We dress to escape, to embrace and to celebrate. Fashion is both the past and the future, syncing the internal with the external. Fashion is storytelling. This was the tangible atmosphere following the opening night of SA Fashion Week’s (SAFW) Spring/Summer 2019 Luxury Collections at the magnificent Protea Rooftop, Sandton City.

Diversity, distinctive craftsmanship, creative expression and bespoke detailing. These are all terms synonymous with the designer collections, proving once more that we have a world-class B2B African design ethos and industry, determined to continue marking its place in the world.

SAFW opened with the Woolworths Style by SA showcase, now in its third year, featuring internationally acclaimed Thebe Magugu, Mmusomaxwell and Wanda Lephoto, all of whom have achieved immense individual success.

Thebe Magugu was listed as one of Vogue Italy’s 2018 Talents in addition to being awarded at London Fashion Week as a new ‘creative to watch’ plus shortlisted for the 2019 LMVH Prize.

With every consecutive collection of his eponymous womenswear line, Thebe adds layers of structured detailing to an engrossing narrative that speaks to women and their roles and expectations in a modern and often unforgiving society. Bold solids and patterns in reds and blues complimented his tailored silhouettes with a strong emphasis on the waistline. A dynamic collection that spoke to the beauty and strength of women, Magugu is a designer with an incredibly promising future.

Mmusomaxwell, founded in 2016 by Maxwell Boko and Mmuso Potsane, hit the headlines last year when Beyoncé wore one of their looks at the Global Citizen Festival Mandela 100. True to their signature use of the bold and the bright, with strong cultural references, their SS/19 collection played with the distinct contrast between the sheer and the solid, the hard and the soft. Collared shapes with shoulder detailing consistently drew the eye up and then down to the asymmetrical hemlines.

Finding inspiration in traditional cultural practices, Wanda Lephoto mixes these with modern subcultures, creating a range of designs that tell rarely explored and fascinating stories. Lephoto’s use of bold, loud prints and strong colours illustrated his tailoring strength with his re-interpretation of the classic trenchcoat and suiting, followed by sporty pieces. Clever, edgy craftmanship defined this collection.

Following the Woolworths Style by SA showcase, the collections by established designers Amanda Laird Cherry and Clive Rundle both followed. The Amanda Laird Cherry (ALC) collection once again revealed a strong signature use of tailored shapes in organic fabrics, cleverly layered to combine the street with the smart. Renowned for her blend of innovative cuts with asymmetrical shapes in a monochromatic palette, the collection revealed maxi dresses with smocked detail and raw edges. Models joined by reams of fabric wove the brand’s story together with an understated, edgy elegance.

Clive Rundle’s range disclosed his consistently conceptually brilliant, flawless construction ability through the interplay of opposites, the structured and strong with the soft, and his impeccable ability to weave layers of detail that contrasts with the raw and exposed. Clive is revered for his talent of reworking and updating historical references by mixing conventional fabrics with the innovative and contemporary. Each looks provocative and unforgettable; this was a collection of sheer gothic romance with hints of punk.

The final show of the evening wrapped with three designers, all of whom have carved highly successful niches in their respective design aesthetic. Cape Town-based Helon Melon collaborated with local mills like Svenmill and the SA Mohair Cluster to create a highly wearable, sustainable and ethical fashion collection. An unbelievably beautiful range in a faded mono-dramatic palette of grey tones with flashes of white, in raw shapes with tulip hemlines, accessorised with messenger bags and chunky chains.

Eco-inspired brand Lunar, now 21-years old, launched a new chapter in their history with Nicola Luther and Sonja Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping, a former Stoned Cherrie designer, taking the helm. Lunar’s gorgeous minimalism, willowy shapes and meticulously crafted detailing resulted in a timeless, chic and well-constructed collection of staples. Drawing inspiration from our local landscape, Lunar is focused on ensuring that all designs are as natural as possible, using only the highest quality natural fibres.

Celebrated and esteemed brand Mantsho, created by Palesa Mokubang, completed the evening to the delight of the audience with her Afrojazzy signature. Carefully selecting nuances from African cultures which inspire her, Mokubang transformed them into post-modern designs. Bold brights and intensely patterned fabrications in oversized and voluminous silhouettes draped the body resulting in a sculptural, urbane sophistication.

All of the designers who presented their collections on opening night revealed explicit references to South Africa’s current mood and were received with audible appreciation. From the use of our ruling party’s logo to the exploration of our country’s beauty through the use of natural cotton and linens in origami-inspired pleating, fashions ability to tell a story unfolded before all beautifully.

Whilst we await the next collections, be sure to attend the Trade Show. Running parallel to the runway between Wednesday 3 – Saturday 6 April, and open between 14h00-19h00, the SAFW Trade Show showcases over 55 carefully curated womenswear, menswear, jewellery, millinery, footwear and accessory ranges, illustrating our country’s vast and diverse talent.
We hope to see and hear from you, share your thoughts on the shows and load your pics on our social platforms.

Polly Ester for SAFW.

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