South African Menswear Week 2018 – Curtain Call

I’m not in the business of being needlessly cruel, and delivering judgement without doing my due diligence.

This disclaimer is necessary so that the reactions to my review of South African Menswear Week 2018, are not shrouded in disbelief, and meritorious points made, be subsequently disregarded for being too sharp.

The context

South Africa Menswear Week 2018, was an exhibition of a dilapidated fashion institution, already resting on a precarious foundation barely out of its infancy.

An event which is predicated as being  “Africa’s only stand-alone platform dedicated to the development and promotion of menswear within the African continent” might have better served the African fashion landscape, had it had a dynamic but pragmatic guidance councilor to – at each juncture of its perilous and hopeful journey – provide sensible and innovative enlightenment, on what achieving their goal would truly require at the time.

To be a “leading platform in terms of innovation, trends, production and most importantly, the promotion of our designers”, an organization cannot give any quarter by way of quality.

Never compromise!

The problem

The inevitable failing of SA Menswear Week – and indeed, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks at large, in South Africa – can be blamed, in part, on one key element which could have refined this new age of contemporary African fashion: impotent fashion councils in South Africa.

The solution

I don’t profess to maintaining a large body of knowledge on the nuances of the business of fashion in South Africa, but my instincts whisper of how our councils should be authorities in their realm; diligently influencing creative progress, profits and taste, in manners such as: the careful curation of SA’s fashion weeks.

In the global fashion economy, our fashion councils should be working strategically, in positioning African fashion. Councils should be creatively influencing through digital, business, investment, education and reputation.

Only excellence should be rewarded – not solely of the established successes of our industry, but the new generation harnessing their raw talents, mostly.

Should councils, investors, and organizations such as SA Menswear Week premise their ‘meaningful’ partnerships as fortifying credibility and ensuring designers “have access to further opportunities these partnerships can offer in terms of development and promotion” then support initiatives need to be at the heart of their work.

Going to fashion weeks across the world is awesome for a designer and their exposure, but more value would be added to our industry as a whole, through: business support, talent identification, mastery or apprenticeship scholarships, a centralized online shopping platform, social development initiatives, perhaps a downloadable ‘how-to’ handbook for designers, annual industry reports from data coalesced from reputable sources tracking fashion industry stats, etc.

The result of ineptitude

What was witnessed at the February 2018 showcase, hosted in Cape Town’s City Hall, was utterly disappointing.

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I think I'm finally done with @samenswearweek Time to hang up the lanyard. Im honestly tired of expecting mediocrity because the reputation of Menswear Week precedes it; and getting it in spades with no reprieve. So I sipped my last drink, and styled my last look for this event. Until they do better, by way of: better discerning collections to showcase to such fickle tastemakers & fashion authorities, and organizing an efficiently running and fun immersive fashion event, I'm done! . . . . #events #handbags #drinking #media #fashionfun #fashionblogger #styleblogger #samw #streetstyle #instafashion #fashion #ootd #lookoftheday #photoofday #fashionweek #photography #fashionbombdaily #capetown #menswear #styleblogger #newyorkcity #nyc #nyfw #handbags #colettebycolettehayman #colettelove #belvedere #eventreview #fashionweek2018 #sunday

A post shared by Olwethu-Thando Klaas (@lady_crunk) on

I went in with naive optimism that as the years go by, each tweak made to Menswear Week, would mean one visible change leading towards one hell of an experience.

I was okay in the security of the events proven mediocrity.

I was alright in believing that as long as they ran steady on what they’d already been doing, or improving upon that, that I could continue attending because I got a little something from each experience – a kernel of exquisite fashion design in this collection, a good conversation there…

Oh! How guileless I was, to slowly give up pieces of my impeccable standards bi-annually, for the hope – the benefit of the doubt – that the organizers & their resulting work,  would grow better, having taken in the constructive commentary of those who revel in the treasure chest of African fashion.

