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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#FASHIONWEEK: Durban Fashion Fair 2017 in Review by Monde Mtsi


August 23rd – 25th, 2017 saw the return of the annual Durban Fashion Fair (DFF), a fashion spectacle that brings together Durban’s finest fashion talents and invited guest designers from outside the Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) region. One of the most refreshing experiences of DFF is the clear visibility of the eThekwini Municipality in everything that is done. From the hospitality afforded to invited guests to the practical assistance awarded to designers, especially those based in KZN; appropriate, considering their work influences the local KZN economic stream. It was great to find myself in a space where the industry workshop stipulated actually occurred, unlike other platforms where it seems to vanish into thin air. I must admit, I found Durban people a lot more welcoming and friendly, not to mention engaging on matters of industry as opposed to frivolous gossip. I must applaud DFF for feeding us. Never have I enjoyed watching fashion gallivant down a runway more than I did at DFF, with a full stomach and a smile on my face. Anyway, my overall experience of DFF was amazing and Durban weather came out to play.

In terms of the fashion, there will always be disappointments and always collections to be celebrated. I must admit that during the shows I found myself incredibly heartbroken at certain points; not because the collections were devastatingly terrible, but rather because my expectations were of a different kind. After having some time to live through the emotions and process what I saw from afar, the following is a selection of what I enjoyed and why. And this is in no particular order.

It was a ready to wear collection, retail prepped with a dose of modern woman attitude. The proportions were correct, the finish was articulate and honestly speaking it was coherent – meaning she understood what she was doing and who she was selling to. A point from my side she could have investigated: Making the collection all black – yes, she risks similar commentary in a sense of ‘it was not exciting enough’, however, I feel with the fabric and colour choice she went with, it become more festive/Christmas type and less day-into-night work and play wardrobe for today’s young businesswoman.

A little bit of a blast from the past and a dose of futurism, Martin Steenkamp’s Recognition Award winning collection was a fave of mine from the first look. Albeit pink on a man is something not so groundbreaking these days, I think the juxtaposing of elements worked on his side. The overtly masculine chunky accessories, reminiscent of early 80s Hip-Hop and R’n’B music video styling set against the soft-spoken organza, silk and pleated velvets played a fashion gender bender game; while the layering and over-all styling gave you a dream that you could envision rehashed for the store’s window display. I personally thought form a technical aspect it showed growth, understanding of pattern-manipulation and fabric assortment. I for one am looking forward to seeing more from this young designer.

Athinkosi Mfungula produced a collection fit for the modern prince. It was young, royal and tailored to take off the edge on dressing stiff and injected life into suiting. Easily one of the most retail/store ready collections to come out of the Mentorship Programme, and understandable why he won a Recognition Award for 2017 Rising Star from the Mentorship Programme – the collection is complete from start to finish, fabric choices are clear and understood and the fact that it makes sense as a complete unit is refreshing from young talent. His colour choices and small design details made a huge difference in the experience of this collection.

Okay, I’m going to keep this brief. Very brief. Ntokozo should have designed and created these two looks first and worked her way from there. The entire collection was in shambles – all over the place; this two looks made it stick. Again, not groundbreaking, but fresh for the market. These two looks would have been the epicentre from which the entire collection lived off and thrived. On the two-piece look, switch the bell sleeves to a fitted ¾ sleeve, bring the hemline up to just above the knee and ad a slit over one thigh and you have yourself a cocktail dress. Dye it into a burning red and it’s a statement piece for that office party you didn’t want to attend. This collection has so much potential to be magnificent – she just needs to rework it.

Okay, so it’s not exactly the most amazing collection to have ever graced a runway in the world, however, I’m bias because of the layering and the gathering in the tops. It’s my kind of style, so I guess it’s featuring because it’s touching on something that is explored – not enough – in local fashion in South Africa. Apart from Stiaan Louw and David West, I don’t know any other local designers that enjoyed deconstructing gathering and how it works against the male form, as much as they did and for me, Afro Amanno is headed in that direction and I’m here for the support. I think colour combination and fabrication could be explored further and an addition of two to three really dramatic pieces/looks would do this collection justice.

