I had the pleasure of sitting down with bonafide #TLRstylising, Tracy Lee Rosslind at the HecticNine9 studios in Observatory Cape Town. She looked cool, very edgy. She was rocking a black crop top (knitted by her mum) and black ripped jeans. We had so much fun chatting about fashion, trends and her journey as a stylist...
Watching her in action, as she prepped for her fashion segment on hn9 was amazing. She is professional, focused and gracious towards the company she surrounds herself with. Born in 1984 in Cape Town. She started TV presenting by the age of 10 on a Sabc 2 show called X-Attitude. She was also a model, whilst being in school, and was one of the first black faces of Woolworths. She has been around fashion all her life, has a passion for it and a keen eye for detail.
Tracy has racked up over 5000 followers on Instagram alone and counting. She is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry and is busy building her own empire.
What inspires you as a stylist?
The fact that style changes the world. And it does. I can put a girl who maybe feels less than in something that makes her feel more than which encourages her to achieve more than she usually would.
Describe your style.
My Personal Style is very much how I feel on the day. Tomorrow I could wake up a ballerina and you will see me in a full on tutu on a Wednesday rocking that to a meeting.
Did you start styling while you were still modeling?
Yes, from the very beginning. I always had a passion for it. I used to dress up my little sister. It’s just kind of always been part of my life. Plus I also used to dance. I started dancing at the age of 3.
Despite being short for industry standards I was one of the top child models by 15. I have worked with really good people. I was the face of Kelloggs and one of the first people of color in a Woolies campaign. I have worked with some of the top directors in America. I actually did most of my work for American campaigns and stuff.
Then I kind of got involved with Rude World Records a while back where styling music videos really got me hooked. Then I became Jimmy Nevis’s stylist and a host of others. I also Art direct.
Tell me about the evolution of Jimmy Nevis’s style.
When I met Jimmy Nevis people used to compare him quite drastically to Bruno Mars and I wanted to get him away from that. People now compare him a lot to Kanye West which is quite strange because he has been dressing the way Kanye is kind of dressing now before Kanye started.
Jimmy is also one of the first artists that have been rocking local brands. That is why I love him so much because OF the line in HIS song 7764 “no China in these shoes”. He only wears local. That’s how I dress him hence the line no China in his shoes. He only dresses in local South African fashion.
So it was great to make an impact on an artist and that’s why I love working with Jimmy because he credits me so beautifully for it.
Is he open to dressing out of his comfort zone?
Yes he is. I put him in a dress this one time.
Just remember how Jimmy used to only wear flip-flops, loose chino type pants, t-shirts and a hat with cut-off gloves. It was not like he could say somebody else is also wearing those super long skirts. So it was hard for him.
With the designs that I got from designers such as Kim Gush no one was dressing from them, the designs were only on the runway. It was nerve wrecking for him but it inspired him. He is actually in love with fashion now and is even considering starting his own line.
It’s really all about how do you stand as a Fashion influencer in the middle of a thousand of South African youth who are busy checking on social media what you wore, who you are wearing and you are inspiring them through your style. You can find a new designer and completely launch their career.
People buy what they see. People get excited about what they see. And what they see constantly. That’s how indoctrination works. Why do you think Coke is still one of the most powerful brands? Because you can’t go anywhere without seeing Coke.
And the same thing needs to happen with our artists, with our music industry, with our magazines. It’s like when everybody starts doing everything together in the country and hyping up ourselves the inspiration that will come will be insane.
How did you land the Hecticnine9 gig?
I have been with Hecticnine9 for more than 5 years now. So I have been on the show for a long time — behind the camera. I have doing a few segments over the years but it just became official that I am actually one of the presenters recently.
I talk about various aspects of fashion and styling on the show. I have a lot of local designers that come on and I also have Mini Fashion shows featured, where I showcase different designer clothing and stuff like that.
Why Hecticnine9 though?
A lot of people have asked me why I chose Hecticnine9 and not a different platform which has a fashion flashback.
The reason why I didn’t choose a fashion flashback and I wanted to do Hecticnine9 is because I think as South Africans we have a problem with regards to how we purchase clothing.
And that is only going to change if we start changing the perception and the mind-set of our youngest youth—because these are the future shoppers. These are the people who will be buying merchandise in future.
Hecticnine9 is the biggest teen show in South Africa and they also have the biggest social media following than any other show in the country. It has a powerful demographic of the upcoming youth in the country. People who are going to buy the things in the market, the future producers, directors of this country.
I feel like it’s kind of my responsibility to educate the kids. I try to encourage them not to buy stuff but to customize stuff, instead of going to stores. Rather go to markets which would be the same cost factor as a retail store. I try to educate the viewers in that way.
We start changing perceptions now our industry will have a complete turnaround in the next 5 to 10 years. But it needs to start now.
That being said I would never wear something that is more than 200 Rand on the show.
Most of the time stylists wear really expensive brands which always makes me feel like I can’t incorporate the clothing in my own closet.
I don’t believe in that. But my thing is our bloggers shouldn’t be pushing that. It’s great that a lot of international stores are opening in SA but it’s killing our market.
