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Inspired, classic silhouettes

Thando Ntuli MUNKUS
Thando Ntuli MUNKUS

As the 2022 New Talent Search winner, MUNKUS by Thando Ntuli, was a show to look forward to. She kickstarted with her new collection, Umama, paying tribute to her mother and the multiple personas she embodies as a nurturing source.

Playing with vibrant colour juxtaposed against more neutral tones, Thando excels at working with classic silhouettes, layering and voluminous structures. Her work shows off pristine tailoring and craftsmanship as well as inspired styling. These qualities, also visible in her New Talent winning collection, Sisendleleni, give versatility to her designs which can be deconstructed to play around with different looks.

The Sisendleleni message was interpreted in the print, which upon zooming in, represents symbols of a map. Sisendleleni (Nguni for ‘we are on our way’) was Thando’s reflection on the journey of self. The collection name also carries the same assertion of the ‘we are who we have been waiting for sentiment which can be associated with the millennial spirit in Munkus designs.

The label’s design ethos stems from the comforts of home as Thando reveals that her contemporary style evolved from thrifting from her mother’s and grandmother’s closets.

“I have a great influence from the women in my life – my mother and grandmothers. Going into the design, I wanted to mix all these generations together. Out of that I created an intergenerational style – a mix of 80s and 90s – interpreted in ways that I think would be cool today,” she says.

Unconventional and futuristic forms

The second showcase was from Ntando XV who makes artisanal clothing whose design approach is both unconventional and subtle. Ntando experiments with cuts, pattern engineering, unusual intricate finishing and fitted looks. His creative way of shirting is something to watch. These elements were included in his gender-fluid collection which was both simple and technically compelling.

SAFW AW23 Black Coffee
SAFW AW23 Black Coffee

Closing off show 1 was Jacques van der Watt who reminded us of the delightful conceptions of a Black Coffee show. A model adorned in a black voluminous pyramid-like dress opened the showcase, walking slowly and laying black fabric petals on the runway. This theatrical opening was the foundation for Black Coffee’s latest collection which re-imagines all the basics of closet staples.

When you’re a creative visionary and a pioneer like Jacques van der Watt, even going back to the basics is an eventful fashion moment. However, this new collection wasn’t without his signature play on architectural shapes – transforming from more utilitarian structures at the beginning to floating exaggerated silhouettes at the end. Underpinning everything, Jacques van der Watt explains, “is a larger dialogue about the re-evaluation of norms confined to male and female forms.”

Read more about Black Coffee here.

Gender-neutral, inclusivity and sustainability

This conversation was continued with collections from The Bam Collective and Erre (both based in Pretoria) who showcased inclusivity and representation with full-figured models and gender-neutral styling. The excitement and cheering for this type of body positivity is hope that it will be mainstream in the future.

Both designers represent trust. Jacques Bam of The Bam Collective is all about representation – he lives it and advocates for it in his ageless and gender-unconventional designs that refuse to conform. He can be trusted to deliver on his impeccable use of colour, shapes and volume. This is consistent with every collection and this time he introduced a new print. The spirited joy and pride intrinsic to South African culture are palpable in his work.

Erre by the duo, Carina Louw and Natasha Jaume, can be trusted to deliver powerful and sophisticated silhouettes for the modern woman. They are also consistent with their sustainable and explorative use of fabrics and colour as seen with this new collection.

Read more about designing for inclusivity here.

Casual comfort, elegance and edge

SAFW AW23 Helen Melon
SAFW AW23 Helen Melon

The quality in simplicity is what the Helon Melon AW23 collection exuded with its casual and compostable fabrics that are about comfort. Founded by Helen Gibbs in 1995, the Cape Town brand has grown from being a local supplier to being sold in many countries in Europe. It is worth mentioning that a recent customer was powerhouse Academy Award-winning actress, Viola Davis.

Belhauzen is a new label, launched by designer, Belinda Venter in 2021. Her AW23 collection titled Audacity draws inspiration from women who dared to change the world – from Rosa Parks, Malala Yousafzai to Harriet Tubman. Working here with the linen fabric, she audaciously pushes the envelope to explore its elegance. This can be appreciated in her corseted pants and luxurious tailoring.

The last show of the night belonged to Essie Apparel by local actress, media personality and designer, Enhle Mbali. She packed a lot of different styles into her collection which rendered the show unstructured. There’s a distinct design voice in Essie Apparel which is fashion-forward, edgy and internationally appealing with laudable craftmanship. However, the designer would do better if she distilled that voice into a more coherent collection in the future to allow for a clear narrative.


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