The SA Fashion Week tagline, “The business of ethical fashion” encapsulates its ethos precisely. Running with this, sustainable fashion became the underlying theme with which designers in the New Talent Search were tasked to follow when designing. Upcycled and deconstructed fabrics were a running thread all round.

With a collection inspired by “De-gendered geometry”, Michael Ludwig Studio showed how the fluidity of structures, proportions and colours shape evolving identities. MC Alpine played with interesting shapes and details, while Sipho Mbuto took an avant-garde approach to deconstructing denim.

SAFW Day 1 Michael Ludwig
SAFW Day 1 Michael Ludwig. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.
SAFW Day 1 MC Alpine. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Stand-out looks from the competition include Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu’s soft and edgy collection boasting a red, white and black colour palette with images that boldly speak to the beginning and the resilience of life, relevant to what our world is going through. Her collection was inspired by “how planet earth strives for an ecological balance within the forces of nature.”

SAFW Day 1 Fikile Sokhulu. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

The debut of Thulani Vuyo Mlambo’s Saint Vuyo shone with notable layering and tailoring. With a brand ethos taken from his lineage, the collection invoked the spirit of Africa’s women armies like the Dahomey Amazons – the all-female warriors of West Africa. Again, a testament to strength and survival.

SAFW Day 1 Saint Vuyo
SAFW Day 1 Saint Vuyo. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

However, it was Artho Eksteen’s winning combination of fine art and fashion design that saw him take the 2021 New Talent Search winner title. His collection takes cues from the Surrealist method of Exquisite Corpse where a collection of images or words is collectively assembled to reveal a completed art work. Eksteen played with the juxtaposition of different fabrics and textures; different silhouettes and prints to bring together a body of work that is appealingly ugly-beautiful. The beauty is also in how functional the collection is even if it was to be deconstructed.

SAFW Day 1 Artho Eksteen
SAFW Day 1 Artho Eksteen. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Read more on the New Talent Search Competition finalist designers here and watch out for our fashion shoot with New Talent Competition winner Artho Eksteen soon!

The Satiskin Rise & Shine Collections brimmed with playful and classic elegance showcasing designers who are retail ready. Romaria charmed with their signature monochromatic wool prints offering subtle pops of woven colour. Even more charming were the wool accessories that ranged from bags to headbands.

SAFW Day 1 Romaria
SAFW Day 1 Romaria. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

The story behind the Ezokhetho collection is about the designer, Mpumelelo Dhlamini, having lost his dad. And so, the bold and joyful colours are in celebration of his father’s life. The designs are inspired by a character that the iconic Thembi Nyandeni played in the comedic drama series, Kwakhala Nyonini called uMfazi Wephepha. The much-loved character was loud, opinionated, fashion-forward and money-driven. Dhlamini interprets this with exaggerated shapes, playful proportions and a sophisticated and desirable finish.

SAFW Day 1 Ezokhetho. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Previous New Talent Search winners, ERRE are consistent in the exquisite nuance they bring out in the fabrics they choose to work with. In the past they have worked ingeniously with leather and moved past its limitations. Here they highlight scuba fabric, velvet and techno mesh with voluminous, dramatic and powerful silhouettes.

SAFW Day 1 Erre
SAFW Day 1 Erre. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Lara Klawikowski exuded elegant grace with her Inflorescence collection that boasts botanical hues and organic shapes resembling tarot tulips. Big on sustainability, her romantic looks were achieved from rewoven plastics and offcuts. See our recent story on Lara here.

SAFW Day 1 Lara Klawakowski
SAFW Day 1 Lara Klawakowski. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Chiefs of Angels presented a rebellious edge with their punk rock-themed collection. With Oscar Ncube’s fabric ripping and distressing, he showed more punky expression than technical design.

SAFW Day 1 Chiefs of Angels
SAFW Day 1 Chiefs of Angels. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Jacques van der Watt closed off the night with a show that goes back to the very essence of what has made Black Coffee a formidable force in the design world. The geometric prints and architectural structures were recognisable. It is the collection’s military and laid-back mood that brings it back to now – as we fight for survival in this Covid19 pandemic. As poet Lebo Mashile says, “Style is in the survival of my people.”

SAFW Day 1 Black Coffee
SAFW Day 1 Black Coffee. Images courtesy of SA Fashion Week.

Read for our coverage of Day 2 here, and get your tickets for SAFW here.

Words   |  Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane  @kgomotsomoncho
Editor   |   Nikki Temkin  @nikkitemkin