Never mind the abandoned warehouses or temporary tents favoured by most designers and fashion show organisers; Joburg Fashion Week, which took place 23-26th July, was held in the city’s most extravagant casino. That the organisers chose to host the event at Montecasino, Johannesburg’s ‘premier entertainment destination’ is perfectly characteristic of this city’s glitzy approach to fashion. Of course, front rows filled with local celebrities and champagne fuelled socialising are par for the course at any fashion week, except the trouble here is that the frills and fuss that surround the event tend to drown out what really matters – the clothes.
This showbiz approach to fashion surely only serves to alienate the younger generation of design talent in the country, who, when they look to put on a fashion show, are more interested in the fashion, than in the show.
That said, Joburg fashion week opened with a refreshing debut from Cape Town-based label, Pink Ant. This was first collection for the runway by designers David Morales and Emma Wakelin, titled ‘Dirty Sensual Happiness’, and it has a cute-modern feel to it with its youthful (if at times a little awkward) shapes and pop-tastic colours. Many of the pieces are embroidered with the weird but charming creatures of Wakelin’s imagination (seen here ‘Schitzy’, a boy with claws, ‘Swift Lee’ the bird and ‘Bijou’ fish), which also inhabit the artworks that Pink Ant produce.
Also showing were the afro-chic designs of the Mzansi collective, an organisation that offers support to emerging black South African fashion designers, as well as collections from established labels such as Philosophy, Sun Goddess and David Tlale, who have a more couture-like approach to their ranges, with a focus on ‘occassion’ wear.
While these clothes may be beautiful, this is the dominant image of designer fashion that South Africa needs to break free from if the industry is to really develop. Which is why choosing to showcase young labels like Pink Ant, which may seem to sit uncomfortably alongside those of the establishment at the moment, is actually a step forward for South African fashion in the long term.