In the immortal words of Lady Gaga, “There could be 100 people in the room and 99 of them haven’t hijacked an INTERLUDE from Holly and it just takes 1. I’m the one.” No, you aren’t confused and yes, you are on the right page. The chaos has entered the chat. Do not exit this page before you get to the end, okay? Okay, I admit that may have been a little much for you to stomach on first read but give me a chance.
In case you don’t know me, I am Ulindelwe Ratsibe and I am here to break down SA Fashion Week. I love fashion and I have been professionally screaming into the void about fashion for approximately 2-3 years. I love long walks on the beach, Glenn Martens, and complaining. I have successfully tricked the team at CEC into letting me talk about SA Fashion Week and I am here to keep it cute but tell the truth.
Tis’ the season for South African Fashion. South African Fashion Week, which started in 1997, is the premier event for South African fashion. With 26 years under its belt, it has launched the careers of many of the household names in our fashion industry such as Loxion Kulca, Jacques van der Watt and Mmuso Maxwell. I think what’s incredible about this gathering is that it manages to give young designers a platform to showcase their incredible talents. To give you some context, the youngest of the big 4 fashion weeks is London which started in 1983, and comparatively, SAFW has accomplished so much in such a short period of time.
This season we had a FANTASTIC variety of brands showcasing for SS23 (I know, it’s a little confusing with the transeasonality of the shows). There are certain connotations that come with the specific season that is showing, but, by now, everyone has made their own script and is following that version of events. It’s also one of the things that make it interesting. Every designer is allowed to do what they want and show how they want. After suffering through a boring history lesson (Fine it wasn’t boring but it definitely wasn’t what you were looking for) it’s time to get to the part you have all been waiting for. The fashions.
Major Moment #1: The BAM Collective
One thing about The BAM Collective is that they’re unapologetically BAM. Their brand DNA is hard to miss because when you see a piece, you know it’s BAM. The collection, titled ‘Aestheticism’, is an exploration of “the concept of vanity and all its synthetic and organic manifestations.” While some would call this a departure, I think it’s another tier of the brand’s identity. The weird and wacky lines and shapes that are characteristically BAM are all there but with a surgical eye. Crisp circular shapes unfold around the wrist and the waist of sharp trousers. There are wonderful knits and PLUS SIZED MODELS. (I could go into a whole diatribe about accurate representation on South African runways but have chosen to give you this long and unnecessary side note that I refuse to anthro-pologise for) This collection gave me chic executive realness and feeds into my theory that we might be gearing up to dress for social settings like we are going to the office again.
What a beautiful moment but unfortunately, I cannot possibly try and give every brand a full dissection. To try and give everyone a spotlight, I have decided to write a little segment (this is a ploy to try and convince the team at CECZA to let me write more for them) called:
Reviews as Haikus!
SAFWSS23 Black Coffee
Black and white runway
Muted tone surrealism
Well done Black Coffee
Gugu by Gugu:
Ornate and Detailed
Proudly Xhosa DNA
Delicious Stylings and prints
Welcome to her world
Major Moment #2 : Fashion Bridges Viviers Studio and Federico Cina
Fashion Bridges has become a big fixture in every season because of the excitement that accompanies it. Fashion Bridges is a partnership created by the Italian Embassy in South Africa which transports parts of our fashion worlds to each other. This season was very important as this was the first time Viviers Studio would be showcasing at SAFW. There’s a little glitch in the matrix. It doesn’t make sense that this is the first time because they have become such a fixture in the South African Fashion context independently. I actually didn’t know who Federico Cina was until they were announced and that’s no shade. I was introduced to DROMe by this project and now I am obsessed with them (who can forget the Italian Ambassador saying “She’s young. She’s talented. She’s famous. DROMe!”) I digress (tell me something new).
There is one thing that I must say. THE CASTING of these shows was spectacular. I don’t think any show could light a candle to the casting. Cina shows a deeply considered reflection on home and what that word means. Using tapestries and intriguing prints coupled with distressing and raw edges, it transports us to this rough and playful childhood without ever being childlike. Viviers Studio transports us to the Karoo and explores the terrain intelligently through textile and photographic prints. With interesting Jewellery by Kirsten Goss and my cheeky favourite accessory being the Shoprite leather bag by Cape Cobra Leathercraft, this show stays focused on the mysticism and state of the Karoo. This show was excellent and possibly the main highlight of Fashion Week.
It’s that time of the show (Yes, I am calling this a show because I have paraded myself for your entertainment) where I condense my thoughts about a brand’s latest collection into 17 syllables. It’s –
Reviews as Haikus! (Part 2)
Ephymol in green
Hiding in tailored glamour
Refuse Clothing Brand:
Clean but full of edgy risks
SAFWSS23 Fikile Sokhulu
Full billowing sleeves
A push for commercial-wear
Where can I buy you
Major Moment #3: Mr Price New Talent Search Competition.
Everyone is always looking at this particular show as it is a reflection of the most exciting brands who are ready to take the next step. This is all about the new and fresh. The upcoming designers presented their take on prints. This season, Mr Price joined as the sponsor for the competition, with their shoes appearing on the runway. The potential impact of this partnership is incredible and will elevate so many young designers in the future.
The competition was incredibly tight and each of those designers put so much effort into their work. I definitely want to commend Cyla Gonsolves on her win and wonderful collection. Her whimsical pastel-elegant looks were a confection. Someone I thought was right on her tail was Artae. I loved their use of print and the silhouettes to create this image of the girl on the go who had a little too much fun in art class, looked in the mirror and said, “I am stunning; hear me slay.” It was my favourite for sure. Another designer I would like to shout out is Oyama Gonintebe who has this very slick collection but I wish they had focused on one print and then developed that motif. One of the highlights of this show was the returning victor, Thando Ntuli who presented her collection titled Isikhathi. When you have a masterclass in how to do it, you better take notes.
As I step out on the stage like the end of an episode of Saturday Night Live, I have to advocate for all of you to go to the pages of each designer you enjoyed and buy something. One of the positives of supporting South African fashion is that our labour law protects workers from outright exploitation. All of the designers showing at SAFW have sustainability on their minds in varying capacities. Most importantly, tell your friends about these brands. Engagement improves visibility and that’s how you get to show your support if you can’t afford to buy into the brand.
One of the things I wrestled with was how many people invited were brought to increase awareness. I know that this is how the game works, but I would love to see more buyers from African countries. While more people watching is important, the more we see our brands stocked and purchased, the more that brings back to our economy. To think on an insular level will only hinder our growth as an emerging fashion ecosystem. As we watch SA Fashion Week, we want to watch new talent but also we need to retain our talent. That is done by creating a lucrative platform that not only provides awareness but helps them turn that awareness into sales.
This brings you to the end of my Interlude takeover. SA Fashion Week is always an important time because the fashion industry coalesces and important discussions are had. I always walk away from it knowing more, seeing more and complaining more. If you loved it, I’m Ulindelwe. If you didn’t enjoy it, my name is Holly Beaton.
I’ll be here all week- try the quiche.