This year’s South African Fashion Week (SAFW), yet again hosted by Mall of Africa, took place last month from 28 April – 30 April.
In many ways, the Spring Summer 22 program is an exciting one, seeking out new talent in the form of the New Talent Search competition.
Some of those contestants — with a fiery hunger in their bellies — produced some of the most interesting garments from this year’s Fashion Week. Additionally, at the heart of the program are sustainable sensibilities.
In a world continuously reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, where the forced intermission mean that even the most major and profiting fashion houses of the world had to take a step back and introspect around the economic (and creative) sustainability of season-driven fashion shows, it is a breath of fresh air to see South Africa taking the matter seriously.
Of course, much is still to be done to make SAFW a fitting reflection of the potential of South Africa’s fashion culture. For example, down to the number of models and the communities they represent, SAFW doesn’t reflect the many faces and body types that are actively shaping the fashion culture and ecology observable on social media platforms.
However, no Fashion Week is without its fault! Those aside, this year’s SAFW reflected some interesting trends within the design zeitgeist and showcased some interesting brands to watch. Here they are!
Maximalism takes the runway of South Africa
Within fashion, worlds are at war. As the “clean”, modernism nudes and Kardashian-Yeezy expensive-normcore apparel begins to finally let loose of the grip it had on late 2010s fashions, youth culture leans into almost-immediate chaos that came with the early 2020s by leaning back into Y2K fashion trends.
Inseparable from Y2K street fashion is a sense of abundance, and a more-is-more attitude. This was reflected on the 2runway this fashion week, with maximalism displayed predominantly through an abundance of prints on the runway. Bright prints, colourful prints, reflexive prints, print-on-print-on-layer-on-layer.
If the agenda was to allow the clothes to speak for themselves, the clothes were screaming at us from the runway, and what a liberating and welcomed scream it was, daring to defy a marketable influencer culture. Many have observed how the fashion industry has taken to having fun and tapping into a playful exaggeration, after so many years of uncertainty and masked-restrain.
MUNKUS leaves her many marks on SAFW
With the new talents opening up the show on the first day, the world of South African fashion was taken by storm by MUNKUS, founded by Thando Ntuli in 2019. With the brand coming alive on the streets of Gugulethu and Soweto, it lacks nothing in the vibrancy department.
Iconographic is among the best words to describe the collection, as each item bears on it a large, animated pattern reminiscent of the 1970s symbols of peace, love and free thought. I’d dare say that it in fact shows the most potential of any of the collections for having a haute-couture line, in its daring artistry.
So it also comes as no surprise that MUNKUS was the winner of this year’s SAFW New Talent Search.
Artho Eksteen in the whimsical reflexive-present
Epitomising the essence of maximalism that took over SAFW, Artho Eksteen plays on the boundary of that, surrealism and Y2K layering, that seems to have awoken from a refreshing slumber.
Combining knit sweaters with cats pink brick phone purses to match, the often jewel toned collection refuses to succumb to any of the traditional conventions of a Spring/Summer line. It also boasts one of the bigger collections, with 11 full outfits.
Judith Atelier transports SAFW to Wonderland
Somewhere on the journey from the Western Cape to the runway floor of Midrand, Judith Atelier fell down the rabbit hole and came out on the other side with a collection that resembled the childhood story Alice in Wonderland in its palette of baby blues and whites.
The Atelier leaned towards a design sensibility of sophistication reminiscent of Rococo fashion, opting to use lots of ruffles and fluffy layers. While these were some of the shining stars of the show, many more made a constellation which illuminated the runway floor.
One can only hope to continue to see the growth in SAFW, in areas where it is already doing well, and where it could be doing better.