AFI Cape Town Fashion Week 2018: Sedate Progress

Sedate sɪˈdeɪt| , [adj]

“calm, dignified, and unhurried”

In Africa Fashion International‘s rebranding of Cape Town Fashion Week, they seem to have adopted their Executive Chairpersons sedate airs of pure unflappability, amid a major paradigm shift.

Mercedes-Benz has long since been synonymous with Fashion Weeks across the world.

As the landscape of Fashion, Pop Culture, Lifestyle and Media Marketing, has evolved into a hybrid new animal, so to has it altered the return on investment sponsors get from the previously lauded fashion event. Fashion Weeks across the world (such as Cape Town Fashion Week, and those of London and New York) are now in such a dilapidated or nebulous state, that it has resulted in formidable Principal Sponsor Mercedes-Benz stepping back in recent years, to reassess their association – and understandably so!

This predictable turn of events, led to an opportunity for AFI to rediscover the truth of their mission, and execute it with precision…which they made an admirable attempt to this year.

“AFI has curated some of the continent’s fashion greats, who will descend on the mother city’s most iconic spaces with untamed passion and unbound energy…Breaking from tradition and forging a new path, AFI Cape Town Fashion Week walks off the ramp and through the Mother City’s most breath-taking landscapes and curated spaces…billed to be a fusion of fashion, art and design.” – AFI (Press Release)

The scene at AFI Cape Town Fashion Week 2018, was as unruffled as fashion entrepreneur Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe always is.

Salt River Studios being the main venue for the 2nd year in a row, showed AFI’s willingness to learn from the mistakes of last year, when their windy seaside venue choice cost them, designers & attendees dearly. While running late as usual, the beautifully rustic venues’ open plan layout allowed a seamless transition between runway shows, sequestered working spaces, the retail exhibition station, and the buzzing networking areas.

A sedate pace was how people decided to dress up, show off, and receive this years runway offerings.

I, myself, having been reprimanded by peers for being too strict on SA designer collections and fashion event organizers, decided to bow to pressure in my reviews, and slightly reign in my impeccable standards (which I – by the way – generally maintain as a testament to the incredible potential I see in SA’s fashion industry).

My Looks

I figured, my clothing is useless if I don’t re-wear my favorite items so here we go with regular Ollie looks, and some exceptional pieces.

On the left: Gold jewelry by Lorne Jewelry, hair by Aretha Bauwens Hair, pleat pleather skirt by H&M, makeup by M.A.C Cosmetics and ballet pumps with studs by Woolworths | On the right: Dress by Puma x UEG , basket heart sneakers by Puma, hair by Aretha Bauwens Hair, and makeup by M.A.C Cosmetics.

The Shows

*Click on the bold, hyerlinked designer names to view the full albums

Salima Abdel Walhab‘s collection was esoteric.

So puzzling was the composition of her pants/leggings & leg braces(a design choice inspired by the leg bracelets of the Ndebele or Angola’s Virie people?), that I went through contemplative stages and came out the other end kind of digging her design aesthetic.

It challenged my taste for more classic and conservative clothing, because I paradoxically appreciate thee excess of Mali, Moroccan and Kenyan traditional cultural motifs in general. She found a way to mute the individualistic nature of her ruffles and tweeded colorful cotton combinations, with beautiful tailoring shaping the wearer in dark tones.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

There’s this leather coat dress Salima made. It horrified me to the point of fascination…and now I want it! Honestly, I think I’m going through a fashion paradigm shift of my own.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Leigh Schubert is a Cape Town favorite. Known for free-spirited designs on the okay side of mature, this years collection elevated the brand towards heady amounts of sophistication. I liked the show for the purely subjective reason of how much I’d wear the stuff…but it also could have been the big and gorgeous eyewear the models strutted down in, or the comfortable chic clothing cut to flattering a-line angles, breezing by in refreshing shades reminiscent of an abstracted Cape Town skyline.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Sooooo, yeah. You know Maxhosa by Laduma.

You know its knitwear. You know there are cardigans. You know the shapes and you know the patterns. You know the vibe.

I have no problem with Laduma accepting his lot in life, and continuing to churn out the lovely luxe knitwear we already know, to the affording elite ; but it seems like he wants to remain accessible to the African majority…and therein lies the rub! We’re a fickle bunch, and we appreciate development in contemporary African design styles.

However, you cannot be a fashion house with uncompromising and repetitive creative direction. I could count the new things I saw in Maxhosa by Laduma’s collection, on one hand: 1 paneled monochromatic knit dress, and 2 strapless A-line dresses in pastel pink and blue respectively, and both with a sweetheart neckline.

Will we ever get more?

