African collaborations at fashion week


Johannesburg – The South African capital of Pretoria is not exactly considered a fashion hot spot, but Precious Moloi-Motsepe, chairwoman of African Fashion International, organisers of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa (MBFWA), believed that it was time for the city to shine.

“There are a lot of fashion-conscious people living in Pretoria,” she said, “and that’s why it made sense to hold MBFWA there. In fact, more designers should start opening stores in Pretoria. So far, we only have Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel du Toit.”

The duo, who won this year’s Designers of the Year Award presented at MBFW Africa, opened their Pretoria boutique earlier this year.

Still, Pretoria was admittedly a schlep for many people, designers and the media included, who were mostly based in Johannesburg, and organisers of the various fashion shows were scrambling to arrange transport for guests to and from the Tshwane City Hall venue.

Mozambican designer Taibo Bacar, last year’s Designer of the Year winner, was unfazed by the distance.

“I like to think Maputo is just next door, so the 45-minute drive to Pretoria is a breeze for me.”

Bacar was one of 14 fashion and accessories designers from all over Africa invited to take part in the Samsung AmazeAfrica showcase, a collaboration that paired established and emerging designers to create looks inspired by technology.

New York-based milliner Albertus Swanepoel was pleased to work with South African designer Jacques van der Watt of Black Coffee.

Katherine-Mary Pichulik, an up-and-coming accessories designer, was paired with Bacar.

“Basically, we were given the challenge of creating an accessory or holder for the notebook. I’ve done a range of four different pieces, each one inspired by the cycad, a plant indigenous to Africa.

“So we looked at the texture, the color, the material, the line … and Taibo incorporated that into elegant dresses, while I worked on the production of accessories to go with that,” said Swanepoel.

Laurence Chauvin-Buthaud, who is based in her native Cote d’Ivoire and France, designs the men’s wear line LaurenceAirline.

She was paired with Cape Town-based accessories label Missibaba, whose signature is hand-worked leather.

Chauvin-Buthaud’s men’s wear, which she says does well in Copenhagen and Sweden, has been lauded for its crisp, clean lines, and clever use of African prints as geometric detail.

“I am between Africa and Europe,” she said, “but my roots are always here. In terms of my design, I always do the connection between my African roots and something of the future, of France. Like I am a mix, I do a mix.”

The MBFW Africa Fashion Awards winner for Emerging Designer of the Year, Tanzanian-born and South Africa-based Anisa Mpungwe of Loin Cloth and Ashes, teamed up with Doreen Mashika of Tanzania, whose designs are in store at Eileen Fisher and Anthropologie as part of a special East African project.

“It was pretty interesting to work together,” Mpungwe recounted, “because the deadline was so timed that everyone was rushing to get stuff done.

“It was also interesting because our inspiration was bees, wasps and ants. I am mostly an African prints designer, so working with different kinds of prints was a whole other world I discovered, like silks with a kind of sheen and texture to resemble a bee’s wings, for instance.”

Other designers participating in the showcase, part of Samsung’s global Accelerating Discoveries and Possibilities initiative, included Adèle Dejak and Rift Valley Leather of Kenya, Projecto Mental of Angola, 1982 by Nane Brenu of Ghana and Italy, as well as Marianne Fassler and Quamta of South Africa.

Alek Wek made a special appearance as one of the judges at the awards ceremony.

Other awardees were Gavin Rajah for SA Tourism Designer of the Year, Anita Quansah for Accessories Designer of the Year, Grace Boi for Model of the Year, Zandile Blay for Fashion Communicator of the Year, and Jan Malan for Outstanding Contribution to African Fashion. – Excerpted from Women’s Wear Daily

November 2013
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