By Tillie Eze
Photography by Simon Deiner / SDR Photo
The inaugural Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa featured collections of more than 25 designers, spread out over four days in South Africa’s economic capital, Johannesburg.
Hosted at the stylish Melrose Arch, the event provided a platform to a range of significant designers from Africa, Europe, the Caribbean and the U.S.
MBFW Africa played host to a number of notable editors, buyers and models, including former Victoria’s Secret model Ajuma Nasenyana; Albino model and humanitarian Diandra Forrest; and emerging Tanzanian model Flaviana Matata.
The four-day event began with a trio of local South African designers – Kyra-Moon Halfpenny, Kim Gush and Wetive Nkosi – who were chosen to be a part of African Fashion International’s Fastrack Show. A national fashion design development platform, this show is aimed to nurture and develop South Africa’s young design talent, offering them an opportunity to launch their careers through intensive mentorship and business development coaching.
“The Fastrack is a huge part of African Fashion International’s development program as we want more of our designers to be passionate about their craft to achieve success,” says AFI executive chairperson, Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe.
On the runways, Halfpenny presented a collection filled with layers of cashmere, cotton and wool pieces. Gush was a menswear designer whose collection was almost all black with sprinkles of grey among the dark tones. The clothes and aesthetic were reminiscent of Rick Owens, which was clear from the variants of black on skirts, shorts, suits, pants and shawls.
Minimalism is not a word synonymous with traditional African fashion, but it was something that did make an appearance this season. Jacob Kimmie of South Africa and Mille Collines of Rwanda, each showcased collections that focused on the female form, with linear lines and multi-dimensional shapes that were very flattering to the natural structure of a woman’s body. Kimmie’s deconstructed looks and cut-outs were fresh and on-trend, while Collines’ line featured draping, construction, and use of neutral tones with only small pops of bold colour.
Another memorable show was a collaboration by two menswear designers, Laurence Airline of Ivory Coast and Craig Native of South Africa. Both created wearable collections with a fusion of local fabrics, masculine silhouettes and bold prints. Airline’s collection featured fresh summer hues juxtaposed against strong bold prints and panelling.
From quirky sweaters with cartoonish graphics and simple denim shirts or vests, to harem pants and Bermuda shorts in a solid colour or bold print, Native’s collection had many great pieces. Native showed promise for the future of menswear in South Africa.