Fashion with little flash

2011-07-22 10:24

Traditionally, fashion shows are meant to show off a designer’s collection, and that’s it. But audiences have come to expect more.

In recent years, fashion shows, locally and abroad, have become more and more theatrical, with designers outdoing themselves and each other. As a result, drama and showmanship have become a hot trend.

However, as trendy as Cape Town Fashion Week has become, the shows were short of flash this year. Instead, the audience was just given oatmeal with milk – no sugar or cinnamon.

Many designers – such as the late Alexander McQueen and former Givenchy head designer John Galliano – made it the norm to include theatrics such as ­holograms, over-the-top hair and make-up, and props to make their shows extra exciting.

The showmen at this year’s Cape Town Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2011/12 stood out because there were so few of them.

The first designer to add some flavour to his offerings was Gavin Rajah, who sent out an ornate ­invitation to his guests on a bright 3D card.

His show was titled Jaipur 2012/13, and the designer took inspiration from his origins of Rajasthan for his 87-piece collection.

There was a lot of colour and bling as models presented the African-Indian-inspired creations, while the audience was blinded by an over-abundance of sequins and the bold bright colours of the season – neon-lemon, pink and orange.

Not quite a circusworthy affair, but it sated the appetite of those hungry for drama.

While fashionistas ­recover from the colour ­overload at the Rajah show, Abigail Betz’s collection featured a neglected beached boat with a white chiffon sail in the middle of the stage, setting the scene for the island-stranded, ­bare-footed models.

The show began with an ash-blonde model à la Brit Agyness Deyn wearing a long black satin dress that contrasted with her hair, while the nude make-up made her look extra forlorn and in need of rescue.

The collection, which she calls Paris 2011, is undeniably classic and used a balance of light and dark with strong lines to give it that ­evergreen, romantic look.

The models posed looking the part of damsels in distress awaiting rescue.

It’s a simple concept, yet the background screen ­showing a storm at sea, accompanied by music that slowly gained momentum, was effective in communicating the designer’s theme.

Another fashion brand that brought a little drama to the ramp was Stefania Morland, who showed a spring/summer collection that juxtaposed dove-grey with striking hues such as tangerine, blue/slate and midnight blue.

But it was her last garment – a dove-grey tutu evening gown and elaborate headdress made of tree branches on which two (hopefully not live) doves perched – that raised excitement levels at the Cape Town Convention Centre. An unforgettable finale to her “bird colours in spring” theme.

On the final day, there were two memorable shows – one from ­David Tlale, fashion’s king of ­drama.

Tlale, who can always be relied on to up the ante, held his show at The Bromwell Boutique Mall and art gallery in Woodstock.

Guests were met by the sight of models posing as mannequins in the glass windows wearing creations from his previous collections.

While guests mingled downstairs, the designer was preparing his models for a show upstairs, which turned out to be a display.

Models were perched on chairs, tables, windowsills and rotating stands alongside expensive art with price tags. Very artistic – even though it was not the first time the designer had done an art ­display type of show. It was still a first for Cape Town.

The edgy collection – tutus, leather, silk and some bridal ­couture gowns all in monochrome colours (black, white or shades of grey) – was the perfect contrast for the red walls and ornate ­furniture at the gallery.

The Fabiani men’s show also ­impressed.

A collection of glass mirror stands of various sizes ­symbolised a gentleman’s bar, where a bottle of expensive ­whiskey was displayed alongside the models.

The models, including an old man who symbolised the ageless and timeless style of both brands, walked out to take their places.

As for the rest of the designers, they stuck to the tried and tested to present their collections.

This worked for some ­designers, like Thula Sindi who launched a resort collection, one that should never be ­overshadowed by theatrics.

But as the Irving Berlin song There’s No Business Like Show Business goes, it’s all about “the costumes, the scenery, the ­make-up, the props”.

And the ­fashion business is part of show business.

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