While the organisers of the recent Mercedes Benz Fashion Week took “fashionably late” to its annoying extreme, one of the biggest events in the African fashion industry still managed to live up to the hype.
The event attracted some of the biggest names in the world of fashion, including Julee Wilson, fashion editor for the Huffington Post, Sam Lambert, photographer and blogger for the Sartorialist.
The shows on Thursday and Friday were delayed by nearly 90 minutes because of designers running behind schedule. But the mood soon lifted as the colourful creations floated down the runway, with designers vying for the award of Fastrack designer of the year.
This platform offers young designers the opportunity to “fast-track” their careers through intensive mentorship, business development coaching and mentorship for future success. This initiative also gives the winner an opportunity to shadow French designer Fred Sathal, who showcased her Constellations collection this past week. This collection was filled with sequins, beads, prints and rhinestones sewn onto her garments.
The Fastrack designer of the year title went to Kim Gush, who presented some impressive menswear. Gush combines her training in film and fashion with her passion for ancient histories to create stories of the untold. Her use of dark colours and leather could be interpreted as morbid elegance.
Host Precious Moloi-Motsepe enthused about all the designers and spoke of how the initiative had grown throughout the years. “I am very happy with things not just from a sponsorship side of things but also with our collaboration with South African tourism.
“We have liaised with them in order to attract the right names to our event. We are associated with brands that are working towards making African fashion globally relevant. We have worked with Mercedes Gonzales, who is a fashion buyer and has been assisting with out Fastrack initiative.
“This makes the industry sustainable because it starts the work with designers from an early age and teaches them that fashion goes beyond just showcasing on the ramps,” she said.
“We are embracing blog culture … We have the Sartorialist joining us this year. I, myself, am learning a lot about social media and the blog aesthetic. This helps us keep our fingers on the pulse in terms of our different markets,” she said.
Thula Sindi presented an elegant line making a contemporary African statement with bold prints. Sindi had African prints on materials such as embroidered cotton and embossed satin, and made use of sequins. Along with Gavin Rajah, who took us back to the 50s with bright colours and flowy silky designs, other South African designers present were David Tlale, Marianne Fassler and Kluk CGDT.
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week also showcased a number of designers from all over Africa. The crowd’s favourite seemed to be Nigerian designer Ituen Basii, along with Mozambiquan designer Taibo Bacar, who stunned the audience with his eclectic design inspired by the modern African women walking and his travels to other continents.
Bacar showed a collection of navy, green and brown prints to the soundtrack of the Lion King to emphasise the African aesthetic. With a collection of fitted dresses and flowing maxi skirts paired with light cotton shirts Taibo’s designs brought upon a standing ovation from the crowd.
The two designers went on to win designer of the year Africa and best emerging designer respectively.
A few designers’ collections went on for too long or fell short of making enough pieces to leave an impression. Most designers, however, attempted to mix African prints with modern silhouettes. Many succeeded as we saw interesting pieces made of colourful Spring/Summer fabrics from designers such as Elie Kuame and Kibonen to name a few.
Speaking to an elated Bacar after the awards ceremony, he said how grateful he was that recognition was finally coming in his direction.
“Finally people can know who I am, they will finally know who Taibo Bacar is. I have been to many countries but not a lot of people knew about me. I am proud to be from Mozambique but I am more than just a Mozambiquan designer. I want to be known for my talent.”