The phrase “fashion capital” is a term most ladies are anything but unfamiliar with. If you grew up in New York City like me, it can easily slip over your head that you’re walking amongst (allegedly) some of the most fashionable people on the planet. However, the term is also one that has been highly attributed to European and western cities-with cities in South America, the Middle East, and Africa going vastly underrepresented. Cities like Istanbul and Cape Town have long had a designer presence, with Mercedes-Benz hosting fashion weeks annually in both cities. Yet they are still ranked fairly low on the list of fashion capitals. Diversifying the fashion world is important because it will ultimately lessen feelings of xenophobia towards styles from opposing cultures and towards opposing cultures in general.
The term “fashion capitals” is one that has grown to be considered intrinsic of our culture. However, it isn’t a concept, but a list, released annually by company of data analysts called the Global Language Monitor. The GLM is based in the United States. This comes to no surprise, given the generally high placement of American countries on the list of fashion capitals. 2015’s top five fashion capitals saw two cities from the United States: New York (#2) and Los Angeles (#4). The list also saw eight European cities before a city in South America was mentioned (San Paolo, ranked #16) and forty cities total before a city in Africa was mentioned (Cape Town, ranked #41). Along with Johannesburg (ranked #48), Cape Town is the only city on the African continent to make the list of fifty-six cities. There is no reason for Boston to be ranked higher than Bali, or for Dallas to be ranked higher than New Delhi. Such rankings only show a clear preference for western culture-and ignorance to cultures elsewhere. Regardless of what has been widely accepted, there are stylish brands and bloggers beyond Europe and North America that deserve far more credit than they receive.
Cape Town, for example, is home to numerous high-end brands, such as KLuK CGDT and Leigh Schubert, both featured in Cape Town’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. It is also home to retailers, such as Mr. Price. With its exquisite patterns and equally pleasing prices, Mr. Price is a common name in Capetonian street style. On average, jeans go for between $20-25 and tops as low as $7. Cape Town’s originality, however, lies in its patterns and fabrics, as do the majority of unrecognized fashion capitals. Istanbul is home to phenomenal textiles, such as those manipulated by Gülcin Cengel, a Turkish brand that has been featured at Istanbul’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. Additionally, these cities are not as “foreign” in their style as they are perceived. Many of their residents have styles that can easily be visualized in cities like London or New York. South African blogger Michelle Oberholzer makes a living posting photos of Capetonian street style on her blog, Cinder and Skylark. While many of the people she photographs sport South African apparel, the way they style this apparel coincides with trends attributed to bigger fashion capitals. Pedestrians embody looks such as the “grunge” style of downtown New York or the “prep” style of London. Similarly, some fashion brands from underrepresented regions share certain tastes with western brands. Estefania ‘DEZ, for example, a clothing brand based in Buenos Aires, has a style comparable to that of the American brand Free People, only with a sexier touch.
The purpose of diversifying the fashion capitals is not just for the sake of having a new list of cities to plaster on a T-shirt. In turn, it should promote diversity within the fashion sector of capitals worldwide. This has been the subject of several movements, the most acknowledged being the “Black Models Matter” statement made by designer Ashley B. Chew during New York Fashion Week in September. Not only should women be allowed to feel confident in their cities, but be equally recognized as fashionable women, from Paris to Pretoria.