Ever wondered what alternative modern women have for wardrobe? What she would wear that was unashamedly bold, exciting, respectable and confident? DIVA, most likely. So much respect for the female body and form, yet so young and vibrant: From colour choice, fabrication, cut and accessories, the collection is day for night and holds no reservations about it being superbly finished and articulate. If anything, it’s a resort collection with pieces belonging to be worn in the colder months too, just for the kick of the colour.

“Heal the world, Make it a better place.”

Mxolisi Luke Mkhize produced a graciously emotional collection. Simply titled, “Beautiful Nightmare”, the collection illustrates a tarnished relationship of war inside love; a tap dance between lovers in their own crossfire. Set in all white, the collection encompassed a simple storyline: A child walking in on an abusive relationship – father oppressing the mother – they act innocent in an attempt to disguise the pain, but it only deepens the sorrow.






The collection was a coherent, thought-through, finished and articulate. There were some great standout pieces and looks and the introduction of children’s-wear was a happy surprise for all of us. Not only was this collection the biggest to come from the studios of House of St Luke, but also the most trying for the designer. “There was a moment during the making of this collection when I thought I was never going to finish, I wanted to stop,” giggles Creative Director of House of St Luke, Mxolisi Luke Mkhize. “It took my closest confidant and my best-friend and mother to convince me to continue, to finish what I started”.





And we’re grateful that he finished what he started. The collection was a breath of fresh air from the brand and we enjoyed every single piece and look that touched the runway.

Indoni presented a small, well put-together collection of day dresses, cocktail party moments and evening attire. It was a collective of bright, feminine pieces that speak to the contemporary lady of corporate South Africa. I enjoyed the maxi-dresses for their decorum: adult yet young-at-heart. It’s a beautifully flirtatious collection.

“The Secret Misty Garden”, a presentation by Paledi Segapo, was a high voltage experience. A collection telling a story from casual to formal in partnership with CAT Footwear. My favourites from this secret misty garden include the hooded-cape ensemble, with the single red rose on a blanket of black. A simple and yet effective day-into-night look. The all-black, cropped pants ensemble is perfect for the weekend escape. Perhaps coastal and surrounded by palm trees – appropriate to complement the fern of the chest of the shirt. The casual denim look is great for Friday agency drinks or hitting the town with the gents over the weekend. It’s detailing is merciful enough not to be overdramatic yet it allows you to stay in trend and on par with international moves. My favourite and probably the most statement of them all is the formal black two-piece suit with the floral panel details and trouser embellishment. It’s chic, ready for gala dinners and the fit is complimentary.

To be honest, there was nothing incredibly disappointing about the Q&G collection. I just thought the only item we needed to see was the coral/salmon polka-dot ensemble. I think for me, it was the ‘wow’ factor of it as it floated with poise and confidence down the runway. The mere act of the dress coming alive made it all the worthwhile to watch on the catwalk. The rest of the collection felt completely resort – which is region appropriate with Durban’s humidity being the only singular factor present whether it’s raining or sunny. I personally would have loved to have seen more swimwear, day wear and cocktail ensembles. Not to say the flirtatious evening wear was out of place, but I do think for the market and region, more fun on a resort-like holiday would have been sparkles.

All in all I was impressed at the performances by these and all designers, in fact. It’s not play in the park for a designer to go from sketch to finshed product to fashion week showcase. From personal torment, financial drama, self-doubting of sketches and designs, it’s an emotional rollercoaster ride that can make or break a designer. And to Durban Fashion Fair, the eThekwini Municipality and all the other supporting partners: Kryolan and Pond’s – Thank You for hosting a wonderful event and showing us media partners such beautiful hospitality. Here’s to Durban Fashion Fair 2018!


#fashionweek #durbanfashionfair #dff #womenswear #ladieswear #menswear 

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