Intimate presence

A highlight of Audi Jo’burg Fashion Week has been Marianne Fassler’s latest collection, inspired by the work of Marlene Dumas and her exhibition Intimate Relations on at the Standard Bank Gallery.

Fassler has in the past referenced art in her work; notably she has used Vladimir Tretchikoff prints on her garments. The creation of her latest collection, however, was an entirely different process for her, she explains.
She speaks from the comfort of the exuberantly colourful living room in her Saxonwold home.

“In this case the exhibition was really the catalyst,” says Fassler, who admires the immediacy of Dumas’s work.

“And in this very specific instance I tried to create that immediacy of her work,” she explains. “The sort of brush stroke, the translucence that happens when she works with watercolour, the ambiguity of her work.”

She adds: “A lot of the cottons weren’t cut, just to try and get that immediacy.”

The collection viewed last Wednesday was made entirely from recycled material. Many of the fabrics were dip-dyed to create the colours Fassler explains. And while Dumas’s work is reflected in the collection, it still contains Fassler’s unique signature, the use of bold colour, for example, and her love of leopard print.

At events such as Audi Jo’burg Fashion Week, there is a misguided expectation that designers will set and forecast trends. But for individuals such as Fassler this is almost irrelevant.

“What’s very important for me when I do a show is that there should be — the Marianne presence,” she explains. “There should be a [distinct] handwriting — It’s never a catalogue of trends.”

“You set trends, you don’t follow trends when you become a true designer,” she says. “You are the person that other people look to.”

Fassler is critical of journalists who do not understand that a fashion trend is merely a product of a catwalk garment seen four years ago in Paris, Milan or New York.

“I don’t need to set a global trend, all I want to do is to remain productive and creative within the context of where I come from,” she says, “because, after all, fashion does reflect history, it does reflect politics, it does reflect the street, it does reflect the subculture — It is a product of how we live and where we live.”

“We can’t possibly compete with Italy or America or China or India—they all have their specific specialities,” argues Fassler. “So we have to reflect, genuinely and honestly, the thing that makes Africa the source of inspiration for many international catwalks.”


The Sanlam South Africa Fashion Week Autumn/Winter 08 Collections takes place at MuseuMAfricA in Newtown, Johannesburg, on March 14 and 15. The event is open to the public and tickets are available from Ticket Connection. Single-show packages and full-day or half-day packages for the arts and culture seminar are available. Info: or Tel: 011 442 7812

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