Average read time: 6 minutes.

The main focus for South African Fashion Week last season was to continue to encourage and boost the creative fashion industry amidst the crippling effects of the global coronavirus Pandemic. In so doing and keeping true to its ethos of being the business of ethical fashion, it seamlessly aligned itself with the upward trend and move towards slow fashion, promoting sustainable and timeless design.

As a result, what came out of the SAFW Spring Summer 2021 season was an introduction of trans-seasonal collections, which accommodate both cool and warm weather conditions. This is already an international trend and it continues in SAFW AW22.

Day 2 started with the ongoing Rise & Shine collections, sponsored by Satiskin, with a focus on brands and designers who are retail-ready and competent.

Romaria continued to create designs from their knitwear roots with wool being their chosen woven fabric. What they offer is non-seasonal–their garments are created to be worn all year round – layered in winter and loose in summer. The label was founded in 2019 by design duo, Carla Pinto and Zydia Botes.

The exciting thing about Romaria is how they explore the flexibility of wool and knitwear with a sleek approach and pristine tailoring. This time they introduced new patterns, prints, colours and shapes with summery dresses, matching sets and cotton featuring as a lightweight fabric.

Mpumelelo Dhlamini of Ezokhetho designs for the modern, discerning woman. His creations brim with character found in exaggerated shapes, bold prints and loud colours overflowing with life. He continues with this signature but this time around there was a focus on improving his technical skill, where a masterfully tailored frilled sleeve catches one’s eye. There was also an introduction of earthy tones showing that the brand continues to evolve.

However, it was Dhlamini’s opening dress that was used to make a bold statement of relevance. White and printed with crosses and a bold “NO” on the chest, it gives a topical nod to the plights and rights of women.

“This is inspired by the ongoing and often surging femicide and abuse of women. The backdrop of crosses is a salutation to our praying mothers who continue to nurture us,” Dhlamini says.

Erre has been the longest in the industry of the three Rise & Shine designers, having made a home out of the SAFW runways. Erre was a finalist in the SAFW New Talent completion in 2013 and the label was subsequently launched by duo, Carina Louw and Natasha Jaume.

What they have been able to achieve consistently and successfully is a dedication to honouring women with powerful silhouettes merged with a classic and experiential approach. Positioned to refine power dressing but with a sustainable focus, their use of fabric and the details catch one’s attention. Last season the pair gave esteem to scuba fabric and techno mesh.

This season, their use of bright colours – from popping limes to fuchsia pink – and the inclusion of wool and mohair add some excitement to the collection. The colours are inspired by the garden at the designers’ studio.

Read about the three brands’ SAFW SS21 collections here.

The second part of the night was dedicated to the veterans. Mantsho kicked it off with a collection that extends the regal tone of last season’s. Known for her edgy and sleek garments of African and global sensibilities, it is designer Palesa Mokubung’s original prints and structures that speak volumes. Here, the use of blues and dark browns and the traditional headgear that hints at historical and cultural inferences lends nuance to the Mantsho showcase.

With just over 15 years in the business, Mokubung has firmly established her brand and what it stands for. The focus now is on serving her clients with an ever-evolving wardrobe. Mokubung is known to lead with her instincts. Of this collection, she says, “We’re looking back to know where we are and what we want to do and how.”

Franc Elis Joburg was established in 2003 first as a uniform supplier. The company now designs and manufactures clothes for business corporates and a few boutiques around the country. Founded by Fabrice Moyo, a Cameroonian-born fashion designer, the brand is known for its sophistication, well-tailored garments and shirting.

With this women’s range, Franc Elis takes from its uniform design aesthetic to create a line inspired by French military clothing and its arrival in Africa. Exquisitely tailored, its charm is in the simplistic, classic and soft approach. The buttoning and pockets hinting at chic utility are just some of the detail highlights.

Sober Design House is the youngest brand of the group, founded by head designer, Tshepo Mafokwane. She explains her design signature as a language of bold, ultra-feminine shapes with tailored shoulders and waists, contrasted with unexpected touches of softness and sparkle.

Mafokwane’s SAFW SS21 collections boasting floral romance deceivingly carried a sombre message. She revealed during the Meet The Designers briefing that she had sadly lost her mother, a specialist surgical nurse, to Covid19.  “The flowers from my last collection were all about my mother’s funeral,” she says.

The new collection highlights lovable warm prints and tones interspersed with leather and velvet as if symbolising a ceremony of coming out of the mourning period, letting a new light in.“This collection is about finding myself and my strength. With losing my mother, I lost my sense of self. This is about redirecting me to my true self,” says Mafokwane.

Rubicon by Hangwani Nengovhela is 19 years strong and the brand is known for creating iconic collections with classic, form-flattering and sophisticated designs. This collection is a tribute to Nengovhela’s late father and it was a point of reflection.

“With being in the industry for this long, I started to ponder on my design intent and aesthetic. I come from a family who lived for fashion. Thinking about this provided some healing. I have gone back to my roots and taken inspiration from my family’s origins in Mapungubwe,” says Nengovhela.

The collection boasts her own print with warm earthy tones and a special inclusion of men’s wear. The design approach is somewhat restrained, but the sophistication and creative flair shine through.



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