12 October 2018

South Africa: The Designers Came Through, Honey! But Why So Many Empty Seats at Fashion Week?

Photo: PHOTOESSAY: African Designers Knock Audience's Socks Off!

This year's African Fashion International Joburg Fashion Week was hosted by the city's favourite lifestyle destination, Melrose Arch, under the theme #AfroAsia from October 4 to 7.

Johannesburg — It's the third day of the African Fashion International Joburg Fashion Week at the Melrose Arch in Johannesburg. Local and international designers and models are not here to play, so you'd think everyone would have let their guard down, especially since the show has been running for three days straight. But noooo!

This year designers are showcasing their latest collections under the Afro-Asia theme and the fashion week's hashtags are #AFI_SA #AFIJFW and #AFROASIA.

The audience members are not here to play in their latest fashion, cameras and make-up, I'm not here to play either. Everyone's eyebrows are on fleek, mine on the other hand...well let's just say I need to watch these Youtube tutorials I've been bookmarking for years.

It's 12:30, and Beach Cult and Gabrielle Swimwear open the day's show with sexy swimwear under the sun at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice pool. The designers and models do not disappoint. Models of all shapes strutted in colourful pieces made of silk and satin chiffon, including palazzo pants, elegant summer resort dresses and bohemian kimonos. The hosts made sure the champagne flowed freely.

The second show is Curated African Fashion Emporium by David Tlale. Four of Tlale's interns are showcasing their collections, not the man himself, maybe that explains the underwhelming attendance. I don't see any local celebrities here but we always see some of them travel overseas for international fashion shows like New York Fashion week and the Paris Fashion Week only to name a few...and they will be wearing international brands to add salt to the wound.

It's so disappointing how local talent does not get much recognition in these parts. Anyways the interns blow the audience away. I see a familiar face, Sihle from the just-ended #ProjectRunwaySA. Yes the dramatic one! His collection is the best - well I might be biased since I'm new to this runway business.

The third show for the day is Botswana Collections featuring Mothusi Lesolle, Boitumelo Seboko, Black Trash, Aobakwe Molosiwa, Sharon Taolo and Lesedi Matlapeng. Here we see beautiful Shweshwe fabric creations, most of these items are ready to wear garments I notice. I'm blown away. Sadly the audience is now half what it was, and there are very few people to share my state of blownawayness...

The audience fails to fill up the large white marquee that is big enough to house hundreds of guests. Random people get invited to fill up the empty front seats; aren't those meant for the Who's Who of the entertainment industry, rich people and other respectable members of society? Members of the public without tickets are invited to come inside in a quest to fill up the venue but still empty seats greet models and designers. South Africans do no take it lying down when international companies steal or appropriate local designs but when it comes to supporting local designers they drag their feet.

The shows run until late into the night and into the following day. Hopefully better PR will be done to boost attendance for 2019's show and the newly relaxed South Africa visa regulations will allow more designers and models to attend.

CLAN and Deola Sagoe's shows, which were scheduled to take place on October 5, were cancelled due to visa complications. While African Fashion International (AFI) have done their utmost to allow the designers entry into the country, the efforts will not ensure their timely arrival. CLAN and Deola were looking forward to being a part of the amazing #AfroAsia theme fashion week and they send their sincere apologies to all their clients and supporters. The designers and AFI hope that their avid supporters will be able to see the CLAN and Deola collections soon, reads a press release from the show organisers.

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