#alien adventures: SAFW the bold, the beautiful and the just plain bizarre

The wonderful thing about Alien Adventures is that you never know when they are going to happen and how intense they will be when they do occur. The fashion world is natural fit for an Alien Adventure, but little did I expect such a wild ride on the first night of SA fashion week (summer 2011). The venue was the amazing new Shine studios complete with can-almost-touch-it breathtaking view of Mandela bridge.

But what took the breath away was on the ramp: in a good way, as well as a slap-me-on-my-back-because-I-might-choke-with-laughter kind of way.

First the bold.

Jacques van der Watt from Black Coffee had to prove a point. No one said as much, but this was the first collection without co-designer Danica Lepen, and everyone was curious to see what he would come up with. What emerged was “a new modular system of interlocking laser-cut garment components that could be configured to fulfill multiple functions“. It was stunning. Part art installation and part fashion show, the experience restored my faith in local fashion. It felt like a South African take on an Issey Miyake-type concept, with the models unfurling like the Ginko leaf shapes they were wearing. Black Coffee is launching a furniture line in July, and the expectations will be just as high.

Then to the beautiful.

Amanda Laird Cherry’s collection was like a soothing African summer breeze. She used a palette of earthy nude tones, with vivid shots of orange. Loose flowing shapes contrasted (and complimented) with wonderful textures – specifically a paper-like cotton organdie – created a mood that made you feel like reaching a long cool drink.

The to the just plain bizarre…

It was at the final show for the night that this Alien Adventure really kicked in. Reggiestar (another collection without a former collaborative partner) provided the first parallel universe experience: the designer sang – live, stage left –  throughout the collection. This was a first for me. Reggie actually has a great voice and he obviously rehearsed furiously, so that any vocal malfunctions would not distract from the collection. However, the rehearsal time obviously impacted on the collection in terms of focus. Shiny fabrics are one thing, exposed zips a-popping are quite another. You can’t launch a singing career at a fashion week. You need to decide what you want to be and stick to your knitting.

Then came the ultimate Alien Adventure of the evening: Uyanda Mbuli’s Diamond Face Couture (which I’ve always thought was, how shall I put this…an interesting name). DFC made an unlikely collaboration with Cross Trainer for this collection.   Now I’m all for collaborative efforts, but unless you’re a John Galliano, mixing “couture” and trainers needs a very, very skilled hand. The show included a DJ – also live, stage right this time – and I am still convinced that the concept of the collection was as follows: corporate secretaries who go out for a binge night (on a school night), and come daybreak, haven’t quite come off the drugs and have to dress hastily for work. That’s my interpretation and I’m sticking to it because it’s the only way I can grasp what went down that runway. Sad thing is, there were one or two beautifully cut, figure hugging dresses, but they faded into the distance like demure wallflowers finding themselves in a hallucinogen fueled club.

[all pics by Ivan Naude]

Comments
One Response to “#alien adventures: SAFW the bold, the beautiful and the just plain bizarre”
  1. Itumeleng says:

    You hit the nail on the head Mr Chang with your comments about the final show on the opening night of the SAFW. I am unable to comment on the earlier shows, Black Coffee and ALC (though having attended their previous shows and seen their work, can believe what you have written), however, I was present for the final show for which I had to wait for nearly and hour to get a ticket.

    For the past couple of years I have been attending the SAFW and most recently attended the Audi Fashion Week (now Joburg Fashion Week, which was poorly organized – they could take a note from the organizers of the SAFW who always seem to do a stellar job… except for the ticketing issue) and have found it incredibly sad that many attendees invited to the shows actually have little interest in fashion. It is often about whom you know at these events, and I remember attending the show held at Arts on Main last year, walking up to the lady who had the tickets and asking for a ticket to watch the show. “Who are you?” was the question in response to my query about an extra ticket given the number of people who had not collected their tickets. First she enquired about who I was, followed by an excuse about being late as the show had begun (which was a lie because there were still people waiting to be let in, amongst them Ursula – Top Billing). When I pointed this to her, she told me that I was not from a media house as a result she would not be able to help me. “Some people are more equal than others” I guess.
    Enough said about that because my sense is this will not be changing anytime soon. Front row seats will always go to people who pay little attention to the clothes and rather use the time as an opportunity to be seen sending messages, tweeting or whatever they appear to be doing on their Blackberrys. Perhaps forgivable at the end of the opening night, however this appeared to be the trend even at the poorly attended shows of Lunar (whose designs were incredible) and the show that also featured Urban Goddess. Having just read your blog entry about David Tlales late-show, I have to say that there is a lot of talent in South Africa. Many designers such as Black Coffee, Lunar, Abigail Betz don’t get the same level of respect as do other designers whose focus on design relies heavily on their degree of stardom far removed from the work being produced in sewing rooms. The same is true for designers who rely on celebrities to model their clothes as you so put it in your previous entry, it takes the focus away from the work. This can however be great if one is not confident about the design, which seems to have been the case for both designers at the end of the opening night of SAFW as their designs were shockingly bad. I totally agree with you, because while most designers spend their time working on their designs, for others the work seems to be rushed, and spent putting out fires here and there, getting a tune-in here and there. This is not to say that when you work in a particular area, the interest should remain sorely in that area, as is the case with Jacque (Black Coffee) who follows on the heels of previous designers like Julian, who have expanded their brand to include other things. However, the work should not be compromised as it compromises the brand of SAFW, which should serve as an inspiration for young design talent at fashion schools. I hope that the failures of the past weekend will serve as motivation to start work on what really matters at a fashion show – designs.

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