- South African Fashion Week (SAFW) and Mall of Africa launched their recently concluded three-year partnership by staging South Africa’s first hybrid designer collections showcase this year.
- In recognition of the COVID-19 requirements for social distancing, the fashion event combined a three-day streaming programme of 26 digital runway shows from 22 – 24 October.
- In the spirit of supporting our local designers and carrying out the actual purpose of fashion weeks, instead of a review this season, we share the most memorable womenswear 20/21 collections and how you can shop/preorder them.
Given Covid-19's abrupt 4IR nudge that catalysed the digital shift for multiple industries, it can be said - without a doubt - that the fashion industry has definitely seen better days.
Yes, this industry was ailing long before the pandemic made its entrance mid-fashion week season and overstayed its welcome. But months in hard lockdown compromised resources for designers across the globe, despite the push for innovation.
More retail stores faced closure, while fashion e-tailers opened a new tab for us. Fashion weeks had no attendees as yet again, another tab was opened to watch virtual shows.
However, there were a few live shows that took place at the Mall of Africa, and of course had to abide by social distancing protocols.
The fashion community perhaps had a little more scope to engage with this season's collections in the absence of a certain brand of attendee who goes to SAFW to show-and-tell their own duds rather than watch-and-learn. There's space to do both, but priorities sometimes get lost in translation.
Oh, and not forgetting the heckling some front row TV personalities have subjected models to in the recent past. Between 2017's "Nipple! Nipple!" bellowed at a model on the runway, and the conspicuous ridiculing, taunting, and video documenting by local celebs of a model whose shoes malfunctioned during the Gert-Johan Coetzee show in 2019, it's hard to tell which was worse.
Maybe virtual shows will be the saving grace of any fashion week's true agenda then - a time to regroup and brush up on f'row etiquette.
"This hybrid combination of both a digital and live fashion experience allows us to navigate the complexities of trading and doing business effectively whilst simultaneously being highly mindful of the safety aspects associated with the pandemic," says SAFW director, Lucilla Booyzen.
To add to my previous point on designers' resources being compromised this year, Lucilla also highlighted the fact that "the designer community is predominantly SMME’s, they all employ small contingents of artisans such as seamstresses and pattern makers."
"It has been a superhuman challenge for these businesses to stay afloat and retain jobs in the absence of any trade or cash flows. This opportunity to showcase their collections in preparation for summer is vital," she adds.
This is why this season, instead of a pulling out a fashion critic's pen, we're allowing for the actual purpose of fashion week to be recognised - creating a runway to retail conversion.
So with the SAFW Trade Show set to take place from 1 - 3 November, it's an opportune time to retrospect on the trans-seasonal collections that were showcased at SAFW.
The Trade Show will be at the Crystal Court at the Mall of Africa with more than fifty designers of mens- and womenswear as well as footwear, handbags costume jewellery, and millinery available. There will also be an SAFW Pop Up Shop where fashion enthusiasts will be able to interact and buy directly from all the participating designers from 27 – 29 November, also in the mall’s Crystal Court.
This 2020/21 lineup included the bigwig likes of Mantsho, Mmuso Maxwell, Gert-Johan Coetzee, Lunar, Lucent, Judith Atelier, and Rubicon who hosted a star-studded private viewing for close friends and select fashion media on Friday evening.
According to Lucilla, the 2020 SAFW collections are trans-seasonal in line with international trends toward collections that incorporate both cool and warm weather elements. They are also increasingly representing a move towards a “slow fashion” ethos of timeless design and sustainable production.
Let's take a look at the memorable womenswear SS21 collections you may want to either shop now, at the Trade Show, or preorder:
All runway images taken by Eunice Driver and supplied by SA Fashion Week
Rubicon, an award-winning brand, established in 2002 by Hangwani Nengovhela, is known for releasing iconic collections with impeccable design. Hangwani brings subtle African opulence to each collection, and this collection - Myth of Origin - is an ode to her om on her birthday.
Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung is a women’s clothing line based in South Africa. Its distinctive signature prints and textiles are hallmarks of the label’s bespoke garments that balance a confident African aesthetic with an international sensibility. Palesa loves experimenting with earthy tones, does not shy away from using bold colours, and her original prints always take centre stage, as was also evident in this collection.
This showcase also featured the 'Fearless' T-shirt Palesa and Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi collaborated on this year.
Shop Mantsho here.
With a profound interest in responsible design and the spirit of collaboration, the Lukhanyo Mdingi label creates meticulous pieces. Ensuring a pragmatic and mindful approach to product development, the label looks to human ingenuity as the source for creating design that is honest and strong.
Shop Lukhanyo Mdingi at Merchants on Long in Cape Town or here.
Founded in 2016 by Mmuso Potsane and Maxwell Boko, MMUSOMAXWELL is a high-end and ready-to-wear womenswear fashion brand based in Johannesburg. Inspired by its founders’ African heritage, but keenly in touch with contemporary culture and the modern women’s requirements, the label focuses on beautifully detailed, wearable and versatile styling in natural and high-quality fabrics and sustainable production processes.
Shop Mmuso Maxwell here.
Counting innumerable influential local and international women such as former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, Miss Universe 2018, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, among his clients, Gert-Johan Coetzee is unquestionably one of SA’s most admired fashion designers.
In addition to his couture and bespoke bridal range, Coetzee creates an edgy casualwear line, called GERT, which has been met with mixed emotions by couture lovers who aren't ready to see Gert dabble in the avant garde yet..
You can shop this casualwear line on for sale in limited numbers in boutiques and on his online store www.shopgert.com, as well as an exclusive luxury ready-to-wear range available at selected luxury boutiques.
Judith Atelier is a high-end womenswear and couture design label produced between the Ceres Mountains, near Cape Town, in the Western Cape. The story-telling of South Africa; everyday people, photography, nature, landscapes and textures are the main influences and inspirations when building the Judith Atelier collection.
The eponymous brand is a gentle nod to, designer and owner, Judith Smit’s grandmother Judith, who is also the inspiration for the company’s ethos of empowering women – both as workers and as wearers of its timeless, unique style. The label intrinsically aims to emphasise femininity in its selection of quality fabric, recognition of the female body shape and attention to detail.
Preorder the SS21 collection here.
Additional information on designers provided by SA Fashion Week Media.
Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our stories and giveaways.