Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rational Thinking Returns to Fashion Week

Former ELLE editor and renowned fashion commentator Jacquie Myburgh reported last week in her “Fashionising Business” column(The Times) that SA Fashion Week was introducing a new approach to fashion week, which would involve a session between buyers and designers. This will foster a business culture at fashion week, allowing for a much needed interaction between the two. What is the point of showing if all that happens afterwards for the designer is an interview on the “Showbizz Report” and very little to show in terms of revenue for the exposure that fashion week affords? This is an approach that will surely be welcome by all in the fashion industry, or at least those who really care for the amelioration of South Africa’s fashion industry.

SA Fashion Week’s new strategy is reflective of a new era being ushered in internationally, where designers are relooking their business models and deciding the time is ripe for fashion week to be more than just a show platform.
Marc Jacobs, for instance, felt celebrities are “so last season” going against the obviously de rigueur culture of star-studded front rows at his New York show this month.
Observers also note that the collections at New York fashion week reflected less of a red-carpet ready rationale, but more practicality. They also say that the new mindset is borne out of legitimate fashion industry players are increasingly getting annoyed with the presence of “Z-lister” celebrities hogging the fashion week limelight for publicity reasons and designers showing only to have Hollywood’s Who’s-whos browsing the rails for their next red-carpet number whilst getting zero dollars in return.
I cannot wait to see how the new fashion week strategy will pan out for designers, but methinks this will be the beginning of a new era, where tangible growth and sales will be realizable.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who is "next" for South African fashion?

Who, out of our crop of young designers, waits “in the wings” for their crowning moment as a celebrated South African designer to match the acclaim of Stoned Cherrie, Black Coffee, Tlale, Rundle and many others that I seriously have no space or luxury of time to mention?

Will it be an unknown figure rising from the ranks of LISOF or maybe one of the past winners of the ELLE New Talent Competition?

I guess all one can do is to wait and see, but I want to add my two cents worth.

There is something beautiful and mystical about an unexpected individual’s rise from obscurity and sudden acclamation. Would it not be great if the next best thing in South African fashion were a designer whose work is yet to be discovered; maybe in the streets of Rosebank, he or she revels in a small client base, hoping that his/her efforts will be recognized on the backs of unsuspecting ambassadors? “Oh, this was made by a friend of mine. She uses her bedroom as a studio,” the unsuspecting ambassador would say.

I read a story about one such designer some time ago and how he is now planning to compete with the allure of FW in New York to attract buyers and schlebs to his little show. The article mentioned that this guy, with no fashion college education, uses his bedroom at the back of his grandparents’ Brooklyn home to make designs that he himself claims not to know come from where.

LaQuan Smith is his name and with the help of a New York fashion publicist his designs have found their way into Lady Gaga’s tour wardrobe as well as a Rihanna video.

How I would have loved to have been the unmentioned publicist (I’ve forgotten her name). I think it’s time for me to go talent spotting in SA to find that designer who “waits in the wings” for their moment.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Get off the Front row, Precious Groupie!

I’ve just read an article in New York Times about the nature of the front row at fashion week. Inviting celebrities to fashion week is a strategy designed to attract publicity for the house that is showing; i.e: Madonna at a Marc Jacobs show equals Madonna “endorsing” Marc Jacobs.
It is puzzling, therefore, to go to a South African fashion week- of which there’s a gazillion of- and find the likes of Sophie Ndaba (sorry, Sophie, you just came into mind)plonked on the front rows of a show. Similarly, why the hell does one invite their friends or even politicians to fill up those much coveted seats (hi, Precious)?
I think I know why. There is a lack of knowledge as to why New York or London fashion week front rows are so glamorous and efforts to do the same with local FW’s are falling flat; there just isn’t much credible glamour to go around.
Methinks local organizers should just stick to the aged-old, tried and tested formula of front row being reserved for editors, buyers and industry commentators. It should be filled with people whose voices matter. I really can’t see what is achieved by having a slew of so-called "schlebs" that less than half the country even knows in those seats.
Media practitioners are the ones who- at the end of the day- generate the publicity that translates to a buyer’s success in moving the clothes off the shelves. It’s not rocket science at all. Is this not enough to actually deserve those seats?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

There's a Darkie in Soweto...

