05.11.2018

Yoliswa Mqoco doesn't do half measures

Which is why it's so important that someone like her has visibility in fashion

Yoliswa Mqoco does nothing in half measures

The fashion industry can be fickle, trends come and go, yet Yoliswa Mqoco has earned and maintained her place in this world despite not fitting into the perceived notion of "fashion girl". While her passion for what she does is constant, what sets her apart from other fashion "influencers" – a word she loathes, preferring the term "digital entrepreneur" – is how she's had to work twice as hard as her sample-sized sisters.

"I studied fashion. There's a lot of reading, research and critical thought involved, so my sense of style is able to stand on its own, beyond the trends. My style always transitions in different parts of my life. I've gone from super bohemian, to having a lot of African and Indian influences. My style reflects what I like at that moment and I commit fully and go full throttle on that. It's ever-changing and unpredictable, I never know what I'm going to like next."

Yoliswa Mqoco does nothing in half measures

Fashion has been a part of Yoliswa's life for a long time, not just as a mild interest but rather an intense obsession, coming from a family that doesn't just like fashion but lives it too. Fashion is personal and emotional to the Mqocos, with strong memories attached and serving as solace during difficult times. 

"Fashion has always been there when people let me down and my heart got broken. Fashion has healed me. It's been my only constant and continues to bless me in ways that I can't even imagine."

When getting dressed Yoliswa is able to influence both her mood and the world around her, living by the adage: "if you look good, you feel good." She describes putting an outfit together as problem solving, something that has the power to up her productivity and make life's challenges more manageable. "Clothes and fashion literally make me happy. It's not just a thing people say, for me it's that real."

Yoliswa Mqoco does nothing in half measures

Whatever aesthetic she's embracing you'll never see Yoliswa without her big, bold and gold jewellery. Her mother taught her how to value and care for all her things, and so she's worn some of her favourite accessories for years now. She recently started collecting sneakers, and applies the same care to her kicks, a high-return investment when "a really great pair can elevate your look up at least 10 notches."

If you've wondered why you can't ever seem to find Yoliswa's looks, the answer is both simple and disheartening: Yoliswa gets the majority of her clothes tailor-made, as most brands aren't very accommodating to plus-size women when it comes to choice and style. Fortunately that's slowly changing. 

"Not to gas Superbalist up, but when I arrived for my fitting I couldn't believe the variety of styles available. I called my girlfriend and got so emotional because for the first time I wanted everything for myself and it was there for me." From a stunning striped jumpsuit to a leather skirt similar to the one she had to have made for her, Yoliswa's plight highlights the desperate need for accessible fashion-forward clothing for people who for too long haven't been considered. 

Yoliswa Mqoco does nothing in half measures

"Fat girls don't just want clothes, we want cool clothes. What the hell do you think this is?" she asks. "We also want cool clothes. Give us the fashion, we also want the fashion!"

Yoliswa Mqoco does nothing in half measures

While Superbalist is moving in the right direction in terms of catering to everyone, the fashion world at large needs to do better and stop carelessly throwing around buzzwords like "inclusivity" and "diversity" without offering solutions. Yoliswa's visibility in the fashion world goes beyond clothes that fit,  and her place at the table inspires others who may have been left out. 

"I'm a gay woman, I'm a black woman and I'm a fat woman. That's all me and you can't separate any of those things." Having never had anyone who looked like her to admire, Yoliswa wants to be that kind of needed representation for other women like herself. She remains visible, choosing never to hide the intersections of her identity in the hopes of giving others the courage and confidence to be unapologetically and entirely themselves. 

"I'm  proud of all the things that I am at one time. I don't have to separate myself and put aspects of myself in a box. I refuse to do that because you can't half-ass your visibility." 

In style or in life, it's all or nothing. Yoliswa doesn't do half measures.