African fashion, Soweto style

Why is it that South Africa has so many different fashion weeks? Most major fashion capitals around the world have just one fashion week twice a year, but in South Africa we have SA Fashion Week twice a year, African Fashion International have three shows annually, and now the Soweto Fashion Week joins the lineup.

According to the organisers,  this platform is for designers who have not been given the opportunity to showcase at the other fashion events.

The established fashion weeks usually have a new talent segment where a few newcomers get to showcase their work,  but, on average, only two ‘new’ designers showcase at each event consisting of over 25 designers.

International trends usually have a main platform for established designers and off-site shows for up-and-coming talent, and these are growing in popularity.

Over 20 designers have been involved in Soweto Fashion Week, which takes place until May 26 at the Soweto Hotel.

“Soweto is one of South Africa’s largest townships, carries huge rich historical significance for the country and has so much untapped potential as far as freedom and creativity is concerned,” said Stephen Manzini, one of the fashion week’s founders.

Exciting newcomers

Mbuyi, a designer inspired by South Africanism, says she tries to understand her male customers, not just try to sell them suits, while Uju Designs is a vintage label which caters for both men and women with an African touch straight from ekasi.

Most of these designers cite the influx of Chinese goods as their biggest challenge in the industry.

Many of the designers have had to create their collections with minimal budget and education and to assist these designers the event will award one of them with a bursary from InScape Design.

“Our vision  is to see these designers grow,” explains Manzini. “We understand how hard it is to survive in the arts industry without a huge capital outlay, but we have faith that these designers will one day showcase on international platforms without having to worry about resources, especially financial.”

The ranges will vary from eco-conscious garments to plus-sized designs.

Fashion label Kemisoul, created by Kemiso Kheswa, is using the Soweto Fashion Week platform to showcase to an audience that has not been exposed to the talent Soweto offers.

Fascinated by the 50s, Kheswa was inspired by the cinematic feel of the era but also kept the working classe of Soweto in mind when designing the 15 garments for men and women that hit the runway this weekend. “The womenswear was made for the simple yet powerful women in South Africa, making their mark in life. The look is classy, elegant and sophisticated,” said Kheswa.

After three years of studying at Sew Africa, he worked for Sissy Lace Boutique in Rivonia. The Kemisoul Label was created three years ago and currently supplies Thesis, a concept shop in Soweto.

When creating a new range, Kheswa says that he chooses the fabrics before sketching, as it inspires the designs. He adds that he frequents art galleries for inspiration as well.

Kheswa comes from a family of clothing makers. His maternal grandmother showed him the technique and skill of sewing from a young age. Being a close knit family, Kheswa says he is a still a “mamma’s boy” and chooses to live with her and look after her.

Soweto Fashion Week tickets are available at the door and at Computicket for R40.

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