If there ever was a sign that local fashion is about business, it was the recent Sanlam SA Fashion Week.
The event, showcasing spring and summer collections from local designers, was bumped up six months in a bid to rejig it to suit local retail seasons.
The show, usually scheduled for the latter half of the year, was hosted last week to allow for longer lead times in retail planning.
So, as with the international fashion industry, shows reveal what will be on the racks six months before they hit the shelves.
The move has been in the offing for some time, according to Estelle Cooper, spokesperson for the event, and was done in consultation with both the designers and local retailers. Designers have welcomed it.
”We’ve been asking for it for years,” said Karen Ter Morshuizen of Lunar.
The additional six months gives designers the chance to ”figure out what works and what doesn’t” when it comes to their ranges and stocking retail outlets, she said.
”It is far more business-oriented,” said Ter Morshuizen.
Local designers have the unenviable task of balancing the need to create fashion that celebrates their South African origins but remains relevant in a globalised world.
”For the first time in the history of South African Fashion Week we are starting to look towards boutiques without trying to compete with the buying power of Europe and the manufacturing of China,” said fashion guru Dion Chang, founder of trends analysis consultancy Flux Trends.
The best garments were from designers who have mined local references and translated them into a distinct and accessible style, which works well on an YDE shop rail or in a Paris boutique.
Ella Butler’s Superella label focused on simplicity and the peasant dress for this collection. ”We live in a poor country and, as much as I don’t want to dwell too much on the poverty, I wanted to make beauty out of nothing,” said the Superella creative. ”When you are poor you wear all the clothes you have all at once.”
Senior designer Clive Rundel’s collection took a biblical 40 days and 40 nights to put together. ”We made all these fabrics ourselves,” Rundle said. ”The theme for this range is awkwardness — it wasn’t inspired by anything.”
But the collection did make some political commentary, with some of the outfits accompanied by T-shirts referencing the Dalai Lama and the recent visa debacle. Rundle said the purpose of this was ”to tap into the current consciousness or unconsciousness”.
For more on this year’s designers go to www.sanlamsafashionweek.co.za