How to encourage straight talk with African Fashion

If there is one industry that I think abhors straight talk is our fashion and style from Africa. No one tells the truth to shame the devil. I used the opening image with this beautiful lady and her piercing eyes to illustrate my point by looking straight at anyone who cares to hear. We need more straight talkers or opinions from people who really care about African fashion.

For example, you may see some one wearing something that really doesn’t make any sense whether as an asoebi or even common sense fashion or our fashion designers presenting new collections that no one in their right mind will ever wear in Africa or the global world in general. Yet everyone is saying, “ooh how beautiful,” or “in vogue”  or “that woman or man has style” or “knows how to design fashion that is appealing.” Lies, all lies. But today, I would like to encourage everyone to start being straight forward with each other when it comes to African fashion. If it doesn’t look good, please say so. If it is tacky, say so too and if you will never buy it ,let alone wear it even if the designer gives it out freely, again say so.

Take another example, this image of this beautiful young lady in an aso-ebi inspired outfit below. What do you think about her style and would you wear it. Honestly, I like it. She is covered in the right place and showing some cleavage that her God has blessed her with. It will not be for everyone, especially those with extremely large bust size. Her size is just right and will do for this outfit. This is the straight talk I am referring to.
africa-fashion-straight-talk

This summer I found myself thinking that I would work for a like-minded brand that was passionate about African fashion as much as I was. Needless to say that experience was the shortest working experience that I have ever had and it is all because the owner of the brand hated straight talk. In fact she detested anyone who would tell her the truth and her response was to fire them if they were not on the same “lying to oneself” page with her. Truth be told, African fashion right now is not profitable or sustainable never mind what people may say or want you to believe and so I told her the truth. Let’s just say it did not end well. If anything I am grateful for that experience and now on a crusade to tell the truth about African fashion even if it means making people detest me.

The truth is I would rather standout for telling the truth about fashion and style from Africa than be among the liars and deceivers who portray African fashion as something that it isn’t. This is not to say that African fashion cannot become profitable or sustainable. I am just saying the way that some brands approach it by hosting “African Fashion Weeks or Events”  outside Africa (see this previous post Why African Fashion Weeks Outside Africa Should and Must End for more details) is not the answer. This is the straight talk that I am referring to, one that African fashion desperately needs to become successful and profitable in the near future.

Straight talk doesn’t have to be all pessimistic or negative too. Here are some lessons from a post I read on Northwestern Mutal by Jo Eisenhart,  the senior vice president of Human Resources, Facilities and Philanthropy at Northwestern Mutual, that illustrates this further. Happy Reading

“If a co-worker asked your opinion about her new outfit—and you didn’t really care for it—how would you answer? Truthfully? Or, would you tell a little white lie to keep from hurting her feelings? We live in a polite culture. We’ve learned from an early age not to make waves unnecessarily. “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” the adage says. I agree for the most part, but there’s an important difference between being polite to someone socially and not stating your real opinion in a business situation…As part of my company policy, we’ve come to the conclusion that we can’t really do our best work unless we’re comfortable having open, honest, courageous conversations with each other. But how straight is too straight? How can we be honest, polite and respectful all at the same time?

Here’s what I’ve learned. First, when you’re having a conversation, sending an email or calling a meeting, be clear about what you need to accomplish and what you expect from others saying something like: “Today, I’m going to recommend a new approach to tackling this challenge. I’ll review with you the pros and cons as my team sees them, and will invite you to share your thoughts, as well. At the end of this presentation, I’m going to ask each of you individually for your approval to move forward.”

By setting the stage with clear expectations, you make it easier for the leadership team to feel comfortable offering honest feedback and compelled to share their thoughts immediately.

Second, I’m learning that until everyone gets used to the spirit of openness and straight talk, it’s wise to tread lightly. There’s a fine line between being direct and being rude, and everyone will draw the line in a different place. So if you’re about to say something that might be construed as a bit too direct, preface it with a fair warning. A lot of individuals at my company are prefacing comments with “In the spirit of straight talk,” which lets the audience know they may hear something more direct than usual.

Experiment with being direct, and encourage others to do the same; it’s the only way you’ll get comfortable with straight talk and determine where to collectively draw the line in your organization. You may also need to draw out the straight talk in others. If you feel like someone is beating around the bush or not telling the whole story, ask for clarification: “I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say.”

Of course, you have to be prepared for what you might hear when asking for the truth. I’ve found in most cases that people welcome straight talk—whether positive or negative. It helps them know where they stand, what they need to do and how their efforts contribute to the success of the business. And, in the end, isn’t that what we all want to know at work?”

Source: Northwestern Mutal

Image Credit: Instagram

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