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12 Model Pile Up

12 Model Pile Up

by Jason Basson / 27.07.2011

Cape Town Fashion Week Part 2

Two hours of sleep later and the day was already beginning. The bags under my eyes impeded my vision so much so that I even considered eye circumcision. Surprise, surprise, malnutrition was fast becoming a prominent feature of my life at fashion week. The daily menu usually consisted of chips, pie, gravy and some sort of creamy slop for dessert. To my constant amusement, the models ate everything. One even asked if this was traditional South African food. “It is when you’ve been drinking for 8 hours and you have nowhere to go but Engen or Saul’s Saloon”, I explained.

While we dreamed about food, we joked about models “dropping ass” on the runway, and about the shit-covered 12 model pile-up that would become the headline of the Weekend Argus. Sadly, no such thing occurred. Instead, Kimora Lee Simmons decided to stop by for a few shows. While the presence of an international celebrity designer was encouraging, it did nothing to help the audience focus on the fashion.

The line-up for the day included Lisp, Nucleus, Lalesso, Undacova, Dax Martin, Carducci and Dr Robert Rey, world famous cosmetic surgeon with his new range of lingerie called – wait for it – LingeRey. Lisp presented the audience with a feminine take on the music festival scene. While her designs usually reference the classic, glam and punk rock periods, this season she decided to go for a more contemporary version of Woodstock meets grunge. Her showstopper was a tulip dress with signature elements of distressed fabric and a giant ostrich feather headdress.

Nucleus played it safe with a wearable collection that could easily translate from daywear to nightwear according to accessories.

Lalesso took their trademark prints and silhouettes and transported them to the future with a few new surprise elements including luminous Perspex in the form of jewelry and chain-links on dresses.

Undacova created a rather uninspiring range of underwear. Some pieces took a nautical theme, but aside from that the most interesting part of the show was imagining the meat inside the packages. This was my favorite by far.

Dax Martin was surprisingly good. He focused heavily on print, drawing inspiration from volcanoes, coral and tropical rainforests. His collection was simple, sexy and interesting to look at.

Carducci was probably the best event of the day. With a comprehensive range of smart, casual and semi formal pieces, Carducci really hit the nail on the head. Their palette consisted mostly of baby tones, which would normally induce vomiting in me, but with concurrent themes of plaid and beautiful tailoring, everything came together to create an edgy but sophisticated take on smart wear. I also got a fancy bottle of Bon Cap from the show, so now I’m drunk.

Dr Rey was quite lame. Set at the Land Bank, the show came across as gimmicky and sexist. Big-breasted models were applauded when they took to the runway. It was quite an embarrassing moment for the men of this country. The collection itself wasn’t very groundbreaking in terms of lingerie, but I’m sure it will sell.

Altogether, the day was pretty average in terms of design. However, Carducci and Dax Martin were sensational. Other designers brought interesting elements to the table, but failed to produce a range that was complete.

Day 4: Established Designers

It was the last day. I felt a mixture of relief and sadness. I would finally have the chance to sleep again, but I wasn’t entirely ready to leave the fast-paced world of fashion. Thankfully, lunch included salad for once. I almost cried a thousand tears when I bit into an olive.

It started with the David Tlale show. 30 minutes prior, Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, chairman of AFI discovered that her David Tlale pants were too long and needed a tailor to sort them out. Being the only two fashion designers on hand, my friend Lloyd Loots and I offered our assistance.

Her pants were fixed in the nick of time. Together with Dr Precious’ personal stylist Vittoria, we raced to the Bromwell in Woodstock where Mr. Tlale’s Salon show was to take place.

After running several red lights, my supervisor shat me out for almost missing the show. Clearly flustered and in no way ready to think about fashion, I decided to hit the free sparkling wine and canapés. Big mistake. The seafood risotto left me feeling quite ill.

The show itself was fantastic. Even though everything was completely un-wearable, his collection was aesthetically and conceptually very pleasing. Considering what a botch his last show was, this range was redeeming.