I didn’t think something that looks like a shapeless black bag, could look good. I stand corrected!

The upcycled dresses by Mahone actually flowed beautifully, and their stylishness was helped greatly by the wearable art that is Afrigarde jewelry.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Dear Leandi Mulder, your Jean-to-Jean (...and knit?) designs and styling scare me, but I want to try them. Your designs are vastly different from what anyone else is doing with denim, because your treatments are refined and the unfinished look is purposefully finished well.

I’m here for it.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Africa is Now is, I guess, a fashion movement encapsulated in a collection birthed by Chrisna De Bruyn, former fashion director at Glamour Magazine, and Imprint’s Mzukisi Mbane. It’s actually pretty neat. The prints are clean and not overwhelming

Soooo…yeah, neat.

I feel like I’ve seen the crisp ocean vibe Fashion Revolution is going for before – the thick cotton totally evoking imagery of my Xhosa heritage – but damnit! I’d still wear their stuff. I’m so incensed.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

W35T | Nicola West was “meh!”

I give it up to Matte Nolim , whose collection once again, kept Parisian high-end fashionable street style in mind, while keeping their garments functional to South African consumers. Yes! Yes! Yes!

I probably can’t fit into any of their clothing, but Yes!

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

CSquared – It’s like Markham and Truworths had a menswear baby, and he was just very bland. He’s like the color beige.

AFI Prive – The kind of elegant jewel-tone garments that many would find boring, but would 100% be in my wardrobe after saving for 3 months to buy them (and only wearing them 4 times a year…because reasons.)

David Tlale did it again. Dear God!

The build up of excitement is always waylaid by a show of designs far from the elite sophistication his name predicates.

Whatever happened to his tasteful minimalism, and elegant designs, or at the very least styling that works?

I wondered for a moment, whether this was an interns prelude to the actual Tlale design show. While I admit to not liking his most recent 3 collections, I know the man to occasionally create some pretty gorgeous designs. Where on earth are those? It’s like ready-to-wear trying to sit at haute couture’s table, and only being let into the room to be mocked for trying too hard.

What even is this?

Adama Paris was everything that is right with African Fashion. She used a crimp technique I had previously never seen, in her manipulation of jewel-toned velvet, and it resulted in an absolutely vivid depiction of her point of view as a designer.

Ituen Basi is forever a favorite of mine, after the last showcase I witnessed. Last season it was a wealth of jarring deconstructed florals and prints, Jacquard cut skirts and dresses, tassels and flared pants; sheer things and ruffled things. This season, they had that, and a little more. Set to what is now my favorite range of coloring – jewel tones – Basi brought length, breadth and design gumption. Iridescent embellishments became statement pieces, evolved into art, and eventually settled comfortably into Must-Have garments.

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@ituenbasi is forever a favorite of mine, after the last showcase I witnessed. Last season it was a wealth of jarring deconstructed florals and prints, Jacquard cut skirts and dresses, tassels and flared pants; sheer things and ruffled things. This season, they had that, and a little more. Set to what is not my favorite range of coloring – jewel tones – Basi brought length, breadth and design gumption. Iridescent embellishments became statement pieces, evolved into art, and eventually settled comfortably into Must-Have garments. . . . . . . . . . #AFICTFW #fashion #style #stylish #love #photooftheday #beauty #beautiful #instagood #instafashion #pretty #girly #girl #girls #styleblogger #model #styles #outfit #jewlery #fashionweek #fashionblogger #pfw #nyfw #velvet #nomadic #redcarpetready #runway #modelpress #nubians #blackgirlmagic

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The Diane Paris collection thought too highly of itself. Everything in their show had been done before, and most frustratingly, in those styling combinations too.

Advice: Come back with something new, or don’t return at all!

Lumiere Couture chose the wrong fabric for their high fashion designs. Was it just me, or was there a bit of a size issue to the pieces on the models too? It influenced me visualizing the clothing in a real-world context; and I hesitate to say that any buyer would hesitate.

The Exceptional

Even if the clothing sucked, I’d sing Nicholas Coutts praise because I don’t just want their scarves: I NEED THEM!

Thank goodness they decided to bequeath me a religious experience. The polished collection – made exquisitely with some of the finest textiles & contradictory texture combinations I’ve ever witnessed – is an entire bunch of “yes!”

Coutts’ color palette, on any one piece, reminds me of snakes intense colorscape, without it all feeling slick, forced & too high-end.

I implore you to click the hyperlink, and view the entire collection...then go buy me something.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Last season I said Quiteria & George was “an epoch of South African haute couture truly parading its black excellence.”

