Don’t accept unemployment statistics at face value. Beat the system with the right attitude and fashion industry know how.
Words: Jason Basson | Images: Wear South African Instagram Page
Unemployment rates are at an all-time high. If you’re a student of any fashion related discipline, there’s a strong chance you’re using your degree to wipe your tears right now — that may even seem like the only practical use for that little piece of paper. Were you sold a pipe dream? How do we find ourselves in this situation when the South African fashion industry, alone, accounts for millions of jobs nationwide and is expected to generate revenue in the region of R9 billion in 2019, with an expected annual growth rate of 22.3%? Where’s your slice of the pie and when will opportunity come knocking at your door?
There’s reality and then there’s the real tea: you don’t deserve success. Nobody does, but you can earn it with the right attitude and industry know-how. While our country’s revenue forecast is high, we still only rank 43rd in the world in terms of global contributions. That gives you a pretty clear indication of how powerful the industry is AND how far South Africa still has to go.
Change is coming, albeit a bit slow, but consider how many more fashion brands, retailers and local design labels now exist in this country compared to ten years ago. We also have a thriving community of social media influencers that keeps growing, year on year. The writing is on the wall, but is it all gibberish?
We had the fortune of attending a #WearSA workshop this week in association with Cape Town International Jazz Fest, where a panel of industry stalwarts with the likes of Tracy-Lee Rosslind, Menzi Mcunu, Marquin Sampson and Craig Port engaged a crowd of aspiring fashionistas in discussions around the local industry and what it really takes to make it. The panelists represented a diverse range of skills, platforms, cultural and economic backgrounds, which made for an inclusive forum for discussion.
Throughout the discussion, questions like ‘what does it take to get a foot in the door these days?’ ‘Is that door only open to some and not others?’ ‘Is it even worth studying anymore?’ were posed, and while we do agree that degrees still hold value and if you’re able to, you should pursue one, but we also know that in the fast-paced environment we’re in, hands-on experience is often the better teacher. Being able to balance both is an important skill. As Menzi stated, “there are a lot of free resources out there that can equip young people with skills that can move them towards success without the need for tertiary education.” Constantly working towards skills acquisition and working from the ground up to make sure you have all the skills you'd need is essential, because as our WearSA host rightly said, “Nobody deserves success. It’s earned”.
13 Reasons Why You Can Be A Successful Fashion Entrepreneur
Now for the good stuff. Here’s all the sage advice we were exposed to in the #WearSA discussion. Use it, don’t use it, but this could be a make or break moment for you, so give it a shot. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
1. You have a purpose.
Why do you get up every day? Really think about this one. Do you wake up with intention, purpose, excitement and enthusiasm for what you’re going to achieve or do you just hate getting up? Excitement is essential.
2. You have a USP.
What is your Unique Selling Point? What do you do or what service can you offer that makes you different to anything that’s out there. What value can you add to a company or to people’s lives? Can you summarise and articulate this in 20 seconds?
3. You know what success means to you.
Do you have realistic goals? Do you only have long term goals or do you also have short term goals? Remember that your career is a journey and every step counts. Celebrate the small goals and make every step count towards the big picture.
4. You can take criticism.
Do you feel defeated every time somebody doesn’t like or appreciate what you do, or do you absorb criticism and use it to help improve your work and fuel your ambition?
5. You don’t limit yourself.
Opportunity doesn’t only exist on the other side of the door you were hoping to open. Sometimes you just have to walk through the door that’s in front of you, because there are a lot more doors on the inside of that building. Use that experience to get to where you want to go. Every experience or opportunity is valuable. Don’t prevent opportunity from happening by limiting your own point of entry.
6. You’re a hard worker.
Do you do the minimum that’s required of you and expect the world in return? If your job asks for 110% give them 200% You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Effort and work ethic get rewarded in the long run.
7. More importantly, you’re a smart worker.
Working hard is integral, but do you also know how to maximise your time to maximise your productivity? If you understand your craft from the ground up, you’ll be able to discern if you are the right person who can execute it or if you need help.
8. You aren’t replaceable.
Think seriously about this and then think about what you can do or how you can improve yourself to make yourself indispensable. If you leave your job, the whole company should come crashing down – that’s a measure of a truly valuable employee. Let your work speak for itself.
9. You don’t accept ‘No’ as an answer.
The world isn’t going to hand itself to you on a platter. The answer will be No 100 times before you get a yes. Don’t accept defeat. Persevere.
10. You’re current.
Youth is a commodity and a currency. Stay with the times, keep abreast of information and make sure you know what’s happening in the world and that you speak the lingo.
11. Even if finances are an issue, you keep trying.
Make a plan. Borrow money if you must, but better yet would be opening yourself to multiple sources of income. Get two or three jobs, monetise the skills you have, work nights and hustle on the side to make money to finance your projects because that’s what it’s going to take to get what you really want. Don’t wait for a better time. It won’t come unless you make it happen.
12. You’re visible.
Exposure is crucial. The right kind of exposure is even more important. How will anybody know what you do if there’s no way for them to see or access what you do? Make a website, join social media, meet people, strike up conversations with everybody you meet – get yourself out there and become visible, but make sure people are seeing you and what you do in a way you want them to. Control your brand and what information people have about you. And most importantly, don’t let social media be a measure of your success. Just because you aren’t hitting 1000 likes doesn’t mean what you do is any less valuable. You’ll get there.
13. You’re a collaborator, not a loner.
It’s harder to do things on your own, but not impossible. Collaboration is a great consideration for anybody who wants to make connections, increase their exposure and share the costs of financing projects. Just make sure your intentions and objectives are in alignment and don’t let them exploit you or tarnish your brand. And, as the saying goes, “Remember who you meet on your way up because you don’t know who you’ll meet on your way down.”
Now go forth and flourish! You owe that to yourself.