A conversation on style with Yasmin Furmie, Kendra Hunsley and Shoneze Ramsammy
Words: Refiloe Mokgele | Photography: Chisanga Mubanga
What happens when you put three stylish women from three different generations in one room? An hour-long deliberation about clothes, trends and peak personal style!
Yasmin Furmie, a designer and judge of the reality show Raw Silk, is in her early 50s; 25-year-old Kendra Hunsley is a blogger and fashion writer; and Shoneze Ramsammy, an accounting student whose unique personal style has garnered her a strong digital following, just celebrated her 21st birthday.
The Way of Us invited the three women representing Generation X, Y and Z to weigh in on the seemingly simple topic of getting dressed. Refer below for pearls of wisdom aplenty.
Kendra Hunsley | Generation Y
Firstly, where is the line between personal style being frivolous and meaningful? Is putting effort into our outfits important even, or is it just something we’ve decided to do?
Yasmin: I never think of how you dress as being frivolous. If you are saying that it reflects who you are, you’re then saying that who you are is frivolous and that’s not something I ever want to propagate. But of course it is to each their own. There are people who place emphasis on their outer selves in terms of their clothes. They want to communicate something to the world so they wear certain things. In the same breath there are other people for whom clothing is utilitarian. What they wear is about making sure they’re not too hot or too cold or whatever, and dressing well for them is not necessarily an issue of huge importance.
I like how you say that, because it’s a reflection of you it can never be frivolous. But with this age that we live in, where we’re constantly inundated with digital imagery, do you think that it makes it harder or easier to develop your personal style?
Shoneze: I think it depends on how much you believe in your personal voice. I think that if your voice lacks confidence, you are easily swayed and can simply scroll through Instagram and immediately wear something and think that you are with it. But there is such a difference between being trendy and being stylish. Style is something that, I keep on talking about this voice inside, but I really do believe it. It’s that voice.
Yasmin: Look, the images are there. They were there in different forms for my generation. We were obsessed with every single magazine. But if you had style, you could look at something and be like “I can do that, but I can do it with these items of clothing.” Shoneze still puts things together very uniquely. Individually looking at the items, you can identify that this is X's popular item of clothing and that is Y's, but she manages to fuse them in a way that nobody else would. There’s always that constant source of imagery anyway, so it doesn’t matter.
Kendra: It definitely is a case of being sure about yourself. I know I’m obsessed with Instagram. I’m obsessed with streetwear and looking at what the kids are wearing in Amsterdam and Russia. So there are a few things that you can learn and take from them. But I feel like I know my style and I know how far I can take it. I can sometimes just enjoy and admire from afar, knowing that it might not work for me.
Refiloe Mokgele | Writer
So in my mind, personal style kind of develops like a graph where it’s very steep in the beginning, which is symbolic of volatile style changes and self-discovery, and then later the graph kind of levels out to become flat. I would like to hear if you agree with that analogy or if you think style develops in a different kind of way.
Kendra: I think you’re right in saying that, because as human beings we develop like that anyway. Looking at your twenties there’s just a whole lot of “figuring out” to do in that space of your life. A lot of confusion. That transition from being a teen is difficult, but that middle ground where you still don’t feel like a bona fide adult yet is just weird. So yes, the way you dress obviously reflects that. I think in terms of my style, I’m not 100% at the point when I can say that I’m satisfied. I feel like there is still more exploring to do. I think maybe in my early 30s my graph will get flatter.
Yasmin: It is a nice way to look at it. In your 20s you are physically looking your best and it’s weird that that’s when you are most unsure of yourself. An odd almost cruel paradox. But yes, your 20s are the time when you play a little bit and can look back and say “What in the world was I thinking?” And you make mistakes like that again and again. But then it levels and you start to become comfortable with exactly who you are.
But do you think that it can happen at a very young age as well? I mean looking at Shoneze, have you reached a stage where you are completely comfortable with your style already? By definition, you’re part of the emergent generation Z. Despite this there still seems to be a surety about your personal style. Do you reckon you’ve already reached that sort of sartorial plateau? And even with you, Yasmin, are you perhaps still discovering your personal style?
Yasmin: I never want to describe it as a plateau. I think it’s more of a space that you get to as a person where you know that this is who you are. So yes, you may play, but it’s never going to be… Like, I can assure you, you are never going to see me in high Louboutins and a tight mini skirt ever! I’ll never put myself in a position where I have to wiggle my way around the place. But yes, after you’ve decided who you are, your personal style may fluctuate a bit as you evolve and are influenced by different factors.
Shoneze: I definitely don’t want to describe it as a plateau. I mean my style has certainly changed drastically over the last five years but as Yasmin has said, it’s still slightly fluctuating now. When you travel, and are greatly inspired as a result, then the graph climbs steeply again and levels out after a while. Then you get to a stage where you’re at ease with the way your legs look so you become more comfortable wearing certain silhouettes. I tend to look more to older people, like my parents, as a source of inspiration because they’re more comfortable with themselves. They’re at a place where they’re ok with playing with various styles and looking different from the general crowd. But again, as Yasmin says, I don’t think there’s ever an end point because we’re constantly transforming.
Shoneze Ramsammy |Generation Z
I talk to a lot of people who consider themselves as stylish and they sometimes say “Oh no I don’t do trends. I don’t believe in them.” But I really do think that trends play a huge part in the way that we get dressed. I don’t think it makes sense to deny that.
Yasmin: It’s disingenuous. It’s almost like saying we live in a closed system or with blinkers on and that’s not true. So no, I don’t for one minute believe that.
Shoneze: It’s a beautiful thing with social media to be able to experience how things are moving at such a fast pace. I read the winner of Project Runway last year said that fashion kind of needs to slow down, but I don’t believe that fashion needs to slow down at all. Fashion replicates how our society moves today and where it’s going. We are developing at such a fast pace technologically, and fashion is moving just as quickly, so if you do fall in love with a trend, that’s cool. Trends are in the now, they reflect what is happening currently, but it doesn’t mean that they can’t be worn again in the future. My only thing is that you must buy with some intention. Fast fashion causes so much pollution and I don’t think we should buy items to dispose of them. I buy items that I truly love and that I know I can add to my library of items that I will keep forever. I’m not getting rid of any of this stuff!
Yasmin Furmie | Generation X
So, to end this off, I just want to challenge each of you: Can you give me one word that would describe what good style is? Based off of this conversation, I think having good style is honesty-just being genuinely honest with yourself.
Kendra: I wanted to say authenticity!
Yasmin: I think they all go with that feeling of being true to yourself. If you are not authentic and not honest, it’ll show.
Shoneze: Without a doubt.
Yasmin: We agree with you!