This is what people wore to Sneaker Exchange Johannesburg 2017
Words: Hakim Malema | Photography: Andile Phewa
Having included him on our Superbalist 100 list and featured him in a profile where we photographed him in his store, Lost Property, Zaid Osman has always been someone we've watched very closely. That's why there was no doubt that we'd be anywhere else but Sneaker Exchange Johannesburg 2017.
Currently residing in the skkr skkr boi era, the event took place at Carfax, a familiar stomping ground for Zaid Osman and his partner at SXC, Tebogo Tshwane.
Considered the largest sneaker trading event in Africa where sneakerheads can buy, sell or trade kicks, SXC had something for everyone. From the pair of canvas for a coupla hundred bucks to a pair of "investment sneakers" that sold for more than 20 stacks.
This is important, as when it comes to retail trade shows, apparel and sneaker enthusiasts aren’t left with too many options. And at a time where we’ve seen the demise of movements like STRCRD and the rise of Redbat collaborations glaring of inauthenticity, bootleg bogo or bootleg of bootleg collections sold as street style, SXC is a movement that has ridden countless waves.
SXCJHB17 was the real deal, and looking around we spotted plenty pairs of the latest Yeezy Boosts, Uptempos, shoes subscribing to the ugly sneaker trend and when we weren't staring at the floor we were being entertained by the likes of Cassper Nyovest, YoungstaCPT , J. Molley, Nadia Nakai, Frank Casino, DJ Capital, JJ Fresh and Lord Veezus.
The sneaker movement has seen many changes in the fashion and music scene in Johannesburg and Cape Town and the organizers have a unique perspective of this, affording the movement legitimacy. Still, despite what we perceived as an obvious success, Zaid continues to consider each event as a learning curve and believes there's much more to be done. Although it’s easy to try and replicate what's happening overseas, the key would be to keep this event unique by focussing on our local flavour.
You had to give props to the level of apparel that was out there, despite this not being like Complexcon, which recently took place in Los Angeles. Zaid shared plenty of thoughts on the progress we’re making in South Africa, plus how we differ.
“When I went to Hong Kong I saw how much the mainstream adapts to street culture. It's normal. It's a way of life. Whereas here in South Africa street culture is still considered niche.”
Otherwise we noticed how there's a high regard for being a brand owner or reseller, and how everyone carries themselves like a professional, treating both customers and potential clients with respect while keeping a necessary level of cool.
Despite the sellers really bringing the heat, jackets stayed on because man's not hot and if you got too warm you could buy a Palace gym towel for a cool R700. And people paying R150 for a Supreme sticker shows how the hype machine works, and how far we’ll go to get our hands on sought after products.
It's not just about the hype though, as events like this are the best opportunity to learn about new clothing brands started by brave young entrepreneurs who want to get their piece of the street culture pie. Generally, these gatherings are about the mphalas (clothes), where enthusiasts come from all over to stunt their gear and get their hands on combos they saw online.
We were especially impressed by our local designers. South Africa has such a unique backstory and our younger generation is relentlessly breaking more boundaries around identity, evident in the brands that have emerged in the last five years. It's great to see how younger and more established brands can hang out side by side.
Andre Bird, who also works for streetwear powerhouse 2Bop, showed off his new project The ABC. Andre decided to start his own brand after a growing demand and interest for him to do his own thing. The quality of fabrics, textures and design have all been considered, and this new brand is testament the talent coming out of the Cornerstore in Cape Town.
This year more people seemed to come for the music rather than the clothes, with the venue starting to fill up after the all the sneakers that were unspoken for got packed back into their orange and blue boxes and taken home.
It seemed as if everyone with a Riky Rick feature was on the line up, performing their songs without Riky though... But then YoungstaCPT is always an interesting reminder that sticking to your guns is what wins people's respect.
The music comment isn't criticism though, merely an observation, and we need to keep in mind that the market in South Africa for spaces like this is very niche. Not everybody into sneakers and apparel can buy all the things that they’re into at these trade shows. So maybe more of an emphasis on the music will do the most for the culture? After all, we should be exploring our own interpretations of what we get inspired by and support originality in a way that's true to us.
Even though originality is subjective, because waves come and go, we should start to appreciate people and their expression, as it's not easy putting yourself out there. We need to support the underdog, and that means going out to SXC and getting to know these smaller brands and beginning to develop a taste level that includes local design.