What the 2 days of SA menswear Week proved to me, was how unaffected the organizers are with the essence of their purpose: “…building credibility for the platform that will enable designers to grow their businesses.”

Credibility is defined as “the quality of being convincing…trusted and believed in”(2018, Cambridge University Press) so, explain to me how audiences, buyers, media etc. are to be convinced that African designers have anything worth listening to, writing about, advertising or even selling?

Let’s manage expectations: If it is at fashion week, the collection is believed to have been previewed by a panel operating at the highest form of taste, purpose & discretion. It was not found wanting.

We can discuss corrupted dictations of fashion industry design aesthetic and society’s tastes, later.

The reprieve

My looks for the event, included a shoulder-broadening, skinnyfying Coat Dress by Erre.

Puma has honored some of the globes most influential breakdancing cities, with its ‘Breakdancing Cities’ collection.

Each iteration is embossed with graphic treatments that celebrate its respective city 😍 I wanted the Berlin, but New York is my city…and I’m also a long-suffering Mets fan.

My 100% human(not of the head of thee depicted human) silky straight & gorgeous hair is by Aretha Bauwens_Hair

Day 2, and I let go of my haute couture, for a lil street chic.

⚾New York Mets colored, ‘Breakdancing Cities’ Sneaker by Puma South Africa

Gorgeous hair by Melanin Magic Hair and styled by the talented dream team at Aretha Bauwens_Hair

Fire red handbag by my forever Colette by Colette Hayman 😏 Thank you Cathy Steed PR

Pleated brown pleather skirt by H&M.

The designer review

2BOP has a cute name, but a commonplace collection; Same goes for Issa Leo and Sol Sol.

The pieces do seem perfect for SA street style, but the bland staple of the cookie cutter trends they follow, means one could pick up similar items at your nearest Mr. Price or Chinese bazaar.

Image (Issa Leo) courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

I used to think Good Good Good belonged to the same WhatsApp group as 2Bop, but I kind of dig their latest collection.

It is so Los Angeles, in the coolest ‘not trying hard’ way. Their showcase was fun – each model doing their part in portraying an engaging character. This was a collection of textured pieces you’d borrow from someone, and never quite return because its comfy and retains just enough style to remain wearable even as it ages. I feel like I’d find them in James Franco, Seth Rogen, Ellen DeGeneres and Rihanna’s wardrobes…weirdly brilliant in its seamless transitions.

The Kim Gush installation was actually pretty sick, as were thee effects. I loved everything from the model casting to the lighting, location, thematic, and simple clothing – not boring, just simple.

ALC Man had some incredibly extra bomber shawl jackets/wearable camp tents dripping with inky monochrome excess, and I liked them.

The kimonos were particularly riveting in their rich colors, lightness and flow.

Arakani was a denim festival, with its best performance being the actual ‘African’ themed, painted and beaded earrings accompanying the humdrum looks.

Kidd Hunta could have reworked their entire collection into something astonishing and minimalist, had they expanded on their white pieces.

Throw out every other garment made listlessly with the 50th shade of grey, and transform your wearer into a refined, modern African with a predilection for resort luxe in their daily wear.

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

They are so odd, colorful and intricately printed, but I am frikken coveting the coats & ponchos (and when did ponchos go back to being a thing?) from the Terrence Bray show.

Augustine is phenomenal with the A-line and geometric cuts; creating defined and flattering silhouettes on any wearer. The mohair knit jerseys & ponchos, as well as any of the shades of blues draped with ease across enhanced shoulders, were what made this collection engaging.

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

League of Rebels as well as Maxivive. Meh!

House of St. Luke is the Wakanda business man’s wardrobe – perhaps trying a little too hard to be relevant, but generally pleasing to the eyes.

I wanted to love the Duke collection by way of the Durban Fashion Fair, but…I dunno. The collection didn’t seem to be a cohesive unit working towards a clear and singular vision.

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

There was something about the fabric choice and cut of this LemFux look, that redeemed whatever tomfoolery rested in the costumey vibe of the other pieces.

