By Polly Ester, Thursday 25 October 2018
The morning of SAFW’s Day 2 broke with the transformation of 44 Stanley from its usual vibrant daily busy-business spirit into a giant fashion installation. This first show, off-site, featured designers and brands such as Black Coffee, Guillotine, Lunar, Five8ths and House of Bespoke. From installations and mini-shows within the stores through to the full shows of Guillotine and Black Coffee, there was a tangible energy of creative power.
Like a heartbeat, the constant and solemn sound of the beat of a ticking clock opened the futuristic retrospective collection of 21 pieces celebrating 21 years of Black Coffee. Within long folds of fabric, an unconventional performance piece revealed models draped in tulle with delicate, yet boldly embellished, giant numerals. Called Pendulum, the collection was inspired by a body of work spanning 2 decades, each garment a signature piece of each year, reworked into a collection that’s irrefutably 2019. Black Coffee’s Jacques van der Watt moved silently, removing the tulle cloaks, to reveal re-engineered silhouettes featuring graphic geometry and bursts of hand-rendered patterning. It’s Jacque’s intuitive ability to combine utility with beauty, challenging the boundaries of gender, that ensure he retains his apex position as one of South Africa’s most incredible talents.
The morning delivered additional joy with the L’Mad Guillotine AW|19 launch of the first collaboration as a brand new luxury label between designer Lisa Jaffe and curator Lucy MacGarry. The result? A gorgeous range of bespoke pieces true to Lisa’s trademark use of natural fabrics with Lucy’s unique detailing influenced by her unwavering commitment to the promotion of contemporary African artists. A further collaboration with acclaimed visual artist, Marlene Steyn, with set design by Counterspace Studio, added to the distinctive tenor of the garments awash in colour combined with quirky, offbeat accessories.
Lunar’s signature commitment to the use of totally natural fabrics once again disclosed meticulously crafted shapes with rigorous detail. With new Creative Director, Nicola Luther, at the helm, collaborating with Sonja Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping, the brand’s vision is bursting with a new energy.
Day 2’s afternoon brought the first showing of The BRICS Designer Collections, hosted by the Department of Arts and Culture, a constant supporter of the growth of our local fashion industry. With its intention to assist with access to markets across the borders of the industry, 10 designers representing the BRICS countries showcased an exciting combination of local and international fashion talent.
The much-loved brand, Mantsho, headed up by designer Palesa Mokubung, represented our country. Established in 2004, Palesa is renowned for her ability to take inspirational elements from African cultures and reinterpret them into edgy, post-modern pieces. My best description for this range is that Palesa’s use of striking, vivid prints in voluminous shaped silhouettes was nothing short of heart-stopping.
I learnt that Chief Designer of brand Heaven Gaia, Xiong Ying, representing China, has participated in Paris Fashion Week and it was clearly evident why. Influenced overall by Chinese history, traditional Chinese costumes and contemporary art, this collection was inspired by Beijing’s gorgeous Old Summer Palace. Designs included detailing such as traditional delicate Suzhou embroideries and hand-painted motifs in dip-dyed silks and silk tapestries, with traditional covered button fastenings and Mandarin collars. A palette of pale greens and lilacs awash on white contrasted with stronger colour use of deep violet and red.
The final 2 shows of the day provided non-stop inspired design talent. Amanda Laird Cherry, who was based in Durban for decades before moving abroad, returned once again as both artist and storyteller. Celebrated throughout her illustrious career as a designer who uses ‘cloth and thread’ to communicate political and personal stories, her AW|19 collection did exactly that. Her trademark use of grey, black and moody blues interspersed with patterned impressions of checks flowed down the runway in layers of utilitarian shapes. I felt like I was watching the story of our society’s sombre sadness.
Finally, designer and community activist, Shaazia Adam, who hails from Mozambique, showed stand-out pieces of sophisticated elegance. I learnt that Shaazia has been designing since she was just 12 years old, committed to creating designs that shout freedom, liberation and independence. Her obsession with meticulous detail, quality and functionality was evident in her collection featuring shapes that flowed free with proud authenticity.
Once again, judging by yesterday, today is going to be another good day for fashion in SA.