their announcement of the New Talent Search 2021 judging panel trending for all the wrong reasons.
The announcement about which “seven industry leaders” would be deciding on the future of SA fashion drew criticism for not featuring a single black person in a country where black people make up the majority of the population and the customer base for most designers.
The panel features five white people and two Indian people.
#SAFW is proud to announce the 2021 SAFW New Talent Search Judges.
— SA Fashion Week (@safashionweek) January 27, 2021
Various Twitter users questioned why no black judges were appointed to the panel. Please note, some of the following tweets may contain strong language.
When you consider the fact that South Africa is 80% Black and 90% non-white, it becomes clear that any space lacking in diversity is a space that actively & intentionally fosters inequality, promotes white supremacy and actually just upholds apartheid.
— Rxfaro (@Rxfaro) January 27, 2021
I am quite shocked!!
— Akhona Mongameli™ (@RealAkhona) January 28, 2021
All the top designers in South Africa are black. And y’all have the nerve to bring in a hun from motherfucking Truworths??????
— Jupiter Legs (@JupiterLegs) January 28, 2021
Anyways chile what does the design director of trueworths know about fashion ????????
— NOT BORN YET (@bontlemala) January 27, 2021
— Itumeleng. (@ItuLerata_) January 27, 2021
Bathong, a whole Truworths buyer, Truworths??
— Buhle not Buchle (@buhle_21) January 27, 2021
When contacted for comment by The Citizen, SAFW director Lucilla Booyzen said: “All the judges are influential and key decision-makers in the fashion industry who can fast-track effectively the careers of our participating designers.”
Booyzen explained that the panel was selected strategically for this reason.
“It is our deepest concern to ensure that everything supports the participating designers’ ability to become financially independent as quickly as possible so that are able to create jobs and downstream wealth.”
“At a time and in a country that is staggering under the fallout of Covid-19, exacerbating our already high unemployment, we passionately believe that we must focus on how best to impact a young designer’s bottomline so that they can create jobs.”
Booyzen then mentioned celebrated designer David Tlale, who won SAFW’s New Talent Search back in 2003 and used him as an example of how the 23-year-old competition had consistently delivered exceptional industry talents that have gone on to contribute immensely to building the commercial viability of the fashion design industry.
The brief for 2021’s New Talent Search was sent out in December 2020, with a heavy focus on print.
The competition is open to ladieswear designers whose businesses are less than 10 years old, based in South Africa and supply a minimum of one store.
The winner of the competition stands to walk away with R20,000 towards developing their 2021 spring-summer collections, a spot in the New Talent Search show valued at R12,500 and one free stand at the SAFW Designer Pop Up valued at R 6000.