Ready to wear you down. The stagnation of our fashion industry has been happening for a few years.

By Sylvia McKeown

We have slowly slipped into mediocrity, shrugging off our lowering standards by blaming the lacklustre economy, the lack of government funding and the lack of public interest (and the credit cards that go with it). And we have blamed the rivalry between South African Fashion Week and Africa Fashion International.

Now this year’s African Fashion Week, due to take place from November 4 to November 7, has been cancelled. Instead, AFI said it is creating a forum to discuss the state of the industry.

What this really means is that there’s a gaping hole in the fashion calendar. The African designers who spent time and money preparing their collections have been left in the lurch and lost a platform to showcase their talent.

As time-consuming as it was to sit through two fashion weeks within weeks of each other, fashion journalists and buyers could take the best of the two and scrape together some pride in our industry.

Now we are left with SAFW, which starts next Wednesday and will feature 37 designers’ autumn/winter collections for 2016. Though a few well-known designers will show, including Clive Rundle, Gert-Johan Coetzee and Colleen Eitzen, the event has its most uninspiring lineup since it was launched in 1997.

The usual participants – Black Coffee, Anmari Honiball, Joel Janse van Vuuren, Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, Roman Handt, Guillotine and Superella – are conspicuously absent. And still it’s four days long.

Essentially, what’s lacking is high fashion – the type of clothes that excite journalists, the audience and buyers.

We have descended into a pit of uninspiring ready-to-wear – T-shirts and jeans – which is understandable because most South Africans prefer to dress casually.

Some labels get the balance right by making their prêt-a-porter focus on the drama of accessories, styling and detail. But too many simply bore, and bore shamelessly.