7:21 pm

A Word or Two About AFI Cape Town Fashion Week | 

Cape Town was abuzz this weekend in light of Masego, Jordan Rakei and Corinne Bailey Rae’s descent upon the city for Jazz Fest. Zoom in to the dingily located Salt River Studios (someone call Raf Simons, I think we found a location for his next Calvin campaign) and find the fashion set who chose rather to spend their time looking at clothes.
Maxhosa’s geometric knits- this time interpreted to longer gown silhouettes and punctuated with a pair of retro 3D glasses were obviously impressive. Perhaps even more impressive was the throng of loyalists keen to the see the show, decked out in some form of Ngxokolo’s signature pure wool and mohair woven garms. Look down and you could count endless pairs of patterned socks. Look up and spot variously interpreted cardigans under the Maxhosa moniker- all testament to the growth of the brand as it quickly asserts itself as a household name.

Speaking of weaving, perhaps the strongest thread of all was the spirit of youth. The zeitgeist hue (yellow not pink-get with the program) could be spotted at almost all the shows I saw, with streaks of marigold and lemon flashing past in the form of accessories and full head to toe looks. In the scramble to catch (and hold) youth attention, the question as to whether all that yellow is a genuine or feeble attempt at capturing the Gen-Z market as per trend forecast remains. Then again, I was wearing a mustard top so maybe there is some truth to assigning a single color to an entire generation. Letters of the alphabet are seemingly not enough.  

From youthful yellow to young designers offering rays of hope for the future of African fashion, Day 3 saw our thirst for drama finally being quenched by Quiteria and George. The fledgling local market usually results in designers’ reluctance to take design risks in favour of securing positive commercial performance- but this show was a no holds barred celebration of romance, glamour and beauty in a world dictated by Demna Gvasalia’s irony and elevated ugly. The sheer brevity of the green velvet gowns and flounces of pink and purple tulle almost had me forgetting its, perhaps too strong, references to Giambattista Valli and Molly Goddard. Seeing that we don’t have a @dietprada equivalent to call that type of stuff out I’ll leave it at that – but I do think they’ve brought value to the table in terms of spiking some energy and fantasy into the industry.

Concerning subtler references, Tongoro showcased a joyful and wearable collection with its largely monochromatic prints serving as loose permutations of the markings of a zebra. Each model stepped out with a golden clay mask, and at the end they all walked off the runway giving it a jubilant wave- a lowkey albeit refreshing breath of air from the Dakar based brand.

And now for the gust of wind.

Imprint had me on my feet.

Mzukisi Mbane contrasted undulating thick fabrics in pastel blues and pinks with the strong geometric prints synonymous with the brand to produce an ode to township nostalgia.  Thoughtfully styled with intermittent hashes of neon pink wedges contrasting with the ice cream color palette, and topped with yellow and pink berets reminiscent of the ones your grannies wore to church- the collection was at once modern and redolent of a time defined by Sunday Bests. This time with trendy fanny packs. I marveled at the voluminous sleeves, exaggerated cowl necks and overall “there’s it” feeling only few brands are able to muster out of me. It’s the same feeling I get witnessing a Rich Mnisi show- where the designer seems to have used their genuine experience of South Africa and translated it in a way that’s both authentic and internationally competitive.

But despite much of this sunny optimism the real important questions remain.

In the absence of some of the major editors, seeing a clique of interns and pretty, young things burgeoning its way to the front row- Iphones at the ready and well… nothing else really. In the absence of some of the major designers who year after year pull out of the shows in favour of more profitable pursuits. In the absence of a major sponsor…

Will South African Fashion weeks ever aid in real substantial growth and local design development? Will they remain relevant, despite the high cost of production and significantly low return for designers?

Or will it all be reduced to a glamourous insta-story?



All images sourced from the AFI website

Collages by: Refiloe Mokgele

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