By Setumo-Thebe Mohlomi
The lousy shirt has been deemed the must have item by the fashion powers that be. It may even be replacing other forms of print as a means of transmitting one’s message. It is increasingly apparent that in the minds of the fashion conscious, print is in. This, unfortunately, does not mean that newspapers, magazines, journals and tabloids are the items frenziedly sought after by young consumers. Lacoste will not be launching a political newspaper anytime soon. Instead, the printed shirt has been revolutionised from the lame gear proclaiming that: “My mother went to London and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” to a vehicle for change.
Levi Strauss, the international clothing label, launched an HIV/Aids awareness campaign this January. Printed garments introduced by the brand have had considerable success. Johannesburg advertising executive Cal Burn told the Sunday Times that t-shirts brandishing messages like “I can buy my own damn Levi’s Mr. Sugar Daddy” were sold out in most stores by early February.
The notion of using fashion to create awareness is a welcome alternative to angst-ridden teenagers sporting tops with messages like ‘sex bomb’ and ‘sex kitten-bombs kill’.
Making messages about serious issues fashionable seems a credible means of transmitting the message to those of us who are more likely to follow the antics of celebrities than the seven o’clock news. “I think a t-shirt is something that really gets in your face, and because of that it gets you talking,” said Rebecca Mothiba, a BSc student.
Love Life’s ‘2010, love to be there’ campaign has taken advantage of the country’s electric anticipation around the 2010 world cup. If the notion is to make awareness fashionable what remains to be answered is why football clubs in South Africa have not made visible attempts at raising HIV/Aids awareness. This cannot be due to a lack of audience as the country is buzzing with talk of the tournament.
If Kaizer Chiefs could make bottled spring water available for purchase by their fans, why not launch a range of condoms endorsed by the team’s top scorer. If a soccer team can make one trust their ability to bottle water, their success in convincing South Africans about other things would be reasonably high. The discourse on Aids coming from the symbols of popular culture can only bolster the rather stern message that the state can send. Information about Aids might only be taken seriously by the youth if it is made more fashionable and less serious.
However it would be crude to suggest that fashion alone could curb the worst disease Africa has faced in centuries. Phila Mtolo, a BA student says that “Just because I have seen it on a t-shirt, that does not mean I have to do it. I could just think, ‘cool t-shirt’ and move on.” This shows the reason why one should be hesitant to accept the fashion revolution.