There is something alluring and attractive about the fashion industry and their lavished do’s that have everyone hopelessly captivated in awe, almost wishing to be a figure as stoic or worshipped as Anna Wintour. Fashion week, regardless of the country, is always a socialite’s dream, a fashionista’s must-be-seen-at and a chance for the who’s who of the industry to practise their self-righteousness; obviously seated in the front row.

Words: Saint-Francis Tohlang
Images: Ivan Naude

SA Fashion Week (8–10 April 2011) beckoned. In the lead up to it, I scrambled through my wardrobe, looking to see what could pass as an ensemble of a seasoned fashionista. To no avail. However, SA Fashion Week, which is in direct competition with African Fashion International’s (AFI) fashion weeks (Joburg Fashion Week, Cape Town Fashion Week and Arise Fashion Week), turned out to be quite modest in comparison to its competitors. Added to that, I have to admit at being a bit puzzled with the week showcasing summer ranges as we head into winter. But I didn’t ask, for fear of breaking some cardinal fashion rule.

Shine Studios, one of the new emerging hotspots in Jozi, provided the fitting backdrop with its distinct look as the venue for SA Fashion Week: an artsy space, with objet d’art that was too obviously geared to the fashion crowd, à la minimalists’ pieces.

The setup was great, though it would’ve helped if the hostesses were clued up on what was going on. Waiting 20 minutes for assistance is not cool.

Friday’s evening shows featured some revered names in the South African fashion industry. Ephymol, Black Coffee and Diamond Face Couture by Uyanda Mbuli (not so sure if it is revered, but certainly well anticipated). There are too many uninspired pieces of fashion to describe nor even credit with a mention and to be honest I don’t think I have the fashion pedigree to pretentiously write garb I know nothing of. However, my eye was drawn to some collections for all very different reasons.

My favourite collection was by Ephymol (right), the ever-evolving menswear brand by Ephraim Maligona. It was fresh and simple yet cut with a certain degree of finesse and attention to detail that I was captured, inspired, impressed, excited and enviously wishing to own my very own.

Diamond Face Couture by socialite Uyanda Mbuli closed the Friday show. I wasn’t sure about this decision, but I guess her socialite status governed it rather than the merits of her designs. Nonetheless, it was an interesting enough collection to prevent the occasional yawn.

The procession led to the opening party on the top of Shine Studios, which resembles a glass enclosure and has the Mandela Bridge lighting up the Braamfontein sky in the background. Champagne flutes were the order of the evening as the pretentious fashion crowd flashed their wayward smiles; not forgetting the quasi Jozi celebs all in sundry. It proved rather a bland mix of snooty fashionistas and rowdy celebs (probably tipping off the free Jameson) and too cliquey to be stomached. The exit eventually became more appealing.

The Saturday shows provided more varied displays with a definite touch of originality. The quirky Smarteez brand (top right and immediate left) presented bold designs with daring combinations of colour. Something a lot more avant garde and what one would expect to see on the ramp as opposed to the streets.

The most comical moment of the evening had to belong to socialite and blogger Mika Stefano, walking the ramp for Loxion Kulca. As streetwear as Loxion Kulca is, the range really lacked something, failing to prove why they deserved a platform to showcase.

Gert Johan Coetzee had some lovely pieces culminating in the face of his label, Bonang Matheba, working the ramp in the showstopping number (below).

Clive Rundle, though not my cup of tea, deserves to be mentioned for going all out and having a definite look that screams haute couture (top left).

Black Coffee (right) was really stunning, and as Dion Chang said of their designs:

Thank you Black Coffee, I believe in fashion again.

Some say fashion is a lifestyle, a lifestyle I clearly don’t get. Come Sunday I was all fashioned out and opted for a lekker chill; detoxing from the fashion diet which left me content with the only lifestyle I know. My fashion indoctrinated weekend availed a cliquey marsh of people I wouldn’t generally want to know. The general gist is that it’s not really about the shows, oh no, honey. Its rather about what you are wearing and how you are wearing it.