Palesa Mahlaba, fashion editor of True Love magazine, had a fun time looking back at the magazine’s fashion timeline over the past 40 years as part of its birthday celebrations.
“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.” Coco Chanel
They’re words Mahlaba has taken to heart, as she believes True has played an intrinsic part of the lives of black South African women who value the advice, insights and style guidance that the magazine offers.
“I’ve read True Love all my life,” says Mahlaba. “My mother and her friends have always bought it, and they’ve always referred to it for fashion and style tips. Women across the generation gaps have trusted it for the last 40 years, as the magazine has always profiled fashion that is relevant and within the reach of its readers. True Love has kept pace with the way that South African women live, with what has happened in the world around them, and the magazine’s fashion pages have reflected this.”
The magazine’s fashion shoots are so well received by its readers because True Love has a deep understanding of exactly who they are, Mahlaba believes. “We have to balance the tastes of our younger and older readers, and we can’t cross the line of respectability just for the sake of a beautiful shot. Our challenge is to walk the fine line between challenging our readers to do something exciting while understanding that they use our magazine as a very literal guide to the decisions they make in their everyday lives.
“For this reason, we showcase fashion that is innovative and exciting, but that can really be purchased and worn by South African women. We need to tell a story that our readers can relate to, or show a trend that they can actually wear – we need to deliver more than a concept, we need to give them a practical solution,” she says.
When it comes to choosing the fashions portrayed in each issue, Palesa agrees with Ralph Lauren’s comment that ‘Fashion is not necessarily about labels. It’s not about brands. It’s about something that comes from within you.’ She keeps this philosophy top of mind when scouting for items for the magazine, and when she is shopping for her own wardrobe. “If you dress to be comfortable and you don’t slavishly follow trends, whether you are 14 or 40, you don’t limit yourself or your wardrobe,” she says. “In True Love, we want to show our readers how they can look fabulous if they can afford a designer wardrobe, but we are also determined to show them where to shop if they are on a tight budget.”
Mahlaba confesses to being an avid bargain hunter, and will scout around for the best possible prices once she has identified an item that she wants, either for her own wardrobe or for the magazine.
“Shopping around gives you insights into what the different outlets are doing, and to where you can get the best deal to stretch your budget. There is a certain thrill to impulse shopping, but the truth is that you get the best value for your money, and a piece that you really love, if you invest time and effort in purchasing it.”
While she is no slave to labels, Mahlaba points out two South African designers that she holds in particularly high esteem. “David Tlale appeals to the risk-taker in me – he does not conform, he challenges textures and colours at every turn, and he has certainly put South African fashion on the map with his participation in New York Fashion Week.
“Gavin Rajah is one of the most meticulous designers I have ever encountered: there is never a bead or a stitch out of place in his work, every element of a gown has a purpose in his creation, and each garment he produces has been made with particular attention to detail. Many of our up-and-coming designers could learn from his craftsmanship.”
If Tlale and Rajah are her local design heroes, Palesa has a fashion hero and a fashion zero when it comes to her own wardrobe. “I love leather jackets, and I don’t think I will ever have enough of them,” she says. “Their silhouettes and tailoring have changed over the years, but they remain timeless. When it comes to fashion disasters, I think that leggings are the worst mistake of the last 40 years – there’s such a fine line between them being fabulous and being fatally flawed and awful!”
Palesa Mahlaba’s top fashion tips for 40 year olds
True Love has just turned 40 – and Palesa Mahlaba, fashion editor of True Love, offers her top five fashion tips for 40 year olds.
1. Have fun with fashion
2. Stay true to yourself
3. Wear the right silhouette – accept your shape and don’t force yourself into a silhouette just because it’s on trend
4. While it is important to dress for your age, this is never a free pass to looking frumpy
5. Don’t let other people choose your clothes for you – people can see right away that you’re not wearing the truth.