Maverick Life

Chronicles of Chic: Cape Town fashion week is better than before, but still far from world class

By Emilie Gambade 14 August 2013

African Fashion International pulled off a fashion week in Cape Town that seemed more polished than ever. The shows started on time, labels were removed from the soles of shoes and fewer threads were left hanging at the hem of garments. There were some gems and some disappointments, some coups de maître and some failed attempts. But despite the ups and the efforts, it is still a long, long road to a world class fashion week. By EMILIE GAMBADE.

There is often a palatable excitement at the arrival of fashion week, but strangely, in Cape Town, for the recent Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFWCT) Spring/ Summer 2013-14 collections, the excitement was left to the last minute. From the reveal of the line-up, to details about the exhibition “Women Behind the Seams” (conceptualised by MBFWCT Creative Director, Gavin Rajah), to the “best kept secret” location for ever-dramatic David Tlale’s show, things were hesitant at first.

Add to this a rather perplexing theme – Fashion, Art and Design – and the excitement turns to puzzlement. African Fashion International (AFI) communications officer Kyle Boshoff explains the choice for this year’s theme as drawn from the intertwining of fashion, art and design: “Fashion is not devoid of the other creative industries. The theme is also [because of] our partnership with Mercedes-Benz, which is very interested in design.”

Right. Confusion aside, fashion week started on Wednesday, with the majority of shows this year again held at the Cape Town Convention Centre. At the opening gala dinner, Ernest Mahomane, who was unfortunate enough to be called a “potential designer” in AFI’s post-shows press release, presented a collection inspired by his mother.

Photo: Ernest Mahomane

The designer, mentored by the omnipresent Gavin Rajah, used a bicolour palette, splashes of red on white, to design a small line that was nonetheless charming. Here the embracing line of a corseted dress with short cap sleeves in inverted triangles, there a cropped jacket very Pierrot la Lune with big buttons and a round collar worn over an A-line tulle skirt. Mahomane also played with wood pieces turned into belts or plastrons. It was a refreshing start to fashion week, but would have benefited from some extra refinement: the fabric crumpled on one model’s body, while an obvious zip was placed in an unflattering position, underneath the cleavage, compressing both the breasts and the waist.

Keith Henning for Adriaan Kuiters collaborated with artist Jody Paulsen and showed his sensibility and sharp talent through garments that were modern, precise and on point minimalist. The use of tanned leather over short shirtdresses or boyfriend wide shirts over mini skirts drew the contours of an androgynous, contemporary and desirable collection. It was interesting to see the use of the “eye” pattern, emblazoned here on a shirt, there on a cap, wildly inspired (some would say copied) by the Fall/ Winter 2013 collection by Carol Lim and Humberto Leon for Kenzo.

Photo: Keith Henning for Adriaan Kuiters

Lara Klawikowski brought some lovely weirdness to the catwalk. Inspired by her visit to the Institute for the Blind, she used ghost chiffon, cotton organdie, organza and melange mesh in woven panels to create garments that seemed contrasted, layered and textured. Klawikowski described her palette as “Shades of white and black, [and] where colour had been used, it had been diffused. Pungent pink, yellow, green and orange have been coated with white organza and melange mesh.” She added, “The bright colours verged on being a bit ‘kid-in-a-candy-store’. The collection was meant to be a visual treat.” And it was, in a somewhat deconstructed and chaotic way.