Kelly Fung looks at the future of fashion in tough economic times.
Words: Kelly Fung | Photography: Nick Gordon
In case you didn’t know, it was Mercedes-Benz AFI Fashion Week this weekend. We know what you’re thinking: “Wasn’t it fashion week like, two weeks ago?” The answer is yes. Due to weather reasons, the shows that didn’t get their moment had to be rescheduled. The (enclosed) Salt River Studios played host to the fashion event on its second attempt, and what a reliable venue it was.
Anyone familiar with the several fashion weeks on our South African calendar will know that this one is little more mature and features a roundup of well-known designers with an already-established market. There is comfort in knowing what to expect from them: cohesive and well-crafted collections which are, quite frankly, commercially viable. You won’t find an attempt at ‘shock factor’ here – it's something the designers have long since gotten over.
In an undeniably difficult economic climate that may foreseeably only worsen, one can’t fault the designers for sticking to what they know, and for focusing on what will ultimately sell. Fashion is business after all. Jenevieve Lyons, for example, put her typically futuristic and experimental show pieces on pause, making way for a cosy offering of tonal layers that could easily be taken apart and worn to the office. Very clever. The reality is, we’re all going to be watching how we spend the little money we have, and if we do spend it on clothing, then that clothing better be versatile enough to wear every day.
A harsh and rather morbid evaluation of local fashion, perhaps, but here's a reality check: even heavyweight international brands like Nine West and River Island are moving out of the country, causing many to question the stability of our retail environment. Sure, there was nothing in the collections that we hadn't seen before, but the designers were no less meticulous in their execution.
Dennis Chuene of Vernac gave us a convincing denim collection elevated with the use of embroidery, woven fabrics and faux fur. Stefania Morland sent her typical fairytale dream (that didn’t look unlike something from Dolce and Gabbana) down the runway, and Laduma, well, we know his knitted silhouettes inside and out. However, the one common denominator is that almost all the collections were flawless in construction and 100% quality controlled, ready to go from runway to retail. Things need to sell, it’s as simple as that.
So, that’s another fashion week done and dusted, and I can’t help but bring up the age-old question: does having too many fashion weeks dilute the whole experience for designers and customers? And more importantly, are fashion shows really the best way forward in promoting engagement with designers?
In my opinion, we need to rethink this rather dated ritual – one that's perhaps familiar or comforting as opposed to effective. We need to find new ways to elevate local fashion and its creators, and now – it’s a matter of survival.