I don’t know what dark magic Magents uses on the audiences at SA Menswear Week, but they are always received with such positive vigor, and I’m left wondering whether I am the one at fault for viewing their collections and finding them dry as f*ck!

Stunning models always walk for them, in the most flat looks I’ve ever witnessed, but By God! Magents stirs the watchers. I hope their wallets buzz with the same energy too.

Nao Serati had a show, and a collection. It was extra and uninhibited. It was commercial and it was a little ostentatious. It was a showcase, and I commend them for it.

P.S: Where can I buy that metallic magenta jumpsuit?

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

Tokyo James never comes to play. It’s a mess. It’s a vibe. Its a plastic. Its a trip, and it is memorable in the coolest ‘fashion week’ way.

I don’t think I’d buy the pieces on my dime, but if they happened to make their way to my wardrobe…well, I’d be remiss in not playing around with some kick-ass styling concepts.

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

Well done on this shirt alone Unknown Union. I heart it.

I’m sure Zeitgeist had clothing fit to dress my ideal man, but I was too preoccupied with the devastating examples of the feat human genes are capable of. Their gene pools need no chlorine!

Chu Suwannapha tells a story with each collection.

You may not always want to hear it, with its loud and brash patchwork of patterned misdirection, ordinarily offensive color coordination, and abstracted African totems screaming for attention in the very fabric of each garment.

…but there’s just enough genuine character and functionality, to make each piece endearing.

Also, if anyone wants to treat me: I’d love one of these briefcases 😍 Just Saying!

Image courtesy of Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

You can ask my students, I’m one of their strictest lecturers & one thing I absolutely abhor, is plagiarism

Proficient fashion commentators are already online and categorically decimating the Gucci, Balenciaga, and Kenzo pirating of Rosey & Vittori‘s collection. We do this, well-versed in the fashion crime they committed. ‘Nuff Said!

Why couldn’t they give me more of this jacket?!

THIS isn’t something I can place from any other fashion house’s collections…so I’ll assume originality in this instance, and commend them on the cool texture, color & design.

The finale

What I witnessed this year, were designer collections which weren’t vetted to a strict criteria, and resulted in a devaluing display for all involved.

SA Menswear Week is meant to add value in exposure to a multitude of people coming from different sides. The platform genuinely degraded any bankable potential the brands could have revealed in this showcase. The disservice to the designers is matched only by the offence made to the fashion pundits mandated to attend every season, and are continuously met with this disorganized spectacle – even as some offer up wisdom to make the event better.

The event space is made up of so many different rooms and varied spaces, which offer up opportunity for installations, immersive experiences, and perks like cordoned off VIP lounges and media corners to plug & play(a feature sponsors readily buy into when pitched well).

Runways could run longer into other rooms, and commissioned talent would be afforded enough safe spaces to breathe, change and work.

I’m full of complaints, but this is the reality of the experience: hours spent networking & standing, and minutes spent queuing and arguing over seating. If SA Menswear Week is modeled heavily after London Fashion Week Men’s…well, I rather think they need a proper consult with the events architect, because my experience in London was an efficient and fun paragon of global fashion weeks.

The SA Menswear Week showcase is known for its simple show production so as there is nothing to apparently detract from the clothing, but by God!The main show space was the antithesis of their objective, with its gaudy half treated brown wooden walls and window frames. The outside natural light did no favors for the viewing experience or clothes, which were lit up with proper event management lighting fixtures atleast…but there’s much to be said about the archetypal crisp white backdrops and white runways for fashion displays.

One of the attendees I spoke to, actually chiseled down the annoyance I had for the lack of innovation I’d been demanding from the menswear designers; simply surmising that menswear shouldn’t be challenged to overtly manifest new innovation the way womanswear is pushed.

Honestly, the real review is the sell-throughs; and for men who buy, they don’t honestly want the exaggerated showcase designs I’d like to see, which is why this seasons SA Menswear Week could be deemed a reasonable design success.

…but for me: this was #SAMW’s curtain call.

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