I've been nervous about reporting on this year's SA Fashion Week summer collections. If you really want some great collection reviews of the shows, you could ways go to the following blogs and sites:
I on the other hand, think there's much more value in discussing the actual event, format and the place of a fashion week in South Africa's current state of affairs, more importantly, why we should collectively consider doing something else that will work for our industry. The South African Fashion Week model is based on the American model as far as I could tell when I was in NY. We know how to put on a proper Fashion Week and that's thanks to the pioneer of Fashion Week in South Africa, Lucilla Booyzen of SAFW. When it started in 1997, nobody had done it before.
Fashion Week used to be a magical event where all the know-it-alls and the ones everybody wants to know were in attendance. You aspired to go there if you were on the outskirts of the industry and everything was coveted and very important. Until last year, SAFW was, for five years, sponsored by Sanlam. Last year, the contract ended and Sanlam decided not to renew it. (According to the rumour mill, Patrice Motsepe sits on the Sanlam Board and probably didn't even have to pull any strings to ensure that his wife, Dr Precious Moloi Motsepe and her African Fashion International get rid of their only competition.) The mill also says that the money they were putting into SAFW has now gone to golf. Whether it's true or not, the result of Sanlam pulling their sponsorship has devastated the industry.
I couldn't attend Clive Rundle's 5 piece instillation and I'm very sorry because I heard it was good. The majority of the shows this season were utterly disappointing. I won't knit-pick today, maybe if you bump into me one day we can talk about it. The sense of loss was evident and the event was more of a funeral for the thing we've loved and adored for years than the fashion event of the year. I've been avoiding getting to the bottom of this because I don't want to hurt anybody, but I think people are already hurt that it was the way it was. It was really dry, not because of the organisation, but for me, it was because of the standard and quality of work put out by some of the designers. That said, it's not the only thing that was wrong there, it's hard to pin point actually because there are a lot of unknowns and things that are only whispered in enclosed spaces. There were few high-profile media and a lot empty seats. Where were the people? Where were the big sponsors? No Mac, Loreal, Redken. Etv was a sponsor, I didn't see an Etv crew filming people. I hope I'm wrong. Then the Sunday Times puts a picture of Indian Fashion Week on the front page, the day after SAFW was over. Could that not be construed as a deliberate snub? Where were the established designers?
I don't know what the solution is but I do think there are things we could be doing better. There needs to be a national fashion council if we ever hope to give meaning to the last 14 years. The brains behind SAFW and the money behind the Motsepe's have got to settle their differences. If we really want to develop this industry, we've got to come up with a different format, Fashion Week as we know it leaves a lot of people poorer than they began, despite the exposure. Nip it in the bud, continue changing it until we find something that works, otherwise nobody is going to win. I think the buyer and media and networking sessions really worked for designers at this year's shows and I think those kinds of innovations are examples of where we should be headed. What didn't work was having people like Uyanda Mbuli's ego take up 30 minutes of people's time. To me, her show was a slap in the face of the industry because not only were her clothes insanely badly cut, sewn and thought of, it was more of a spectacle that she could have put on on a private platform. She used celebrity and booted media reps out of their seats so that her friends and fans could watch the show. Of course she's not the only person that's ever done that before but this time, her show stood out because the other shows didn't have that element of dull celebrity. Nobody cares about celebrities anymore, especially in this country.
It's like there's an indispensable plant that we all need for sustenance, but it has weeds all around it. We need to smoke the weeds out of the garden. I couldn't for the life of me post a frivolous report about who showed what because I think this problem has eclipsed that option. If this is going to work, the media, corporates, retailers, designers and other important legs of this industry, need to come together and pull up our socks otherwise everybody is going to lose. I'm tired of keeping quiet and hoping things will be better. I want to act. South Africa is on the precipice of something nasty if the right people don't stand up and speak. Jonathan Jansen has warned us of the dangers of pretending as if things are fine when they are not. Some say it's the year of the Tiger's tendency for aggression and schisms that's making our air a little bit thicker, whatever it is, we've got to come together and save our industry and our country.