Waiting for David Tlale…

Waiting for a fashion moment

So the big Jozi fashion moment has come and gone – David Tlale’s closing show for Joburg Fashion Week, held on the iconic Nelson Mandela bridge. In PR terms it was a coup. In fashion terms it was a missed opportunity, and in terms of event management, it was a comedy of errors (except it wasn’t funny). Let me explain.

The show was scheduled for 22h30. Now we all know about being fashionably late, and David’s shows run notoriously late, but this one took the cake – it started at 00h15. The evening started with a pre-party in his studio, which is conveniently place a stone’s throw away from the bridge. All well and good. One assumed that it was part of the plan, because it gave all the guests easy access to the bridge. No such luck. With divine wisdom, the show producers had set up “backstage” on the end of the bridge that was most convenient for public access and told the security guards to re-direct everyone to the opposite end of the bridge (no exceptions), which entailed getting into a car and driving to the other side of town. After a near riot (angry fashionistas with sore feet are not to be messed with), they capitulated and let everyone onto the bridge. Wise move.

Once everyone started settling down, the mood was great. We were sitting on one of Jozi’s great landmarks, the sky was dry and an air of anticipation filled the fresh night air. But then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Tweets became more aggressive and just before midnight, some people started to leave. In between there was some announcement about guests without official wristbands having to move out of the seats, and we were told that security would come and check our wrists! When you’ve been sitting for an hour the “threat” of some official checking to see if you can sit or not is laughable – and many did. As we closed in on midnight, the expectant buzz had fizzled out like stale champagne. The American soap (the big celebrity draw cards) stars had nodded off in their seats. People were cold, hungry and irritated. The mood was lost.

By the time the show started, the jovial mood had switched to “this had better be good”- and much of the clothes were, except that there was no proper ramp lighting so all of David’s hard work was lost in the gloom. When you can’t see the clothes properly, and it is an extra long show (92 garments!), it all becomes a ghost-like blur peppered with an overkill of celebrities-as-models, which always proves to be more of a distraction than a value add. On my home I tweeted: Was it worth the wait? Some great clothes lost in a quagmire of a mammoth PR stunt, and that unfortunately describes the lengthy ordeal in a nutshell. Another tweet hit the nail on the head – a direct plea to David: Don’t spoil a wonderful idea & initiative by taking all the people that are out here to support you for GRANTED.

Fashion will forever be fickle. Never toy with people’s loyalty, and NEVER let the show become more important than your craft. This morning’s papers are already questioning if this epic PR stunt was just a tad too ambitious?

I say, just a bridge too far.

7 Responses to “Waiting for David Tlale…”
  1. MissCassandraGud says:

    An honest review is always refreshing, Dion. Well done.

    All the drama around this fashion show on the bridge actually made me wonder about a few things, things that have to do with the management at AFI specifically:

    Why was it just David who got to “have” the iconic bridge? Don’t get me wrong, David is a fantastic designer, sometimes genius, but wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the finale as a collective one (like they used to do with the Audi shows)?

    Having a collective finale IMO, would have avoided a lot of what happened that night, the pressure would have been spread-out evenly among other/many designers, which would have meant that logistically, things might have worked out better (because it wouldn’t have been just one designer having to carry the entire burden on his own).

    I’m also sure that the “was it worth the wait” discussion wouldn’t have come up. It was a bit alarming to read some tweets that night that said things like “David better show me some out-of-this world ish”/”these clothes better blow my mind or else…” now I really don’t know anyone who can win when statements like these start getting thrown around.

    One important reason as to why I think AFI should have intervened, is that the selection process (as in who got to go to the Bus Factory and who got the bridge) wouldn’t have to be as questionable as it is now.

    David is ambitious, he always wants to go BIG – these are some of the reasons I personally admire him, but sometimes people who operate from a creative place can sometimes not see the entire picture, which is why creatives are ‘governed’ by corporates. I just feel that the office folk (Precious and the team) should have come in, controlled the process instead of joining the crowd to watch the crash…

  2. missmillib says:

    I’ve been waiting for an honest, unbiased report back as I was tuned into the epic event via Twitter while sitting in the comfort of my couch on Saturday night. I agree with you when you say, a designer’s craft, which is what people come out for, should be the top priority of such an event and not the actual show. Because once the show is over, it’s all about the day to day business of making clothing. I wanted to take a visiting friend to David’s new shop a few Saturdays ago and it was closed and empty inside. I wondered what was happening because I was pretty stoked that he had changed locations to Braamfontein, but at what costs? Recognition is wonderful, especially when deserved, but sometimes in our industry we miss the point by making it the reason d’etre. Needless to say, it was an ambitious feat for the organisers to take on, one which must be commended.

  3. Akona says:

    Great article Dion

    Obviously it was no surprise that David’s show would be late, but making it a habit makes him and team seem disorganised.

    I saw scenes of the show on tv and the net and also wondered about the lighting, as well as the impact of the shoes on the tar as the road wasn’t covered. Maybe they could have spent more on proper lighting by foregoing the fireworks… I don’t know

    Either way, brilliant idea from David.

    Thanks for the write up

  4. Thithi Nteta says:

    I just had a conversation with a friend who was at the show and she just spent an hour taking me through the ordeal that I watched unfold on Twitter from the comfort of my own home. I, like Mili chose to skip this one because I remember David Tlale making us wait last year and I could not fathom that he would run on schedule.
    I am really happy to see an honest account of what happened. I hope that King David and AFI take heed of what has been said and stop this rubbish now. It’s enough now.

  5. Bethea Claton says:

    Thank you for your honesty!
    Great design does not need extravaganza and pr that becomes larger than they are !
    If one wants to go so large one should make sure that production know what they doing!
    The PR was bigger than what they produced and its sad that its David that will feel this hard for his brand..
    Less is more and always will be!
    Egos need to be checked and rechecked…

  6. noor-jehan yoro badat says:

    Hi Dion,
    Just discovered your blogsite, via twitter, and I love your insights.
    You’re absolutely on the money with your article on David’s show. It’s a pity that the whole event was an anti-climax to what should have been an otherwise memorable night.
    I agree with Miss CassandraGud – the final show and the limelight should have been shared with other designers. I don’t know how it works in the fashion industry, when it comes to choosing the designer to end the show for fashion week, but I can only imagine how hurt the other designers must have felt at not having the opportunity to share the bridge.
    I look forward to reading more of your thoughts 🙂

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] This was a highly anticipated event in the first quarter of 2011 social calendar, the closing show at Jo’burg Fashion Week. David Tlale was the designer presenting his collection as the finale and the premise was exciting: the Nelson Mandela Bridge, 92 dresses in celebration of the 92 years the bridge’s namesake had been on the planet (then), which meant 92 models. The clothes were beautiful, here’s what one of my favourite trend trackers had to say about the overall feel of the show […]

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