The highs and lows of CPT Fashion Week

A part of Stefania Morland's collection.

A part of Stefania Morland's collection.

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town, organised by African Fashion International (AFI), opened on Wednesday with the latest collections of the 27 selected local designers.

Lara Klawikowski will be one to watch. Inspired by a visit to the Institute for the Blind, she explains how she suddenly became aware of how dependent her work was on her sense of sight.

“I was intrigued by the idea of an imaginary state of blindness and what I would see in this state,” says Klawikowski. “I imagined seeing a canvas of pure white or pure black and shades in between, depending on the strength of the lighting in my environment.
I was inspired by how the visually impaired see a texture by feeling it.”

She used traditional cane-weaving techniques to create delicate woven panels. The result: deep textures and chaotic pleating and sculpting “to enhance the contrast in three-dimensionality and mimic how the visually impaired may encounter unexpected shapes and reconstruct them.”

On Friday, Michelle Ludek presents a range that originated on the beaches of Mauritius. Aided only by a pattern-maker and one seamstress, she designed a collection dubbed Masala Rum. Ludek chose to use viscose, a type of rayon, as her main fabric because she wanted it digitally printed, a process that involves the treatment and coating of the cloth.

Stefania Morland’s collection of 40 outfits was widely based on the work of the late artist Walter Battiss: “His work is very bold and quite abstract, with flat use of colour, which is consistent throughout our Spring/Summer 2013-2014 range.”

Morland’s collection is expected to be bolder, drifting away from last season’s pastels towards more vibrant tangerines, blues and gold tones.

Loin Cloth and Ashes’ collection bears the signature of designer Anisa Mpungwe: here again is the sensible fusion of African heritage through the use of kitenge and kente fabrics with modern, retro cuts. This time, it is deeply rooted in the 1990s. Mpungwe watched a lot of “kitsch Nineties movies like BAPS, Clueless and Don’t Be a Menace” before injecting some sportswear into their usually tailored designs. The collection is about comfort for an urban tomboy, with a nonchalant je ne sais quoi in her attitude.

Since their first show in 2008, Olivia Kennaway and Alice Heusser for Lalesso have consistently shown vibrant collections, snapshots of island life, sexy postcards of garments that speak of white sand and Zanzibar. What they sometimes lacked in innovation and peculiarity, they offset with colourful prints and delicate cuts that exclude any stiffening of the body – Lalesso inspires women to breathe.

For Spring/Summer 2013-2014, the designers were “inspired by patterns in nature: the angular geometry in ancient rocks, deconstructing the details of cacti, proteas and insects”. There is ambivalence in this collection: here a tailored jacket in soft silk, there geometrical tribal patterns, something that could as well be from a trip to Tenochtitlan teeming with ancient stories of the Aztec.

The fashion week is a hodgepodge of creativity, innovation and disappointments. For those who take the process seriously, it is an opportunity to reach out to customers, buyers and the media. For those who don’t, it may seem a public disgrace.

For more information about Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town, which opened on August 7 and will run until August 11, go to

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