I always give the example of Starbucks. We have a very big coffee culture in Cape Town and we have lots of these really really incredible coffee shops and barristers that have opened up. There was such a big boom in the coffee market because we have got such a niche and a need for it. That will be all gone when Starbucks lands here.
What is going to happened to all these amazing coffee shops?
We have amazing local brands.
Exactly and that’s my point. Local is lekker and we should be promoting that.
And most people don’t really know about them.
Precisely. That is why I ONLY Style Local.
Our government bailed out the textile industry a while ago, just like the American government did with general motors.
Most of our factories were going to close down because we went from being a country that exported so much textile, so much clothing, we used to make all the clothing here in Cape Town and now we don’t anymore we import a shit load of stuff. That is why you drive down Salt River main road and there are all those empty factories.
In Apartheid, the only job a colored person could get was in a clothing factory or being a teacher. Like your granny would have either been a teacher or they worked in clothing. That was the only two options.
So what happened to all those people with all those skills?
I think the transition post-Apartheid was somewhat problematic.
I agree. But it was also the deals that we struck up with China which made it null and void for us to produce our own merchandise in our own factories and produce locally. Because obviously it’s expensive.
The thing is South Africa has got incredible skill in textile labor.
My granny can sew in her sleep. My father has been designing and making leather garb for a long time. I had a leather onesie when I was like 5 years old.
There is so much stuff in the market that we don’t know about or invest in. It is not just clothing. We don’t even eat the natural resources that grow here. We’d rather eat an orange that comes from the UK instead of just utilizing and enjoying what it is that we have here.
We are on the cutting edge of fashion.
Remember Solange Knowles’ “Losing You” video? It was shot here. The music video was filmed in a Cape Town township.
Everyone is adopting the African style except for Africa! We still think we are not good enough for some reason.
We need to adopt the African Culture and celebrate it.
Precisely. Embrace the whole thing. Embrace Africanism.
If you look at menswear, I put Jimmy Nevis in a skirt like 3 years ago and now Jaden Smith is wearing the same thing to his matric ball and now all of a sudden it’s a thing. But the thing is the Masai tribe in Africa has been wearing the same thing for years. That is where it comes from—it’s very African.
It’s actually not trending now. it’s all about doing research! Its understanding that Africa is the latest frontier of fashion and it saddens me that most journalists and South African stylists can’t even see that that is African.
The problem is that the SA market is not given the opportunity to get excited about what we have here. We don’t seem to showcase what we have here.
People don’t seem to realize that the only way to break into the International market is to accept and adopt Africanism. Because we have what they don’t have.
How do you get someone to buy into something? You give them what they don’t have.
We need to stop focusing on what people are doing overseas because once we start embracing how strange and crazy South Africa is, we’ll actually come to a point where people and the international media will start looking here. And that will change everything.
What I find the problem of some mags is that they are so trend hungry because they are like ‘if it’s trending then the chances of someone buying it is higher’.
The thing is you are going to have a higher chance of someone buying it when it’s an inspirational trend that is coming. Because then they can be ahead of the curve instead of joining the curve.
It is South Africans who are reading the online pages and the publications. We have to give our readers a reason to pick up our magazines. And that is by giving them content that they can’t find online and giving them content that they aren’t going to find in all of the other international publications that are on the same shelves.
Why is it that we change our style to adopt another country’s style? Why can’t we convert someone else on our covers into our own sense of style and our own culture?
I have never seen a cover on any SA publication with one of those amazing Zulu hats. How is that even possible? I have never seen one. Ever.
But that is South African styling. So why is it that it has not been on any of our magazines? Why do we not see that?
We are still perpetuating European and Australian trends and printing them over and over and over again. And we never seem to find our ownness because we are so lost in trying to find ourselves in other people’s cultures instead of embracing our own.
I feel like now is the time for us with fashion, with food, with everything to start adopting a more South African and a true South African version of ourselves, that ignores the European influence, that ignores the trend influence but focuses on ourselves.
People are seeing our stuff. People are wearing our stuff. We are just not showcasing it correctly or taking pride in that.
You are very much known for style but more than anything for your hair. Who does your hair?
My hair is done by Tracey Theys Serfontein who has her own salon in Plumstead, Cape Town. She is amazing.
What do you think about the fashion styling industry in South Africa?
I don’t like styling industry in SA. I find it to be really fake. I find that a lot of people don’t like helping on another.
Do you have any advice for upcoming stylists?
Don’t be scared if you do not have money to study. I did not study styling and I have walked on a music video set where extras have looked down on me because they are Fedisa graduates and I have been doing this for two decades. So don’t be scared of experimenting.
Respect the people who are dressing. A stylist needs to realize that your best asset is the person you are styling.
Trust your instincts. Dress in local and respect the body you are putting the clothing on.
How did you not give up?
It was not an option. It’s not an option.
Nelson Mandela looked me in my face and he told me, he went to jail so that I can do whatever the hell I want to do so I better make sure that I do whatever the hell I do and do the hell out of it.
That is inspiration enough to keep on going.
Watch her in action on Hecticnine9 once a week, every Wednesday.
P.S. Tracy has something exciting lined up for September. She is going to be featured on the series, Jenny & Reza’s Fabulous Food Academy on Food Network! #WeWereNeverReady