Confessions of a maximalist, by Aspasia Karras
Words: Aspasia Karras | Illustration: Eva Faerch
There was a time when I commuted from Joburg to Cape Town on a regular basis. My team in Cape Town eventually confessed that on the days they knew I was going to be in town they all wore heels. I concluded that perhaps in the eyes of Capetonians the simple act of wearing a heel is considered a maximalist act. Perhaps my entire sartorial expression is based on the fact that I am a born-and-bred Joburger. Something about our urban personality imposes heels on a girl. Even your colleagues in coastal towns, where the humble sandal holds sway, are persuaded of the inherent value of 9 inches.
On a recent Friday evening, I was driving out of the city, through the intense cacophony of the taxi rank swelling with the Friday crowd, revellers, workers, petty criminals, swaying beer drinkers, and I felt invigorated. What a story every animated face could tell. I had spent two days in the battered but still beautiful mothership of a city hall, with hundreds of aspirant designers who are all vying to become David Tlale’s next intern.
Joburg is pure invention; she rises out of the now-defunct mines like a challenge to the flat Highveld skyline. Her attitude is a given. Sexy, defiant, coy, more is more, never to be ignored. Pay attention, I am here, bitches.
The energy was ridiculous, and so were some of the creations. Wild dresses that belong in an alternate universe where women only manifest at parties, sipping on champagne and being the very baddest and boujeeiest iterations of themselves. The sheer (sometimes quite literally) inventiveness of these ideas of a Joburg fashion sensibility, felt entirely appropriate. A street edge coupled with flamboyance that can only be explained by the freedom and delight dressing up can bring.
It is the delight I experience every morning as I stand in my cupboard and dress up. I love the idea that clothes can speak, and sometimes shout things about you before you've said a word.
It's never a costume but it is something that is joyful and fun and invented. Today I am going to channel a Swedish goth, tomorrow a 50s movie star. Is there something consistent in all this shape shifting? Yes. An absolute love of clothes and fashion, and a kind of magical thinking about the secret powers and peculiar freedom a new outfit can bring to a day.