Mzansi fo sho

Last week all seemed so so-so in our country. Just when you think politics has hit its doldrums, it finds new depths to sink to. And sports, well sports!

By the time we got off deadline last week, we had put the finishing touches on a story that suggested the ruling African National Congress was finally going to stop sitting on its hands and call its Young Turks to order.

Caesar, as the Mail & Guardian will henceforth call Youth League president Julius Malema, had aimed his young guns at the party’s deputy president, Kgalema Motlanthe, for daring to speak democratic sense about the judiciary and against the emperor’s injunction to kill for Zuma.

How we had fallen from the days of Madiba! What a so-so rainbow nation we were.
That was until I got to the fashion awards at the weekend, run by Dion Chang, and meant to raise the bar of fashion journalism. As part of the awards, we were given a tapas-type show of the best of a range of designers.

It was an absolute treat and a snappy look at an industry that is coming of age and has beaten the national tendency toward the mediocre. I am no fashionista, so my appreciation was entirely that of a consumer. And boy, am I saving for some of what was on show.

Stoned Cherrie is my favourite shop in Jozi and the new range is a generational skip away from Nkhensani Nkosi’s signature style of modern Afro-wear. She’s taken things up a notch.

She’s changed fabric and aesthetic near completely to bring to summer a range of colours and styles far removed from her usual palette of Afro shades of earth, brown and red. Cerise cocktail dresses, a flowing sunshine summer dress, a peacock turquoise all accessorised with help from the crafters of Limpopo. Usually this kind of collaboration can be quite self-conscious but it works brilliantly.

I like the daring of Stoned Cherrie’s new range; it’s ability to ditch all that’s comfortable (and so very copied) and to move into a different more glocal look. As a fan, it works for me and I will be watching to see how Nkosi translates the look for her store and for her range at Woolies.

Now I believe from an impeccable source that Caesar shops at Armani in Sandton—as do most yuppie politicians. It is the grandest irony from the men who preach proletarian revolution. I suggest he makes at turn at Ephymol’s rails at Ephraim’s studio in Jozi.

Ephymol’s show on Friday night was a treat of high design and excellent production. There’s a lot of gorgeous summer wear for men but the range that got us giving him an ovation was his use of the Palestinian chequered scarf as high fashion.

The scarf, a symbol of Palestinian resistance, has been globalised into a fashion statement—as the brooding photograph of Che Guevara has become.

Let’s leave the ethics of commercialism but to say that the Ephymol range has created entirely wearable shirts (with snips from the Palestinian scarf) for the young revolutionaries to wear. Cheaper than Armani, it’s also better looking and beautifully tailored.

Both Julian and Strangelove went for black-and-white palettes. Julian’s range of short summer dresses, tailored black skirts with sheer graphite grey shirts and tops were often embroidered with classic beadwork of shiny black to give it a distinctive Jozi catwalk feel.

I don’t usually dig gimmicks, but Strangelove’s interchangeable black and grey jackets where you unzip a black half to add grey were surprisingly wearable. It was an experiment that worked.

I had rushed off to a Nigerian show convinced that we were going to learn from the masters. It may be jingoistic, but that show was deeply disappointing—all Eighties Afro-chic that has been replaced in Mzansi by a self-confident aesthetic that was a treat to view.

Now to get some of that spirit back into our public life. Or at least to get Zuma and Caesar into Ephymol!

Journalists’ awards
The winners in each of the two categories of the Sanlam SA Fashion Journalism Awards—respectively for writing about the fashion industry and fashion editing—were announced at fashion week.

Tamara Rothbart scooped the writing category with her article “I am Koto Bolofo, ” which appeared in Elle South Africa, and Jenny Andrew won the visual fashion editing category with the Licensed to Thrill feature published in Business Day: Wanted.

This is the second successive win for Rothbart who won last year’s award in the competition’s first year.

This year’s judging panel comprised Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffajee, Laurice Taitz, managing editor of the Times Online, literary critic and 702 talk show host, Jenny Crwys-Williams and Simphiwe Mpye, former editor of Blink magazine now media entrepreneur. The convenor was fashion commentator and trends analyst, Dion Chang.

Each winner received a prize to the value of R25 000 which will be used for a trip to an international fashion week or trade fair for the winter 2009/10 season.\

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