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Almost 27 years of democracy, we still have prominent brands that haven’t transformed to reflect SA as a nation.

And this is indicative in last week’s announcement of the judging panel for the 2021 SA Fashion Week (SAFW) New Talent Search.

On January 27, SAFW announced that they are proud of the judging panellists for the 2021 SAFW New Talent Search. Unfortunately, like many South Africans, we are not impressed.

Judging the 2021 SAFW New Talent Search are David West, Head of Design at Superbalist; Sahil Harilal, Sunday Times Fashion Editor and Sarah Proudfoot, who is the Truworths Womenswear Buying and Design Director.

From the National Fashion Sales Agent is Ryan Bourquin; Sumendra Chetty of Merchants on Long and Okapi; Megan Nel of Apparel & Accessories Brand and Product Development Agent; and, Rebecca Gunn, a Big Blue Fashion Buyer and Production Manager.

The reason we are unimpressed with this judging panel is that it lacks diversity.

Since we are the “rainbow nation”, one would expect to see some black people who are fashion experts included on the panel.

We have people like Asanda Sizani, Nontando Mposo, Noni Gasa, Thula Sindi, Trevor Stuurman, Thebe Magugu, Rich Mnisi, David Tlale, to name a few. Their input would’ve been highly appreciated since they have a strong voice in fashion.

Even on social media, people raised concerns.

Siyanda Mbhele said: “Representation gives voice to the voiceless & understanding. There will be brilliant applicants who will be robbed of this opportunity due to lack of diversity from your panel @safashionweek reGroup“.

Kerry-Anne Gilowey, a content strategist, also commented on the matter. She said: “Weird because I wouldn’t be proud to announce this line-up. Do you even know which country you’re in? Goodness. This complete unwillingness to try just a little harder to represent the majority of our people needs to come to an end in 2021.”

After several attempts to contact SAFW to find out about their criteria in selecting the judges as well as the conspicuous lack of diversity, they have yet to respond.

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