An insider's guide to AFI Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town
By Mandy Nash
I was that fashion intern. The one who carried bags up and down sand dunes and did many a coffee run, remembering the order from the photographer for a double espresso with milk on the side. I sat back row at fashion week and then eventually made it to the front row as the assistant to my then-fashion director.
Basically, I've seen some things. This time around, I wanted to share my behind-the-scenes experiences with others – so this year was less small talk and more, “Hey, love your look, take two steps back and let me snap a picture of you”. There were four main scenarios at this year's Mercedes-Benz AFI Fashion Week... Take a look!
Outside with the smokers (where the looks are lit)
They have the pass to both the media lounge and the exclusive fashion week after party. Outfits include anything from a proud off-the-rail moment, to some Fedisa student's late night insomnia creation, or, if you’re lucky enough to be an It-girl, an actual designer look straight from the runway. Either way, they’re serving the looks and feeling as lit as their popped menthol cigarette.
Front row (the best seat in the house)
These are the people I've looked up to since my first year of college (before my aforementioned intern years). Atang Tshikare has done it all, from the Design Indaba stand, with his personal label Zabalazaa, to the live graffiti for Converse at Rocking The Daisies. Malibongwe's told all the Skatties, Emile has shared her enviable lifestyle through the pages of Elle, and Kelly Fung recently walked down the red carpet from Marie Claire and right into the Superbalist offices. These are the movers and the shakers. We follow them and they lead us, one opinion at a time.
The models (the ones caught up in all the makeup and madness)
Happy J Umurerwa is doing big things locally, while Nina Milner has been dominating internationally. We’ve seen Sanele Xaba and Jae grow close over the years on the ramp and witnessed Victoria Secret's Ajuma Nasenyana closing pretty much every show. They've been tugged at from every angle, before you get to see those real good-looking, two-metre-tall figures strutting down the runway.
The designers (the real heroes)
The designers were buzzing until the very last minute – straightening here, a snip of thread there. Laduma was pinning broaches onto pants. Stefania and Shana Morland got kids smiling and kept them smiling before their long walk down the ramp. Each designer was working hard until the final seconds, pulling together weeks' worth of effort for this one moment on the ramp.
Thanks to the photographers who let me in and showed me the behind-the-scenes ropes. That's Nick Gordon for the correct lighting test, Aidan Tobias talking me through the 35mm film options, and Sinjin Süllwald for lining up the best group shots – and enduring the moments with me when exhausted models chased us off their seats booked by their denim jackets.
If there's a secret to a successful fashion week expedition, it's a squad who knows how to steal the scene.