Average read time: 9 min.

What came through in the Day 1 collections were ideas birthed through distant connections and inner reflections. From celebrations of identity, memory captured in fabric to nomadic nuances, the soul and creativity of design was palpable.

The Ponti della Moda Fashion Bridges installation set the tone. The project is a collaboration between South Africa and Italy through various important institutions which gives a platform to South African and Italian young designers to come together for a cultural and design exchange. Four SA designers and four Italian designers were paired to create capsule collections whose materials were sponsored by SA and Italian textile producers.  The capsule collections were first seen at Milan Fashion Week in September and now in SA during SAFW.

Building bridges with fashion
Building bridges with fashion

See our article on Fashion Bridges here.

Fikile Sokhulu and Ilaria Bellomo with their joint collection titled, Mutual Threads highlighted artisanal craft through their fusion of different fabrics from leather to cotton. With a juxtaposition of voluminous shapes and soft frilly techniques, they sought to make a connection between reality and a dreamlike world with a duality of the romantic and friendly.

“The collection has fabric manipulation that is very controlled and irrational with techniques that are environmentally friendly. It’s feminine and it’s organic,” Sokhulu adds.

Fikile was one of the finalists in the SAFW New Talent Competition last season in April 2021. More on her and the other finalists can be found in this New Talent Spotlight feature.

Sipho Mbuto and Alessia Dovero’s collection is titled, Within Social Sculpture. With it they explored memory conceptually and physically digging into the ancestral and tactile. From Sipho’s research into his Zulu culture to Alessia’s exploration of shaping surface and volumes, the designers believe that an awareness of the past is essential to the shaping of one’s personality and identity. The garments boast contrasts of soft and rough textures as well as conceptual and functional modes.

Michael Pieter Reid (of the local menswear label Xavier Sadan South Africa) and Domenico Orefice focussed on the idea of migration with their collection: The Present Human in an Absent World. Nomadic influences are laden in the technical details and construction methods of their range. There’s a dance between the majestic and humble which comes through in the traditional and refined African motif of the woven wool and its prints and the loose menswear silhouette.

The idea of two strangers meeting to create something together is at the heart of Jacques Bam of The Bam Collective and Julian Cerro’s collection called Surrogasm which explores motherhood. The robust shapes and volumes all hint at maternity with inspirations from each designer’s childhood finding their place in the narrative.

The second part of the night showcased Thabo Kopele’s collection, a fusion of men’s and women’s wear that centred around the colour white. It’s a simplistic range of striking, minimalist design. Speaking during the Meet The Designers briefing prior to the showcase, Kopele asserted that this collection, “represents a lot of me. The thought process was to simplify what looks hard.”

Maklele by Mikhayla Farouk is only two years old and the designer started off specialising in men’s luxe streetwear. This season she pushed herself out of her comfort zone and included designs for women with an overall playful colour palette and style.

Neo by NVR (Neo Victoria Rangaka)’s collection was a resounding celebration of identity in vibrant and affirming colour. The range is titled Motheo which is Setswana for “foundation” and with it Neo says she has found the foundation of who she is as an African. Aside from the resonant colours, this was articulated in the textures and prints that connect the continent in playful and traditional design approaches.

Her label was established in 2016 and previously known as BLVNK and she was part of SAFW’s collaboration with the Edcon Design Innovation Challenge, 21 Steps to Retail.

“The Covid-19 pandemic was a catalyst for my reflecting on my sense of being. My vision has always been to unveil South Africa’s true identity and it becomes important to remember what we have been through as a country. Having parents who lived through Apartheid on survival mode forced me to interrogate what I lacked as a child. One of those things is affirmation. With this collection I celebrate my identity and affirm myself,” explains Neo.

The last show was by the iconic Amanda Laird Cherry (ALC) featuring men’s and women’s wear and a collaboration with in-house designer, Brendan Sturrock. With an anthropological and theatrical approach to design, an ALC garment communicates an interest in people and culture. A functional sculpture is the signature description. This shone through in the layered styling, voluminous elements and the dramatic tails and head gear for an avant- garde finish. What also came through was a leaning towards the Japanese art of Sashiko which seemed to hint at both periodic and futuristic sensibilities where grunge meets sleek. Sashiko is a crafting technique used to mend, while simultaneously decorating damaged clothes.

According to Sturrock, the collection captures the fusion of differing and opposing ideas and the synergy created from their different locations with Sturrock in Durban and Cherry currently based in America.

“One of our biggest take-aways is to play to our strengths, but acknowledge our weaknesses. In this reflecting process, we connect with what has been imposed on us as “flaws.” Instead of hiding the flaw, the flaw is emphasised and esteemed.

“We also wanted to play with juxtaposed elements to further emphasise the opposing idea of strength and “weakness.” This is achieved through combining contrasting elements such as utility vs fragility; structure vs spontaneity and function vs decoration. Using strong darks, grungy neutrals and pastels, sleek silhouettes are fused with crafted patchwork,” the team elaborates.

The pandemic is a running thread through some of the ideas that birthed the creativity showcased at this season of SAFW. An encouraging achievement is people’s strength and resilience through struggle. Fashion in this instance is a conduit of that message.

Visit here for more info and images http://www.safwrunwaygallery.co.za


Words |  Kgmotso Montsho-Maripane @kgomotsomontsho
Editor |  Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin
Images | Courtesy of SAFW