Last week, Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, hosted CONFECTIONS X COLLECTIONS (CxC): ‘’an annual coming-together of creative expression fusing five days of exclusive salon-style fashion shows, with designer- inspired confectionery.’’ This is the second iteration of CxC curated by Twyg, and is fast-becoming an incredible event that signals the beginning of summer, the end of the year and all things sartorial in South African design.
The traditional runway format has been up for reinterpretation for some time. With the pandemic leading to greater accessibility for viewers to experience collections through their screens – the notion of sitting like ducks in a row, with heavy strobe-lighting (not to mention the difficulty in even getting into these shows) has started to become somewhat limiting. Experiencing design is something so intrinsically intimate; it’s a window into the breadth and depth of someone’s creative essence, their craftsmanship and point of view. Set this against the fact that South Africa’s design landscape is inherently informed by our country’s collective penchant for relaxed – chilled – experiences, and the idea of being able to snack during a fashion experience – well, CxC was bound to be ingenious from the start. Then, when one of the most iconic hotels in Cape Town, The Mount Nelson, offered up not only its richly pink-hued space to a salon-style fashion concept – but also its full support and collaboration – suffice to say, a new legacy was born last year, curated by the team at Twyg; South Africa’s leading sustainability publication and NPO.
CONFECTIONS X COLLECTIONS sees five designers showcase over five days, with two seatings: a morning seating and an afternoon one. This year featured designers Wanda Lephoto, Lezanne Viviers of Viviers Studio the ‘Prince of Prints’ Chu Suwannapha of Chulaap, as well as returning talent and internationally acclaimed winner of the 2020 LVMH Prize, Sindiso Khumalo and Johannesburg-based Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung, whose bold, print-centric garments are rooted in African indigenous culture. Guests were invited to sit in the beautiful conservatory, savouring The Nellie’s institutional Afternoon Tea experience as the showcases unfold. It is rare to be so close to the models in their garments and to see the workmanship so up close. Even more rare is the delight of tasting a savoury or sweet creation as this takes place! Mount Nelson’s pastry chef Vicky Gurovich collaborated with each designer to create a bespoke treat for the limited-edition menu – reflecting the designer’s world through the art of Afternoon Tea.
Jackie May, founder and editor of Twyg, reflects on this year’s iteration: as curated by Twyg in close-collaboration with Mount Nelson. As she says, “this year proved to us that CxC is now an established platform – we have really made sure to establish its roots. It was a beautiful curation of different voices and people telling their story through fashion. Having each show the day after each other, and to have each show so different from each other, is such a phenomenal window into how complex and rich South African design is. The intention of CxC is to show designers in a different light and I’m so grateful to our team for their commitment to developing this platform.”
We attended Wanda Lephoto’s showcase for CxC last Wednesday, welcomed by the hotel’s tea-sommelier Craig Cupido and his team and the experience instilled in me two things: the gratitude for living in such a beautiful city like Cape Town on a summer’s day, and the promise of South Africa’s design future.
Wanda showcased his collection ‘Our People’, on route back from presenting it in Milan and Paris in September. The models were styled in an array of vintage accessories: dainty stilettos that have seen a thousand Sunday sermons, hats by Crystal Birch and some exclusive to this collection. I was blown away by the construction and thoughtful array of references – indeed, there was something almost nostalgic about the collection. In conversation with CxC’s MC, Seth Sithembele Shezi, Wanda explained that, “this collection is inspired by being young and being born and raised in Joburg. I would watch West African, North Asian people migrate to Joburg and there was such an amazing thing happening – from Congolese to Nigerian families and more. I would watch families arrive and how they would integrate into South African society through the medium of dressing. On Friday’s and Saturday’s their kids would play with South African kids, dance and be part of subcultures. On Sunday’s, they’d wear traditional outfits and then on Monday, head to work dressed in western white shirts and navy suits. I would then see these same families get evicted from their building and take these ‘Ghana Must Go’ checked bags back home because they couldn’t afford to be in South Africa anymore.”
Wanda explained that the story of migration, family, people, home are all varying threads that weave together the sartorial blueprint of South Africa as a mode of identity, which is a focal point of his work. Wanda Lephoto self-describes as ‘forming new propositions for representation’ – this succinct description is felt in all aspects of his work, with ‘Our People’ conveying this perfectly. The specific creation for Wanda Lephoto by Executive Pastry Chef, Vicky Gurvich, was a ‘vanilla cream cheese delice, blueberry jelly, strawberry compote’ delicately place with wafer paper in the renowned ‘Ghana Must Go’ chequered print, as found across the collection. The treat itself was comforting- with richness spilling out from all angles – not unlike Wanda Lephoto’s continued distillation of his perspective – the memories and materials of being African. Another striking aspect of CxC is just how committed The Mount Nelson is to this platform – and the arts, overall; “set in the vibrant heart of Cape Town, it’s only fitting that we should shine a spotlight on the city’s buoyant creative spirit, from the arts and fashion to culinary delights. Championing Africa’s leading fashion designers is just one of the ways in which we’re doing this.” says General Manager Tiago Moraes Sarmento.
To put on 10 shows, over five days, in the same space – so seamlessly that no guest nor attendee might even for a second suspect the logistic magnitude of this – is a serious feat. This feat was led by Ky Bxshxff, fashion producer and director for Twyg. With an incredible team (including creative duo Ant Hinrichsen and Armand Dicker and Twyg’s fashion editor, Tandekile Mkize) Ky reflects on CxC, saying that “the first time you do something, it’s always a bit of an experiment. With the launch of CxC last year, the only thing we were sure about was that we had the right ingredients: Twyg magazine’s curation and commitment to slow fashion, the incredible space that is the iconic pink lady and her unmatched afternoon tea offering, and an incredible high-five to South African fashion launched by none other than Thebe Magugu. The feedback and the excitement was overwhelming – the experiment proved that there is a real desire for South Africans to have a conversation about luxury and creativity on our own terms.” On their directorship of the event, Ky found CxC as a remedying experience – one that serves its purpose in celebrating South African design and the power of collaboration, “directing the shows this year again was an incredible privilege. Every designer – from last year’s line-up through to 2023 – has a one-of-a-kind point of view that redefines luxury with an African lens. They write a new lore inspired by reimagining codes and culture. I also worked with an amazing backstage team of young fashion voices who give me absolute faith in the future of this industry on our continent. It’s another reminder that every garment you see represents an ecosystem of jobs. And every choice you make has an impact. I think these are all incredibly important conversations to have – and what more idyllic place to have them, than set against a backdrop of pink!”
What a stunning confirmation of what fashion production and celebration really means: the many hands that make and create, to foster the potentiality of design in South Africa. Congratulations and our deepest gratitude to the entire team at Twyg, each person at The Mount Nelson and all who made CxC’s second year – absolutely perfect.