In keeping with its tradition, the design duo surprised eager audience members with another masterclass in streamlined shape, and looks which are not solely embellished with sparkles and shimmy fabric, but are also resting on the strength of the design folds.

Everything spoke of a beautiful but edgy clash of ‘new money’ taste and ‘old money’ glamour. Layered waterfalls of tulle, silk, satin and polyester blend fabric were everywhere from forearms to chests and waists. Some of the dresses looked edible with their poofiness, while others sent me straight to Instagram trying to get Cardi B, Rihanna or JLo to wear them.

These designs were very mainstream, insofar as we’ve seen similar motifs walk the Hollywood red carpets…but I heard Quiteria & George’s voice coming through in this ‘Bad & Boujie’ collection.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Adele Dejak has all the gold statement jewelry a person could ever want. #NuffSaid

The Underwhelming

The things Sitting Pretty made, could probably be found in literally any retail store in your nearest mall. Nothing special to see here, folks.

Advice: Make it tasty! Make it impactful. Make us want it. Seduce anyone watching with color, texture, mood or cut.

Orapeleng Modutle Style Avenue When last I saw their collection, I deemed it unfit for mortal consumption, but this season was. It was frankly, quite lacklustre. Probably the best thing about the collection was the sunglass wearing model in a metallic lavender suit with pearl beading, which was the epitome of a wedding look The Matrix character ‘Trinity’ would be wed in.

Images courtesy of AFI Gallery

Only thing interesting about the Khosi Nkosi collection this season, is the range of models and the gypsy shoulder cut of their athleisure tracksuit tops and jumpsuits.

Craig Port‘s show was poignant, in remembrance of his late sister Laura; but what sentiment could have stuck in our heads was wiped by the sheer length of the shows introduction and long runway show. We were treated to clothing which past the ‘classic’ mark, and moved straight into vintage – not the nice, collectible kind.

Forget them not? Forget them now!

I missed the Gavin Rajah show, but I listened to my fashion folk ring praises for the @Home Living Space venue, chosen.

The influential designer, trailed by plagiarism controversy, produced a collection with familiar designs and silhouettes. I couldn’t help seeing the Alexander McQueen Wishing Tree tweed pencil midi dress when I saw Gavin’s tweed dress with the plunging neckline. The rest of the collection seemed very ‘inspired’ by trends of the moment and many SA designers like Michelle Ludek and Ruff Tung.

In his attempts to make his clothing more accessible and wearable, Gavin has lost the luxe adage that had been his defining attribute as a renowned designer. At no point, do I ‘hear the voice’ of Gavin Rajah, in his recent pieces.

Advice: Define the trends. Do not follow them! A design giant captivates on distinct innovation and/or unique reinvention.

Oh Unknown Union!

Points to their jackets & coats

*Points to Thabo Makhetha’s signature clothing made of traditional Basotho blankets.*

Points to Unknown Unions’s white and pink lined jersey

*Points to the prints and patterns of Imprints last season collection.*

Points to Unknown Unions Lumberjack check shirts and the head-to-toe Camo look


Honorable mentions

Imprint pleasantly surprised me. I usually feel like they try too hard to have a ‘different’ point of view with patterns and prints, and the result lacks ease and palatable character. However, this season produced a swirl of softness, fun & femininity – the prints and ice cream blue & pink color palette, working as embellishments to already flattering designs, shaped potentially for ‘real’ people.

Tongoro by Sarah Diouf – A pretty spectacle on how an overindulgence of monochromatic geometric prints, can sometimes succeed. Right place. Right cut…right?!

Kahindo had this skirt guys.

I’m indifferent to the rest of the collection, but the cut of this skirt just drew me so quick.

Will I return to AFICTFW?

I’m much more amiable after this seasons showcases.

However, it would take a steady PR handler which media can sustainable use as a touchstone for fashion week, as well as AFI having their designers, buyers and media at the forefront of their minds whenever planning a fashion week.

AFI says that:

“…we are powered by our belief in the potential of African Fashion and are committed to promoting refined African fashion designers aesthetic, creativity and talents.”

The key word I picked up there is “refined”. If AFI is truly committed to propelling and restoring refined “African fashion brands on the global stage”, they need to demand a standard of quality in design and craftsmanship that maintains or supersedes the existing standard where possible – while still being able to draw the interest and wallet of its market.

I just…my issue is that AFI Fashion Weeks market themselves as nigh equal to the celebrated rep and responsibility beholden to its scattered global siblings. If you are doing that, it is imperative to elegantly carry the weight of fashion weeks reputation, without faltering.

This year, I saw how AFI – at a sedate pace – is getting there…to that immutable goal of a seat at the table.

Keep going.

There may be hope yet.

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