To cut themselves free of the gender norms fed to them since birth, young South Africans aren’t using sharp edges but rather soft fabrics and turns of phrase. Their fashion and styling choices, as well as the words they use to describe their own bodies, challenge essentialism and the notion that any of our outward characteristics are fixed. These young South Africans, most visible in urban centers like Cape Town, are playful in the ways they present themselves to the world. They eschew European designer labels manufactured for consumerism in favor of local designers, many of whom have caught the spirit of the moment. That Cape Town, known as the “Mother City,” has become a front in the war on Western gender roles is somewhat fitting. It’s where the Dutch and, later, the British began their colonization of South Africa in earnest.
April 14 / New York Times