It’s not lost on me that I’ve been that person with the Prada sunglasses. Long before my other hallmarks – the beard or the red hair or the black tunics – I’ve had frames on my face. They had become such a feature that I referred to them as “my eyes”. Those Prada Baroques were my most beloved, oversized lenses and rococo-curved arms – you know the ones! I bought the pair, prescription lenses and all, spending my entire first salary from African Fashion international. At the time, I had a huge argument with my father (Frivolous! Irresponsible). Of course. But I was sure this was a rite of passage for being officially employed in the industry that I love.
The first time I saw them, Spring/Summer 2011, I knew I had to make them a part of me. I wore them nearly every single day, indoors always and often at night, for just shy of ten years until I sat on them and oh well, you know the rest of the story. Devastated to lose a part of me. Would you believe I have indentations in my skull, formed over a decade, where my Prada eyes sat?
Over time, that relationship began to underpin my fashion philosophy. Find something you love. No, as in truly, truly love. And wear it to death! Like the faded black dress I’ve worn so often that it is now my second skin, repaired regularly to extend its use. Or like my brown leather laptop bag, crafted by a West African designer for me over eight years ago. Oh, the stories it tells through every scratch and stain on its skin. This is what fashion means to me. Not clothing to consume. Not a trend to follow nor a hype to flex. But a self-reflection, so accurate and so authentic that it fuses itself to you!
Those Prada frames, and the prescription lenses, became the paradigm with which I began to look at consumption – not just of clothing. The roller coaster ride of 2020, accelerated anti-consumerist philosophy in response to the capitalist profiteering that has turned consumption into a religion. It made me itemise my “lifestyle” down to a series of decisions. Anna Lappé says it best: “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
This process has made me look one word straight in the eye: “convenience”. The way of the world demands that, because of our busy lives and the need for so much “stuff”, there are ‘solutions for getting this stuff to us conveniently.
Well, if you ask me, capitalism is using convenience as an excuse to squeeze the value chain so tightly that justice is entirely left out of the equation. But we’re okay with it, because it makes our lives quicker, better, faster, right? Suddenly we’re rude to the teller or delivery person; wasteful and ungrateful because there’s always more. We’ve become lazy slaves to plastic and pre-made.
The other day, an hour before it closed, I ran to buy a donut from Grumpy & Runt, the incredible queer women-owned vegan donut deli in Cape Town. They were out. of. stock. and I was devastated. Don’t I deserve a donut whenever I want, at my convenience? Oh, how much unlearning I still have to do! I had to stop to rewire my thinking. The staff of this business wake up extra early to make everything from scratch; the business makes ethical choices even when it hurts; this business is creating more and more jobs; and this business has become a watering hole for the like-minded; all while selling out most days because the food is so good. All that this business owes me is a fair, just and delicious offering. And all I owe this business is to retrain my mind, from being a capitalist consumer to a community stakeholder, supporting small industry.
We have to support a return to small industry – or cottage industry as it was quaintly known, before the Industrial Revolution messed everything up. Now is the moment! This period of discovering what’s available in and from our communities, must replace our conveniencelust.
How much of your money can you shift from spending at big corporations and re-direct it towards home and small industry? The other day I ordered my loaf of bread, via Instagram, from an art director who lost their job due to the pandemic and now bakes for a word-of-mouth network of Gardens homes. From another “cottage”, I collected a sweet potato pie for dessert from someone who started baking to create a livelihood. And there’s the weekly oat milk, packaged in returnable re-used wine bottles, from Oh Oat, a small local batch producer in Woodstock. This is community, the opposite of capitalism and consumption.
I’ve made a list. I’ve put it at my door so that I can track everything that crosses my threshold. It makes me question every single thing I consume and allow into my home. Every single thing I buy. Every single vote I cast for the world I want. It’s an ongoing process. I am, through process of elimination and substitution, choosing community over convenience.
With this new attitude, I’m marching into the rest of these roaring twenties. Sans Prada frames, sadly, but clearer-minded than ever before. The doorway between the great outside and my apartment has become a place to pause and reflect: do I need this; is this the best choice to make; how can I make better choices going forward? Suddenly, I realise, that this is the lens I’d rather be known by, even as cute as those baroque frames looked on my face. Call me instead that person with 20/20 vision but know that that clarity of sight is not a definitive destination – instead, it’s a daily process and commitment. Finally, I’m actually looking through my own eyes.
KY BXSXHFF (they/them): Ky is a Cape Town-based mythmaker and multi-hyphenate, working in fashion, film and phrasing. They create mythologies which seek to re-interpret the past as a way to re-imagine a possible future, working as a creative director, stylist & fashion writer, wordsmith and filmmaker. Their directorial debut and the first in a series, CABIN FEVER, was released in 2020. Their monthly column, published on Twyg, 20/20 VISION, does not promise to have all the answers – but it does promise to ask all the tough questions. It’s as just as much about unlearning what’s problematic as it is about learning solutions for community-based living that’s built on a foundation of sustainability (beyond the buzzword). It asks only one thing: that you look at the future with clear eyes: not what is or what has always been; but what should be and what can be. Where to from here? Let’s work that out together!
Portraits of Ky: Jesse Fine