Darkie, the clothing brand recognizable by its afro-comb icon, will in March be opening its doors in Soweto’s Maponya Mall. This, according to messages disseminated to the brand’s Facebook group members.

Darkie was founded in Cape Town in 2000 by one Themba Mngomezulu, a former B-com student. Inspired by street culture the brand went on to supply ranges for YDE as well as Woolworths before opening flagship stores in Cape Town’s Kloof Street and 7th Street in Melville, Johannesburg.

Darkie has in the past been approached by soccer team Swallows to design the team’s kit, amongst other achievements.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

DFC: Brand Over Individuals

“DFC is bigger than anyone. It’s bigger than me, it’s bigger than Gert…” were Uyanda Mbuli’s words to me when I interviewed her at the launch of Diamond Face Couture’s Rosebank store in September last year. As I spoke to her I felt a passion for a brand that I certainly felt is the embodiment of modernity and as she aptly put it; “fabulousness”.

Gert, too, displayed enthusiasm for the business the two had started a little over a year before. The brand had grown phenomenally, I think, considering the slow pace with which most brands in this fashion business usually grow. But then again DFC had the backing of Mbuli’s high profile status. Not that it matters, the brand speaks for itself. Girls love pink and this is the brand that took their fantasies of occupying dream castles to higher heights.

It is disheartening therefore to read in the pages of our dailys that the fashion house is seemingly in disrepute with twitter updates and blog gossip going on about shares and this and that and now with Khanyi Mbau entering the fray, as she offers to buy Gert’s shares in the business. Shares that Mbuli’s twittering suggests are non-existant.

Bickering and bullshit aside; I hope that in the midst of all this the words that resonate in mind to this day remain at the centre of that business. “DFC is bigger than me, it’s bigger than Gert.”

Mbuli would do well to bear those words in mind.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fashion faithful's hope restored

I should have posted this quite some time ago, but anyways; here goes.

I wore a black jacket with floral patterns. Gold chains hung from my skinny neck over my bare, lemon chest and dark blue skinnys caressed my legs with navy blue moccasins at my feet. It was fashion week. I’m allowed to go freak!

I had long given up on actually enjoying shows at FW and going there has become an excuse to drink (not that there was much by way of booze at this do, unless your pockets were swollen), smoke and drown in the company of extraordinary vanity- which is quite amusing.

Audi Joburg Fashion Week, although I still view it as more of a Precious Motsepe-and-friends glamourfest rather than an actual fashion week, was not short of surprises.

I attended for two days, convinced that I’d be returning home unimpressed as is usually the case. But, boy was I wrong; Craig Jacobs’ Fundudzi and Thula Sindi did something that few local designers ever achieve- they exhibited growth, direction and- in Jacobs’ case, a well constructed show concept.

I’m not sure how much justice words can do to describe the east-inspired collection that featured hints of African print remaining constant throughout and where it was absent, the fabric remained true to the spirit of the collection. Craig certainly earned my respect.

It is at moments like these that one is inspired to hold on to the dream or idea that creative genius does indeed exist in our fashion industry as many who saw David Tlale’s show (which I regret having missed) witnessed.

In the next couple of days I’ll be surfing the lengths and breadths of the information superhighway, exploring the coverage of NY FW and comparing that with the coverage of South Africa’s FW.

I must say, the Sunday papers surprised me this past weekend with loads and loads of delightful content with regards to the Audie Joburg FW. Some leave much to be desired by way of content, but we are headed in the right direction. Fashion is not a trivial field, the press must cover this important part of our arts industry.

What we’ve seen in the past reminds me of what Anna Wintour says in “The September Issue”. She said; “my brother is a political editor…” at some British paper. “My siblings are amused by what I do”. Editors of large publications need to recognize that there’s a huge thirst for information in this industry and what I saw this past week gives me much hope that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I may be a freak but don’t get it twisted. I’m not just sitting at FW looking pretty. My eyes are peeled and, yes, my hope in 2010 is restored.