Can we move past the whole ‘Africa is a trend’ mindset? It’s clearly a lot more intricate than that. Making sweeping statements about what’s happening in fashion across such a huge continent is no small task, but there is a good place to start: African Fashion International’s Cape Town Fashion Week. Designers from across the continent brought their collections to a massive warehouse in Salt River, where one major trend seemed to stand out. In fact, it’s more than a trend. It’s a feeling of unity: unity in diversity and a celebration of that.
Reading this trend starts by looking at the collections in a very formal way: colour and texture is always vibrant and varied. There’s a patchwork sensibility which not only speaks to that sense of unification, but also to the slow fashion mindset of recycling rather than wasting fabrics in ways that are beautiful. Then it becomes more conceptual: how these formal elements begin to create meaning and forge a fresh sense of indigenous identity.
Photographed by Tatyana Levana
Salima Abdel-Wahab (Morocco) kicked off the evening with an extremely vibrant collection where craftsmanship took centre stage.
Leigh Schubert (South Africa) electrified the runway with colour-block, zigzag and fauna prints in a very city-centric collection.
Maxhosa by Laduma (South Africa) was a continuation of the designer’s exploration of his signature Xhosa-inspired patterns. This season saw new textures and embellishments make their debut.
Imprint (South Africa) collaborated with the publication Africa Is Now to inject a sense of contemporary streetwear into designer Mzukisi Mbane’s beautifully ornate and painterly prints.
Leandi Mulder (South Africa) was the strongest expression of patchwork and quilting – making it feel casual (in denim) and ready to wear right now.
If the models at Lalesso (South Africa) weren’t wearing a straw hat, they were balancing a straw basket on their head. It seemed a subtle way of reminding the international fashion world (currently also punting dramatic straw hats – Jacquemus jumps to mind) that Africa owns this trend.
Kahindo (DRC) showed an accessible and fully-wearable collection of jumpsuits and light-hearted suiting.
Quiteria & George (South Africa) ended the night with a tsunami of tulle and embellishment opulence. Dresses were larger than life, generously embellished, and undeniable in their sense of presence.
Perhaps the best thing about all the above is that there’s plenty more where that came from. This was just one night of shows. We’ll keep you posted.