Tanatswa-Amisi-is-Changing-the-Landscape-of-Fashion-Criticism African Fashion International

Tanatswa Amisi is Changing the Landscape of Fashion Criticism

Exploring the Transformative Vision of Tanatswa Amisi in Fashion Media

Tanatswa Amisi is a Vital New Voice of Fashion Criticism

Ranji Mangcu

In the captivating realm of fashion media, one individual has emerged as a beacon of thought-provoking analysis and commentary: Tanatswa Amisi. Her distinctive style and incisive insights have taken centre stage, captivating a fashion-savvy audience that craves a deeper connection with the industry's movers and shakers. 

Like many of her peers, Amisi's platform of choice TikTok, where she goes by the name @iobservefashion. What sets her apart is her remarkable ability to strike a delicate balance between shedding light on the stark realities of the global fashion landscape and infusing it with infectious empathy and unwavering optimism.  

@iobservefashion Maybe I will talk about the defining characteristics that make me categorise these people the way I do… soon… this was for fun… don’t be mean to me in the comments, my comment section isn’t a democracy I’ll delete your comment if i want to.🤭🫡 #mowalola #cultbrands #rickowens #fashion #fashiontiktok #greenscreen ♬ original sound - Tanatswa Amisi

 At the core of Amisi's mission lies a commitment to bridging the profound gap in insights and information within African fashion communication. Her commentary delves deep into the industry, unveiling its nuances and exploring the boundless possibilities it holds. She doesn't merely skim the surface; she dives into the very essence of fashion, dissecting everything from the art of brand storytelling to its intricate place within the broader context of the fashion world. Operating as an online influencer, TikTok serves as her canvas, connecting the dots between the established global fashion scene and the vibrant canons emerging within Africa. 

Through her strategic vision, Amisi has transformed @iobservefashion into a go-to hub for fashion enthusiasts, particularly the younger generation. In an era where the integrity of the fashion ecosystem is at stake, she stands as a refreshing, influential voice. 

One of the key issues close to Amisi's heart is the rush within contemporary journalism to be the first to express an opinion about a brand. Often, constructive critique gets lost in the noise of negative criticism. Amisi, however, champions a different approach, placing constructive engagement with the industry at the forefront of her fashion media philosophy. Her vision revolves around the type of industry we all aspire to build, the ideals that shape it, and the continued investment required to bring those ideals to life. 

@iobservefashion Replying to @Nthati I’m still very hopeful and excited for this new era! I see so much innovation coming from it! #fashionjournalism #papermagazine #idmagazine #dazedmagazine #voguemagazine #fashiontiktok ♬ original sound - Tanatswa Amisi

It would be an understatement to describe a conversation with Tanatswa Amisi as merely "enriching." The success of @iobservefashion is a testament to a significant shift she herself acknowledges.

In an industry historically veiled in mystery and exclusivity, African fashion is undergoing a transformation, embracing a philosophy centered on collaboration as it charts a new course for itself." 

You have achieved remarkable success as a go-to destination for fashion critique and adaptation to the ever-evolving fashion industry. However, as a current law student, do you envision integrating these two domains in the future?" 

I definitely do but I don’t think it will be as a lawyer. Ever since starting @iobservefashion, my mission has shifted quite a bit, especially as I’ve been able to talk to so many industry greats and creatives. There are many systemic issues that prevent the fashion industry – particularly here in Africa –  from reaching its full potential. One major issue is that there is not enough funding. Everything I do in my career is building up to the point where I can be an impactful investor and problem solver for the economic issues faced by our industry. So, my law degree is a tool for me to learn more about deal-structuring and legal solutions to financial issues. I would also like to work beyond just law, spending some time in consulting and private equity to learn how to think and work like an investor. 

What has changed about your perspective of the fashion industry?  

So many of my heroes and idols have become my peers. I never thought I’d get to a place in my fashion career (so quickly) where I have a direct line of communication to people that I look up to. It’s been insane meeting very well-respected people in fashion and having them tell me how much they love my work, instead of it being the other way around.  This has taught me – and reinforced in me –  that you never know who is watching. Ever! So that is even more motivation to put my work out there in whatever medium because I never know in which rooms and corners of the industry my name is being discussed.  

@iobservefashion Thebe Magugu AW2023 - Folklorics. On African Folklore (inspired by Mami Wata and the tales from our childhood and redefining success for the South African designer. #thebemagugu #pfw #mamiwata #fashiontiktok #africanfashion #southafricanfashion ♬ Chopin Nocturne No. 2 Piano Mono - moshimo sound design 

There’s a lot to read about the impediments of the African fashion industry. What would you say are the rewards of being in this industry, in the country that we’re in, and in the moment that we’re in it?  

Oh, I love this question! In this moment, our country and our continent is in such a pivotal time in fashion. Everyone outside this continent is distressed and tired, contending with the void of creativity in their corner of the industry. Meanwhile, Africa is spilling over with new ideas, new innovations and new ways of solving creative issues. And we all get a front row seat to it all. There are issues that arise, like how the American and Euro fashion communities interact with us. But we as an African fashion community are really shifting fashion history. I am so privileged to be a part of this revolution.  

What is the role of fashion criticism in strengthening the fashion system, in Africa or anywhere else in the world?  

I think our role is to support other players in the industry. For example, designers. This support can be through positive reinforcement, through hard-hitting exposés, or simply through keeping quiet. I think often fashion journalists have a tendency to want to be the first to speak on something. And that may be a bad or good thing depending on the intentions of the journalists. With me, I have a strict rule for myself that I won’t be too quick to say negative things about small brands (unless they absolutely deserve it, or if there is a systemic issue needed to be addressed). I don’t think negative criticism always translates to constructive criticism. Sometimes all it does is tear apart a designer before they’ve even had a chance to evolve and find their voice.  

Tanatswa Amisi

From ChatGPT to NFT’s and Metaverse fashion, fashion media is kind of facing an existential crisis, globally. How are we seeing that translate here in South Africa?  

A lot of people are scared and looking for alternate ways to keep their voices heard and get paid for their creativity. I think TikTok is a great tool for keeping fashion journalism alive, because print media is in crisis. I encourage any local fashion journalists to hop on Tiktok, X or Substack and get your voice heard, because this is not a single-solution issue.  

As more people gravitate towards TikTok as their primary source of fashion news and media, what do you feel is the future of long-form fashion journalism in Africa?  

I really have no idea. The journalists I’ve spoken to all say that they are on the ground working on solutions and really trying their best. Most people freelance for magazines, but those magazines are also struggling… I feel as if this is the time for the African tech community to collaborate with fashion to solve this issue with local challenges in mind.  

IMAGES: Supplied by Tanatswa Amisi

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