Elections jolts fashion

Campaigning for the May 21 general elections is in full swing. Just like with other years, the canvassing has come in and with style.

While political parties, through their torchbearers, are outclassing each other with manifestoes, stalwarts are keeping fashion designers busy – making outstanding outfits.

UDF president Atupele Muluzi and his wife Angella donning clothes made from party material

Flipping through social media pages and watching political rallies on televisions, one gets greeted with mostly traditional but fancy and modernised attires created from party colours.

These compliment the concept of slogan T-shirts bearing political messages in bold graphic lettering which this year, have undergone a metamorphosis.

On top of that, the power of messaging through fashion has been driven a notch up as this campaign period has seen an increase of party regalia courtesy of items like beret, wilson and beanie hats and wristwatches.

One undisputable fact is that, the fashion industry is benefiting from the craze. And it is not just about money, but exposure, says Wyson Bowman of Nyalisa Wear.

“This period of elections is the best when it comes to fashion. If people were like this all the time, it would boost fashion in our country. Even people in the villages are trying to look stylish with their party garments.

“The industry is benefitting because the volume of people who are going to fashion designers is increasing. Even companies that are manufacturing the fabrics are benefiting a lot. This is a marketing platform where I can attract many people as I can, considering the competition out there. Meanwhile, by the end of the campaign period, many designers will be known out there,” he says.

Despite that politicians commemorate their reign, immortalise own glory, promote their agenda, or simply the most basic of all, promote themselves, fashion is one industry that tends to keep out political affairs explicitly.

Bowman says Nyalisa Wear has created several outfits for supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), United Democratic Front (UDF), UTM Party and Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

Closer home, South Africa’s Marxist-Leninist political party, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has taken southern Africa, if not the entire continent, by storm.

Their red jumpsuits or overalls as a uniform with beret hats have had a huge influence on the Malawi political scene. Almost all major local political parties have embraced the berets, with followers proudly donning them.

The political podiums have turned into ramps where supporters with the outstanding creations from the parties’ kit gets to be seen, a development that UTM Party supporter Elyn Matatiyo acknowledges.

“We just have to go with the trend while making the best of what can be viewed as the ordinary, in this case, party cloths. That is why, unlike in the past elections, the designs quality has improved, and one can see how the art of fashion is influencing the regalia. I have had outfits, designed by myself and taken to a fashion designer for actualisation,” she says

Even party leaders or those vying for positions no longer just wear berets or caps paired with a simple golf shirt. This year, people have been introduced to more interesting and fashionable pieces fully embodying today’s fashion trends.

Recently, award winning rapper Tay Grin was trending on social media when he posted two different stylish jackets created by Nyalisa Wear.

With the diverse political regalia that politicians and their parties’ supporters have worn this year, there is no doubt the outfits have changed political party fan walks into a catwalk.

Another fashion designer whose hands are busy with creating outfits from party regalia, Roy Banda believes the trend cements the fact that fashion is now in every aspect of life.

“Look at how today’s pastors and prophets dress, all football players, among others. So, elections or in general, politics cannot go without embracing fashion.

“The industry will fashion a lot from these elections especially in this campaign period as many politicians will try to look good in front of their supporters. Followers will also try to outshine each other in terms of dressing to show their loyalty to the party they support,” he says.

Luckily, Banda, who recently was voted the best fashion designer for the inaugural Urban Music People fashion awards, has been making political party outfits before the campaign period started.

“I have made a lot of outfits almost for all political parties; some politicians and supporters are regular customers. However, the desire for the outfits has grown due to campaign and I should admit that I am benefiting from this period. Some bring their ideas but mostly, I design myself and I love it when am given freedom to design,” he adds.  n

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