Fashion Forward Fitbits

We tracked four fashionistas on the first night of South African Menswear Week

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photography: Zeus Feni | Graphics: Kelly Poole

To an outsider, fashion is something so ridiculous, it needs to change every six months. And while normals may think that us fashion types are a bunch of larger-than-life layabouts with more style than sense (which is why we invented Normcore, to show them we can dominate their lane, too), it doesn't mean we're graft-shy. 

Sure, we know which menswear trends to ignore (or get the difference between a va-va-voom Versace walk and an NYC-style street swagger), but beyond all that, the fashion world is made up of some of the most passionate and hard-working people you could ever hope to meet.

The different fashion weeks allow us to see how everything (and everyone) works together. On the surface it’s a lot of air kissing and Snapchat. However, backstage and behind the scenes it’s a frantic, gruelling and extremely stressful time for all those involved. Which is why we decided to conduct a little experiment… 

For the opening night of South African Menswear Week we armed four industry insiders – Tarryn Oppel, Jen Deiner, Jenevieve Lyons and Peo Khumalo – with the new Fitbit Alta. This subtle bracelet tracks things like steps, distance, active minutes and calories burned; and can record workouts, measure sleep and will even display time and smartphone notifications. It syncs with your phone with your phone and you’re able to use this data to live a healthier life. The clincher? It works with fashionable outfits, too.

Elle Fashion Director Tarryn Oppel's typical workday depends on the magazine's production cycle, and while a good day is the traditional 9-5, shoots and deadlines have kept her at the office until 3am.

“Sometimes I wish I could just sit at my desk, but at the same time I'm grateful I don't. I’m usually away from my desk sourcing, location scouting, attending launches, meeting clients or out and about seeking inspiration.”

Tarryn only synced her device later in the day, which is why her data isn’t as impressive as what it could be. On opening night she collected tickets, watched to the shows, did some social media coverage and it was only after this that things got really manic.

“We’re planning to shoot the week after fashion week, and so I’m literally jumping from my seat and bolting backstage to select pieces before they disappear into the hands of fellow stylists.”

And what about the wearability of Tarryn’s device, did it go with the rest of her outfit? 

“Seeing as the Fitbit is used for tracking sleep activity, I wanted to channel that by wearing it with a pyjama blouse. The Fitbit takes nothing away from my look because it’s simple, streamlined and black. You can’t go wrong with classic black. The Fitbit’s comfortable and perfect for fashion week, especially during the shows where I can check any messages that come through discreetly on the device.”

Jen Deiner is Director of SAMW and has international experience that includes London Fashion Week. 

SA Menswear Week is probably the closest fashion week in Africa to London Fashion Week. By this I mean that the audience is pretty much exclusively media, buyers and industry, including the designer guests. Furthermore, we have clean shows that put the focus on the garments and collections rather than on entertainment.”

Wearing a dress, a jacket she bought in Frankfurt and Nike sneakers, Jen says that plenty of pockets and comfy shoes are essential to her SAMW outfit, and that she “loved the colour and design aesthetic of the Fitbit bracelet.”

It's not uncommon for Jen to work 19-hour days during fashion week, with only the tiniest portion of this time spent behind a desk. Although she aims to get five hours sleep a night, her opening night stats show a decent amount of shuteye, most likely playing catch up for all the hours lost leading up to the event. Jen believes it’s important to keep her body fit enough to take on her busy schedule, and while she recorded the most impressive steps of the bunch, she's more concerned with incorporating her Fitbit data into her regular mountain biking routine.

25-year-old fashion designer Jenevieve Lyons took the final show spot on opening night, and describes SA Menswear Week as a platform where African fashion is able to be recognised globally. 

“Even though SA Menswear Week is developing and only in its fourth instalment, it’s pushing boundaries and changing global perceptions. It’s also exciting to be a part of the growth of our menswear industry.” 

We caught Jenevieve backstage before her show, dressed in a Macula A/W 16 collared shirt and a pure brushed wool coat paired with leggings and block heel boots, where she told us how much she enjoys trying to reach her step goals.

“I also love the Fitbit's subtler details, like that spark of surprise when the time pops up in the matching band colour. It makes me feel technologically advanced. The pink and blue of the FitBit app is enlightening.” 

Because her brand is more than a career, it's her life, Jenevieve says that she regularly clocks 17-hour days, which typically have her deskbound, constructing patterns and sewing, but also have her running around a lot, too. 

Peo Khumalo is a fashion design student currently in her second year. Working as a regular fashion intern, her role as dresser means she's responsible for getting the models clothed for the runway. She needs to know how every look is styled and fits, and must then check everything from shoes to the accessories before a model walks out onto the ramp. 

“As a dresser, you’re pretty much always running around. From helping designers get their garments from their vehicles to the show space, to steaming collections, to setting up garment rails, to sourcing hangers and obviously helping the models get dressed. Depending on the fittings and show time schedules you have to be prepared to work 15-hour days.”

Wearing a zip-up jersey, scarf, black leggings, a bomber jacket and platform sneakers, Peo says: "My Fitbit didn’t interfere with any of my work at all and worked with my outfit very well. I’m required to wear all black and having a pop of colour isn’t such a bad thing.” 

Because of her workload, Peo says she tends to only get around five hours of sleep a night, and relies on caffeine to get her through fashion week. Also, her exercise routine comprises plenty of heavy lifting and running around. Well, we'll have to take Peo's word for it, because she didn't sync her device to her phone properly so we couldn’t track her activity. We'll get you next time, Peo.  

Clearly a lot of hard work and dedication goes into putting on such a great show, and it takes a solid team to produce a show of this calibre. Shoutout to the four women featured here as well as all the other models, dressers, designers, makeup artists, producers, photographers, bloggers, editors and everyone else involved who made SAMW 2016 a success.