SA Menswear Week has always been a much-loved portal to new ideas and the raw talent conceptualising them. As the event morphs into a #WeekOfFashion to include womenswear, the producers continue to deliver on their initial promise, while also showcasing established brands.
This season’s fresh talent is particularly concerned with fashion’s wasteful ways, creating desirable pieces from disregarded textiles, be they retail samples or toy tents. Of course, sustainability is a nuanced process that can take many forms, so we allowed the designers to share their take on mindful design in their own words.
“I live and breathe sustainability. I don’t know how to design any other way.” — Shamyra Moodley, Laaniraani.
Shamyra Moodley was the surprise of the season, commanding attention with a collection that felt quintessentially South African, yet completely distinct from her fellow designers, and relevant to fashion’s global narrative. That’s a tough style equation to solve, and doubly impressive given she was a last-minute addition to the schedule, only having two weeks (with particularly intrusive load shedding) to prepare.
“I pulled pieces that I had started and never quite finished, said a little prayer, and the inspiration came in right on time,” says Moodley of her fully upcycled collection. The presentation of skirt suit-centric designs on masculine and feminine models felt progressive in its matter-of-factness. Voluminous trouser hems came courtesy of wire from kids’ pop-up tents Moodley found in her garage. They’re a perfect metaphor for the full collection, embodying mindful fashion design that makes a desirable impression on the runway and doesn’t read stereotypically “upcycled”.
The South African-Irish-Indian accountant pivoted to fashion design after having her second child. Laaniraani (‘Laani,’ the South African slang for ‘well-to-do’ and ‘Raani,’ the Sanskrit word for Queen) was birthed at the height of the pandemic in 2020 when Moodley participated in African Fashion International’s designer Fastrack programme.
She enjoyed the (mild) irony of winning AFI’s 2021 Young Designer of the Year award at the age of 41, debuting internationally in Abu Dhabi at this year’s Forbes 30/50 Summit, and in Cape Town on this occasion. With global goodwill and no signs of slowing down, suffice to say Moodley’s one worth watching.
“Sustainability is vital for our economy so that we can continue to sell and produce. When we encourage people to support local, that starts from the ground up. The team of staff employed by each brand [at THERAPY boutique] work tirelessly at perfecting each product to ensure that we continue to be quality-driven and price-conscious in an already competitive market.” — Bridget Pickering, Ruff Tung and THERAPY
“We want you glowing in Ruff Tung,” says designer Bridget Pickering. As South Africa moves into its first official post-pandemic summer, her signature optimistic and inclusive design codes have never felt more relevant. Vivid swirls of citrus and hot pink print, rendered in groovy 60s patterns on easy-wearing dresses and jumpsuits set an escapist, resort-y mood. “Life is for living, sequins are for the day, and today is the youngest you will be,” quips Pickering. “So, make the most out of each moment.”
The brand’s signature optimism is also synonymous with Pickering’s shape-inclusive designs. It should be noted that no other shows on the schedule featured a representative size curve. “The sisterhood of all shapes and sizes is what unites us,” says Pickering. “If you love colour, bling, and comfort, then welcome to our world.”
“Using whatever [fabric] we already have — I’m a firm believer in that. And making garments of the highest quality. Paying people you outsource to a fair wage and making sure that they’re well looked after. Giving credit where credit is due, and collaborating with as many people as possible. I feel like there’s a lot of power in collaboration.” — Carla Hanekom, 2022 Allfashion Sourcing Young Designer Competition winner
From left: Carla Hanekom, Michael Hittinger, Johanna van Wyk, Tanaka Vengere
The Allfashion Sourcing expo, which ran alongside the #WeekOfFashion shows, presented the final round of their Young Designer Competition on the runway. The design brief, authored by Cyril Naicker, challenged South African fashion design students or recent graduates to create the most sustainable design possible without sacrificing aesthetic appeal. The results were impressive, the best designs conveying an easy-wearing sensibility and a strong sense of identity.
The winner, Elizabeth Galloway student Carla Hanekom, emphasised the convertible aspect of her design: “Making the garment as diversely wearable as possible,” says Carla, is another way of increasing its use and lifespan. Her prize includes a trip to next year’s Texworld Paris expo, which will no doubt serve as an incredible source of creative and intellectual inspiration in her work moving forward.
“It’s important that our fabric sourcing, printing, and garment construction happens locally. Making sure that we remain true to our commitment to creating sustainable job opportunities is also a priority. I always say that we create pieces that our clients see value in keeping and wearing for years to come. We do not mass produce and we don’t contribute towards fast fashion.” — Mzukisi Mbane, Imprint
Mzukisi Mbane is at the top of his game and firing on all cylinders. A collaboration with Markham is giving his brand unprecedented exposure in South Africa, while a showcase at Milan Fashion Week with The Fashion Firm SA is introducing it to the European market. Mbane hadn’t even made it back to Cape Town in time for this runway outing: a flawless execution by his team that proves he’s created the type of infrastructure he needs to expand as his brand, and South Africa by proxy, continues to gain clout in the global fashion conversation.
“This collection is a snapshot of my Pan-African family imagined,” shares Mbane. “It features pieces that celebrate the story of an African traveler: from the North to the East, West and down to the South.” The diversity at the core of his narrative was conveyed with the varied silhouettes, from a boldly tiered maxi dress to a slim-fit sleeveless summer suit. As always, the common denominator is Mbane’s unmistakable prints. He’s capitalising on logomania with a kaleidoscopic IMPRINT star print, equally striking in black and white or luminous summer tones.
There’s also the illustration of three heads, used to create circular motifs alongside more geometric lines. “The faces represent this family I imagined,” says Mbane. “I didn’t want to use faces that are known and familiar to me, but rather computer-generated images that represent someone who can be related to or become anyone.” Linking modernity and tradition in a way that also invites the individual to join in the conversation: is that not what fashion strives for?
I’ve always been someone who cares for the environment, so I would rather make, hire, thrift, resell or donate clothing than buy fast fashion. But I understand that in an economy like ours it is not always easy to buy good quality clothing at affordable prices, so most people resort to buying fast fashion and we cannot fault them for that. As a designer this is one of the problems I am trying to fix, by producing locally, offering versatility, and providing good quality products that will last a lifetime.” — Mmaphuti Movundlela, Redbat Posse winner
From left: Robyn Agulhas, Mmaphuti Movundlela, Sisonke Tyali, Mmathabo Nkhensani
The people at Sportscene-resident brand Redbat came up with an excellent idea to promote bourgeoning female South African design talent while addressing fashion’s waste crisis and hopefully prompting fellow retailers to follow their lead. They sent a collection of old samples to up-and-coming local designers Robyn Agulhas, Kgomotso Kiggy, and Anita Hlazo to upcycle into something completely different. The results were photographed in an editorial setting and promoted across social media to introduce a competition where other designers could do the same.
The #WeekOfFashion Redbat Posse runway, awash with ideas that felt refreshingly experimental, unencumbered and self-assured, showcased looks from the aforementioned trio, five finalists, and winner Mmaphuti Movundlela. If this showcase is anything to go by, we can expect a widening range in styles and design codes from our next generation of designers. South Africa’s strength could be in its aesthetic diversity, which hasn’t been showcased on the runway to its full potential for a while. “Winning Redbat Posse Competition proved to me and the industry that I’m capable of producing a full collection,” says Movundlela, “which will be coming soon.” And we’ll be all the better for it.
- Images: Photos by Simon Deiner