Average read time: 8 minutes.

The Scouting Menswear competition was the first showcase. The objective of the contest is to encourage and challenge designers to find creativity in transforming textile ‘waste’ into superb, scalable and commercially viable collections for the South African consumer. Sustainability is the aesthetic.

Cape Town based Marquin Sampson (of the previous label name, Modern Boesman) set the tone for what seemed like a sub-theme that notably ran through some of the collections, which explores the labour politics of South Africa. Titled The Resilient, Sampson’s collection is based on his thesis about what SA’s blue-collar men are wearing. He played skilfully with an eclectic range of materials – from denim and wool to white leather and metal pieces – to find their resilience.

Refuse Clothing brand showcased functionality and street-style flair with a diverse collection. The brand is keen on making people self-aware, encouraging them to develop personal styles that don’t adhere to identities dictated by society.

Saint Vuyo (by Thulani Vuyo Mlambo) presented nostalgic melancholia. Titled Boytjie and made from rejected school wear, the collection is an emotive exploration of a dark, melancholic history of bullying. It’s a heartfelt tribute to Lufuno Mavhungu, a 15-year-old schoolgirl from Limpopo who committed suicide after a bullying incident in April, and many others.

Extending on his signature of layers and diagonal tailoring, he showcased a grungy and sleek poeticism here. Fairly new to the business, Saint Vuyo was established in 2020 and launched at the SA Fashion Week New Talent Competition last year. This is Mlambo’s second SAFW showcase.

The East of Johannesburg, where Mbalenhle Mncube of Umsweko is from, has a connection to Lesotho through the Sesotho speaking community found there. South Africa is a hub for many of Lesotho’s migrant workers. With an African print motif running through it as well as earthly tones and warm materials, the Umswenko collection hinted at migrant functionality with a youthful swag.

Boyde (by Samkelo Boyde Xaba) extended on this possible narrative with an industrial slant. Offering utility trench coats and nuanced shirting, the collection boasted impeccable tailoring and functional industrial and casual wear.

The winner of the Scouting Menswear competition is Alexandra van Heerden’s Vanklan with her whimsical, light-hearted and liberated collection. Working with varying textures, happy colours and prints, combined with the technical skills of meshing and patchwork, the collection has child-like and liberating air. It also adds to the gender-fluid narrative by showcasing men’s feminine side in a contained manner.

There’s a thrifting element to the materials whose usage adds a subversive tone to the approach. Vanklan is one to watch for her experimental and innovative ways. The fashion and textile designer is fresh from graduating from the Durban University of Technology.

In fact, in 2020 Vanklan won the Twyg Student Award for the collection made from old pillowcases and other thrifted items from the Kloof & Highway SPCA which were created to address and challenge the throwaway culture present in our society.

Last season’s SAFW New Talent competition winner, Artho Eksteen continues with elements from his winning collection that are about layers, functionality, a juxtaposition of prints and textures and psychedelic art. The tone is wacky, playful and childlike and serves an individual taste.

“I think in the post-Covid world, we won’t be taking ourselves too seriously,” Eksteen said about his showcase.

The Bam Collective (by Jacques Bam) excels at working with structure, volumes and bold colour. This collection borrows from the theatre of the absurd – a movement of diverse plays written between the 1940s and 1960s. Essentially existential, each play renders existence as illogical and meaningless. Bam interprets this in an esteemed and subdued way.

The Michael Ludwig Studio advocates for gender identification in their clothing. With their last collection, featured in the New Talent completion, they focussed on “de-gendered geometry” looking at how shapes and identity play into one another. They extend on this conversation by looking into gender-based violence and its emotional by-products, especially in the persisting Pandemic. This comes through in the simplistic tone of the collection.

Judith Atelier paid tribute to the matriarchs of designer, Judith Smit’s family in a poetic way. With words printed onto fabric and the faces of the grandmothers who inspired the collection becoming more pronounced with each look, it was a celebration of beauty and inherited strength.

The Watermelon Social Club in collaboration with XT was an intersection of South Africa’s heritage with the American basketball culture. The label enjoys creating conversations (with their street gear and prints) that speak to how our country’s cultures fare in post-modern societies.

Richard Hoy encapsulated the label’s signature of sporty streetwear with the military, utility and versatile qualities still intact.

With a de-gendered slant, Ntando XV’s collection shone in the details that showcased his artisanal approach.

There’s an attractive high-end quality to Adam Chancellor-Maddison’s designs which are about comfortable clothing, sustainable fabrics, sophistication and sass. There were only two womenswear looks in the collection. The rest were dedicated to menswear boasting both feminine and masculine tones. The brand focuses on ready-to-wear clothing, perfumes, accessories and luxury goods with social responsibility running through its sourcing supply chains.

With its pronounced gender fluidity, trans-seasonal collections and authentically sustainable approach, SAFW is in tune with current trends and the spirit of the times. And while we are still living through a Pandemic, responses to that will continue to shine through in creative outputs which include fashion. From escapism, resilience, personal histories to sheer brilliance and socio-political engagements, the SAFW AW22’s seasonal showcase had it all.


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