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Growth, continued collaboration and creativity inspired by heritage, ran through the latest South African Fashion Week collections of the night.

The Cruz Collective show featuring Michael Ludwig Studio, ArtClub and Friends and Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu opened the highly anticipated season.

Non-binary and gender-fluid

SAFW AW23 Michael Ludwig
SAFW AW23 Michael Ludwig

Michael Ludwig continued with a conversation that they had already started with their label, exploring how shapes and colours inform evolving gender identities. Michael Ludwig Studio is a non-binary fashion brand that works with the contrasts and synergies of masculinity and femininity as well as design influences from Africa and the East. With this new collection titled, Self-Sapien, they bring forth an independent expression with a bright colour palette, softer structures, and contemporary design techniques to further their gender-neutral and gender-fluid philosophy.

“In the past, we leaned towards the masculine and now we’re tapping into the feminine. You’re not limited to masculine or feminine in non-binary. You can explore both,” explains Michael. “We explore this with the abstract print which is the first collection’s prints ever deconstructed to turn it into a new print. It’s quite interesting to represent the beginning of a journey which started during Covid to be where we are now. The narrative of this collection is based on coming out of the Pandemic and bringing joy back into your life, dressing in bright colours and feeling your self-worth again. So, this is a deconstructed sense of the first collection that represents this new feeling.”

Read more about Michael Ludwig here.

Trans-seasonal and earthy

In keeping with the zeitgeist, ArtClub and Friends presented a trans-seasonal, genderless and casual collection boasting natural fabrics with a utility slant. Going with a mix of light and earthy colours, as well as a striking blue tone, they showcased their artisanal craftsmanship with flowing and padded trench coats. The Cape Town brand, which is in tune with youth culture and inspired by the slow fashion movement, is passionate about making high-quality, locally-made and affordable garments.

Ethereal and ageless

SAFW AW23 Fikile
SAFW AW23 Fikile

Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu is a young star in the making and her growth has been interesting to watch. With a signature that is ethereal, ageless and feminine, she designs clothing to empower women using conceptual ideas that stem from nature.

Her latest collection expressed her continued admiration of women with the theme, Turning dust into Gold. An extension of her individual frilling and ruffling technique with tassels, Fikile introduced a smart-casual look and a sculptural quality to the garments with exaggerated sleeves and voluminous details. Always working with natural fabrics and different textures, the golden, green and natural colours lent a regal tone to the collection and amplified her narrative.

“The initial concept was inspired by black diamond and adorning this rare beauty in women. I wanted to create shapes that were flattering to women, but I also wanted to create structures and textures that are new. I love working with hard and feminine textures, putting them together to create a specific and unique identity. With this collection, I wanted to explore new territories and I also acquired help for tailoring to get a new perspective on how to create,” Fikile says.

Ponti Della Moda Fashion Bridges

The Ponti Della Moda Fashion Bridges project continues. The project enables SAFW and the Embassy of Italy to foster fashion partnerships and exchanges between South Africa and Italy. In 2021, the project saw four pairs of young South African and Italian designers collaborate on four capsule collections which showed at both Milan Fashion Week and SAFW.

This year the project brought young and vibrant Italian designer, Marianna Rosati (with her label DROMe), who is already popular in her country. Her exciting collection can be summed up as sophisticated punk, where the edge meets elegance. Working cleverly with leather, wool, denim, sequins and cotton, she showed off impressive zipping, belted design technique and meticulous tailoring.

Indian inspiration

SAFW AW23 Rubicon
SAFW AW23 Rubicon

The veterans Amanda Laird Cherry (ALC) and Rubicon closed the night. The allure of ALC is the theatricality of her shows, the soul in her culturally anthropological references and the prowess of her aesthetic.

For this collection, the team was inspired by Durban’s iconic Victoria Street Spice Market, formerly known as The Indian Market. Evoking a sense of the market’s colours, the garments worked with dusty pink, turmeric and tarragon green colour palette, grounded by shades of masala and brown. The collection was built using fabric off-cuts and the previous season’s ‘end of rolls’ to be more sustainable.

Re-interpretations of the Sari and the Shweshwe fabric showed off ingenious and poetic design as did the craftmanship in the asymmetric drapery which exuded a nomadic feel. Elements of upcycled garments and tulle contributed to the collection’s layered look conveying the idea of curated chaos.

Read more about ALC here.

Lush landscapes

By tapping into her Venda heritage for Rubicon’s new collection, celebrated designer Hangwani Nengovhela worked with a print that seems like a photograph, capturing the richness of the Venda area and its lush landscape. The print is a metaphor for women’s strength and resilience. Working also with leather, wool and white glossy material, she showcased the elegant classic design and form-flattering sophistication that has made Rubicon a beloved household label in contemporary women’s wear.

Read more about Rubicon here.


Words | Kgomotso Moncho-Maripane
Editor | Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin
Images | Runway images by Eunice Driver Photography