Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Shot from the opening of (Naked Ape) Shaldon Kopman's "Basotho" showcase at SAFW
“It’s a famine of beauty,” Vogue Editor-at-Large, Andre Leon Talley, complains in a scene in the documentary “The September Issue”. And I have no other words to sum up my feelings about the SA Fashion Week Autumn/Winter collections, which closed on Sunday at the Crowne Plaza in Rosebank.

The question that kept popping up in my head is whether or not designers actually think before they put together what is supposedly a collection.

With the exception of Suzaan Heyns, Tiaan Nagel, Shaldon Kopman, Joel Janse van Vuuren and Colleen Eitzen, of all the shows I saw, none were able to see through any obvious vision for their winter 2012 offering. It is utterly depressing.

But then again, thinking back a few weeks, I remember going to the opening of an arts exhibition at Circa Gallery. It was huge and well attended. It was billed as the collaboration of the current ten best South African artists. I remember asking Felipe Mazibuko, whom I had gone there with, where the fashion designers were, because the only two I saw were Ella of Superella and Marianne Fassler. The reason I ask this question is because, as one who often goes to arts-related events, I do expect to see creative people engaging with other art forms beyond the one they’ve chosen for themselves. This, I feel, opens one to other worlds and, of course, inspires creativity. Instead, one only sees designers at gigs where cameras are flashing and shwashwi’s are waiting to find a scoop to lead with in the Sunday gossip columns. Do note, I am in no way prescribing what anyone must do to be inspired, just suggesting one way of doing it.

I’m in no way saying that everyone must come up with a collection to measure up to David Tlale, Clive Rundle or Suzaan. But how dare you expect buyers and the fashion media to appreciate what is obviously something you don’t put your heart into as a designer and then frown upon people when the reviews come back unfavourable? Yes, the ignorant, self-important ones will contend that they are not in the industry to serve the fashion media and I will put it to them that without that very same fashion media- people who also happen to be the most loyal to local fashion, by the way- that take it upon themselves to showcase local talent in an industry where there’s a lot of resistance to filling the fashion pages with South African designers’ work. It is the same fashion media that often alerts fashion lovers to your talent and, you know what, that is what fashion week is about; showcasing to people who will give you that very necessary exposure. Otherwise, why are you there? If you are too good to even pay attention to what is in fact constructive criticism then leave the fashion week stage altogether!

To read ELLE Magazine fashion editors, Poppy Evans and Asanda Sizani's views on the matter, click here

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


About a year ago I met a lady by the name of Romy Stander, who runs a small business, making bags out of recyclable materials in collaboration with underprivileged women in Diepsloot. Her label is called “State of the Nation” and how wonderful her bags are.

Romy Stander, clutching a bag from her State of the Nation label

This past Sunday, David Tlale opened the doors to his first store at Sandton’s Michelangelo Towers Mall and reminded those present that we, too, as Africans are talented. “We need to start believing in our own,” he said. When someone on Twitter tweeted about legendary British designer Vivienne Westwood’s gravitation towards “African”, sighting her new collection of bags made by women in Kenya, out of recyclable material I remembered one of the campaign pics, in which Westwood is surrounded by a number of those bags which are no different to the bags Romy and the women in Diepsloot make, Tlale’s words came back to my mind. I also thought of a huge ad inside my local Woolworths store which reads something like “fashion designed for you in New York”. Well, something along those lines anyways. When I first saw it I was absolutely shocked. It’s probably good for their marketing but I was taken aback by what, in my mind, perpetrates the idea that what is local is inferior. You might think I’m being slightly pedantic here, but really, such things often slightly raise my temperature as I think of how our inferiority complex impact negatively on the local industry. Soon, people will wear those Vivienne Westwood bags proudly, because, one, it’s an international luxury brand and, two, they’ll feel like some sort of slacktivist whose money has not only gone to Westwood’s purse but also to those poor women in Kenya and, three, it’s all recyclable, baby. Two ticks for social responsibility. Do add another tick by recognising that on your doorstep, Westwood’s concept has been done! We’ve been having it!
Click on the pic to link to the State of the Nation website.