March 20th marked the opening night of Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, which was held at the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday.
South African designers raised the bar for the three-day affair by pulling out all the stops and setting the tone for 2014’s most highly anticipated fashion funfair.
Among the familiar faces seated in the front row was TV personality Gerry Rantseli-Elsdon, who stunned in a sleeveless skin-tight polychromatic ensemble with a plunging neckline.
Former junior lecturer Irmgard Mkhabela shared the stage with Tsotetsi KL in the opening segment of the fashion show, where his special interest in midcentury design was synthesized with asymmetrical drapery and innovative silhouettes. His structurally original designs echoed an effortlessly fashion-forward collection, which was both daring and quirky – artwork at its finest.
The Tsotetsi KL collection took to the stage shortly thereafter. As a high fashion brand specializing in feminine garments of first-rate quality, the Tsotetsi KL collection painted a picture of a strong, confident and fearless woman in demand of attention. The designs were showcased with an ambiance of elegance, as the nimble models glided gracefully towards the flashing lights at the end of the runway. The showstopper, which received a standing ovation by many, was a stylishly poofy, almost dandelion-like, garment that bounced freely on the catwalk, grabbing the attention of all in attendance – job well done.
After a brief intermission, Cape Town-based designer Stefania Morland showcased her classically timeless collection of feminine, yet functional designs. Although her garments appeared to have a lady-like theme, there was a slight bold and edgy undertone to her collection. The use of playfully simplistic color combinations was genius. In using only the finest hand-selected natural fibers sourced from around the globe, the garments mimicked her textile undertakings by appearing to encompass somewhat of a worldly veneer, almost European in origin. The great deal of range – children clothing, bridal wear and avant-garde headgear included – made for a cohesively well-executed display.
The South African theme was set ablaze in the third installment of the evening, as vuvuzela-bearing toyi-toyier’s kicked off the show by marching down the ramp with facemasks of Joburg-based designer Marianne Fassler. The cultured clothing and kwaito music played throughout the show carried the African flair and got the audience grooving in ululation and excitement – one hell of a party that was. The diversified range of the garments on display brought about a holistically fluid transition from one design to the next. From kasi-style chic, to colorful casual wear and a beautifully beaded bridal gown, this collection clearly had it all. Marianne Fassler, within her own right, received a proudly South African standing ovation at the end of her show.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, the last show of the evening reminded everyone of the digital age we are currently living in. A pair of 3D glasses was placed on each seat in preparation for the final collection, which began with an extraordinary visual display including luminous lasers and thick clouds of smoke. A 3D version of model and TV personality Lalla Hirayama was projected on a big screen as the geisha-garbed headliner for the show. Originally from Japan, Lalla made for a fitting muse to Joburg designer Abigail Betz and her Asian-influenced designs (coincidently in time for Japan Week in Sandton City on March 26). As the smoke-filled air began to settle, a real-life Lalla appeared on the runway to deliver a majestic performance of art in motion to kick-start the show.
Abigail’s collection was predominantly white with pops of bold colors here and there. Her bridal gowns screamed romance whilst her metallic garments and trench coat-styled dresses – not to mention her long-sleeved linen cape-like creation – ushered in a fitting contemporary fusion with the shows digital theme.
South African fashion has clearly reached an all-time high and judging from the looks we saw on the catwalk on Thursday, this year’s fashion week is bound to set the benchmark for up incoming designers within the region.