Blown away at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week
Nicola Cooper attended the 10th anniversary of the show last weekend, but the gale force winds and rain howled down much of it.
After collecting tickets from the Bay Hotel, arrival at the tented Camps Bay venue for the first day of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town was met with the confusion that African Fashion International’s events are infamous for. Guests and media were directed from one ticket handler to another and, after many eye rolls, the evening shows began, fashionably, one hour late, setting the tone for how the rest of the of the event would unfold.
The gale force winds, which caused the cancellation of the Cape Town Cycle Tour two weeks ago, brought the Fashion Week to an abrupt end late on the second day. But those who braved the weather saw the collections of established and emerging designers.
Day 1: March 23
Day 1 kicked off at the Camps Bay sports club with controversial veteran designer Gavin Rajah.
Minutes before the show began, fashionistas began humorous banter about what “designer inspiration” or appropriation would be evident in Rajah’s first show since being called out for design plagiarism in 2016.
Lucky for him, the goodie bags, perched on the prestigious front row guests’ seats distracted people. Then the lights dimmed and Rajah’s over-ambitious love-inspired collection was shown.
Known for his formal designs, Rajah attempted his hand at athletic wear. Taking the sports lux cue from designers such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci, his flowing, romantic pastel gowns and heavily-beaded eveningwear, to a live performance of Somewhere over the Rainbow, were juxtaposed with athleisure looks and menswear suiting for women, overshadowing his princess gowns and making his collection confusing.
Given thealmost 60 different looks, the collection lacked cohesion and, with a hit-and-miss visual narrative, dragged on for too long. The range lacked a sense of confidence or ownership. A smaller, more thoughtfully conceptualised collection would have resounded better with the fashion conscious and held their limited attention.
Rajah ended his show Marianne Fassler style but his Team Rajah was less than animated. A final runway walk by himself, carrying flowers and champagne signified the end of the show. Outside, abandoned goodie bags littered the ground, providing the magpies with a little fashion week paraphernalia.
(Between shows we were ushered into the guest, media and VIP tents. The wind and rain ensured there was little control over who entered which area. The media lounge was soon filled with the nonmedia, making it difficult to work amid the air kisses.)
Joanna Hedley, Lara Klawikowski and Cleo Droomer were up next. From the moment the runway lights lit the way, it was clear that Droomer was the front-runner and the celebrated designer of the evening.
After winning the Elle new talent award in 2010, his return to the runway hit with more force than the wind outside — sleek glamour, extreme wearability and universal appeal.
His luxurious white, metallic, pink, red monoblocked and pattern-on-pattern layered looks can be broken down and sold as individual pieces. This made the aesthetically appealing collection showed savvy merchandising motives.
Later, fashion insiders expressed no surprise when he announced that after his show he had received a call from Vogue.
Jenny le Roux
In her Habitats collection, Jenny le Roux introduced soft flowing layers juxtaposed with camouflage prints set against lux fabrics and hints of gold. Bold jewel tones of amethyst, cobalt and Pantone’s colour of the year, greenery, appeared in oversized and simple velvet shapes, a clear nod to international trending fabrics and fashion colours. Boyish charms and playfulness were present in her nod to menswear — cropped pants, bowtie detailing and slouched shoulders or silhouettes.
Stefania and Shana Morland
The romantic collection by the mother and daughter duo, Stefania and Shana Morland, was filled with textural cover pieces in rust and peach tones, with soft, delicate fabrics such as lace and floral details. The younger Morland introduced deep sky blues in sequence and soft chiffons with constellation details. She finished her looks with Raya Rossi jewellery and a touch of distinctive Morland elements of ribbon and a hint of sparkle.
But the show was interrupted by the announcement that the winds were too strong for the marquee.
Day 2, March 24
African designers Sweetie, Black Trash and Kefseddy Designs ranges began with a significantly reduced audience, separating those who came for the fun of it from those who were there to work.
Sweetie’s combinations of classic designs followed by a pop art nod with Vogue prints from Black Trash, and delicate blues and pops of pantone green gowns and black and white winter coats from Kefseddy sashayed down the runway amid distracted photographers and attendants scrutinising the marquee’s structure with concern.
After just one of the scheduled six shows, we were advised to vacate the premises. But people could not waste good outfits because of bad weather, so the front row took selfies and people posing on the lawn.
We were told the show would go on at the Cape Town Club later that evening and the crowd dispersed for safer grounds.
That evening the David Tlale off-site event was well attended and the audience waited to be dazzled. Champagne tipsy fashion reporters and other members of the audience bet on whether Tlale would actually begins his show on time, given his tardy past. He didn’t.
An hour later than scheduled and just as guests were giving the designer five minutes to begin before leaving, we were ushered up the stairs of the ornate, colonial backdrop of the Cape Town Club. Guided by fashion installations, we were escorted into the larger ballroom where we were treated to a characteristic Tlale show.
Seated in the elite, reserved area with esteemed guests such as Felicia Mabuza-Suttle and Precious Moloi-Motsepe, we felt a sense of fomo from the rest of the audience.
The near-naked forms of the Tlale and Jockey collaboration generated great excitement. The rest of Tlale’s range was in harmony with his previous collections, complete with characteristic drama and throwback to vintage glamour. Deep purple lace, crisp white shirting and gunmetal velvets were married and overlaid to generate a contemporary slant to a definitive collection. Voluminous gowns and Victorian inspired silhouettes were contrasted against sleek, fitted suits for men and women, bringing an androgynous essence. The MAC Cosmetic treatment delivered edge and futurism and GHD hair suggested old school Hollywood pin curls in a perfect union.
The show ended with the sunglass-clad designer’s signature walk alongside longtime muse Tatum Keshwar.
Guests were urged to follow the models to the after-party. The windows vibrated with loud music and those keen for festivities moved swiftly downstairs, although outside the Cape Town Club were lines of cabs for people with alternative party plans.
Day 3, March 25
Day 3 began with much confusion, speculation and rumours from models and photographers about the day’s plans. By 9am, no announcement had been made by Africa Fashion International or the PR company. Schedules had already been altered because of inclement weather which prevented designers from showing their work on the previous days.
Shortly after 10am, after many phone calls and social media queries, we were told that the show was indefinitely postponed and that a press conference would be held at the Bay Hotel later that day.
Moloi-Motsepe, executive chairperson of African Fashion International, announced that as a result of the weather, the rest of Fashion Week would take place from April 6 to 8 at an indoor venue.
And so, without a bang, a fizzle or the traditional pop of champagne, the Fashion Week ended. The critical questions remain: How did the organisers let this happen and whose careers were blown away?
Nicola Cooper is a trend analyst and cultural strategist at Nicola Cooper and Associates. Instagram/Twitter: @NicolaCooper