Drawing inspiration from the film Black Swan, his collection consisted of dark colours in tulle, mesh, satin and leather. He threw in a few heavily constructed pieces embellished with feathers, tassels, straps and chains that gave the collection a strong sense of S&M theme which he later tied in with hip corsets to give it a well rounded gothic romanticism.

Leigh Schubert showed next. Being the first time I had ever seen her work, I was instantly blown away. Her collection was simple and muted, but very effective. She played a lot with paneling, contrasting sheer and opaque fabrics to create silhouettes that were paradoxically hard and soft at the same time.

Danielle Margaux then presented a collection that was supposedly 50’s inspired. While some of her silhouettes clearly were, others seemed a little achronistic. Peacock feathers informed her choice of colour, and her range included everything from daywear to nightwear, smart and casual. On the whole, the collection was very impressive.

Thula Sindi, on the other hand, was all over the place. His collection was small and lacked a consistent storyline. His paisley skirts were quite remarkable, and I’m sure any woman would kill to own one. But generally Mr Sindi underperformed this time.

Fabiani was a good show. While nothing stood out as new or groundbreaking, their colour palette for this season was quite exciting. One of the models was an elderly black gentleman, and the crowds loved it. While I thought it was quite gimmicky, perhaps even a little wrong in terms of the ethnographic lens, I did think he was a great model.

Luckily, the next show for the day was the Nelson Mandela Foundation Retrospective. As the event was by invitation only, I was hoping to have some time off. Instead, I was put in charge as junior editor.

Two hours passed in a matter of seconds, and before I knew it was time to go see the last show: Stephania Morland.

There’s always a lot of pressure to perform when you show last at fashion week. From start to finish, Stephania was extraordinary. Every piece, from fabric choice to boning and beading was made from natural, found or recycled objects. Her show held a powerful message about responsible design and environmental conservation.

She offered a comprehensive range of clothing, all in her signature-deconstructed look that was very wearable and visually exciting. Some of the bolder pieces of her collection included a hoop skirt constructed using real hula-hoops and a bridal gown made using feathers, small tree branches and mosquito netting.

To top everything off, the model took centre stage to deliver a smashing performance of “Smells like Teen Spirit”, Tori Amos style. The message was clear: “Here we are now, entertain us. I feel stupid and contagious.”

High from the show and somewhat delirious from Fashion Week as a whole, I handed in my last catwalk report and skipped off to the after party. Contrary to popular belief, fashion after-parties are quite uninspiring. It’s not surprising considering that the only thing keeping anyone from falling over are the drugs.

After a few quiet drinks at the shack, it was time to go home and sleep.

*Read Part One here.

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  1. Yoh says:

    KAK. What dullard journo rubbish. This smacks of sad SA fashion industry kiss-assery.Or at the very least tip-toery or fence sittery. And the observations (drugs, models eating habits, being exhausted) are hardly groundbreaking. David Tlale Sucks. Leigh Schubert is crap. PLEASE, CAN THERE BE A LUCID FASHION VOICE SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDST OF THIS NONSENSE. someone with functioning eyeballs and no industry friends. Someone with an informed sense of taste and (le gasp) an opinion. C’mon Mahala. C’mon.

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  2. Pierce says:

    Yoh: It’s actually nice reading something that isn’t completely scathing for the sake of being a broody mahala writer. Not my favorite article, but atleast it’s honest.

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  3. Yoh says:

    Who said that it had to be scathing? Just refreshing, would be nice. The local fashion industry, and thus fashion week, is comprised of certain “darlings”. The same old names and faces getting fawned over and shamelessly plugged in every wannabe “fashion” glossy or luxury german automobile collaboration. Fashion journalism in this country has been reduced to one voice, one opinion, one that speaks as an insider to, or advocate of our very tiny and isolated fashion scene. The industry is so caught up in pseudo-intellectual musings as to what constitutes Real South African Fashion (where the vom-worthy Tlale is poster boy) and How Far We’ve Come and Celebrating Local Talent etc etc that it often feels ilke the true spirit of Fashion, of innovation, of inventiveness, of basic creativity is lost, and the only thing you ever see walking down the runway are tried n tested ‘concepts’ meets popular industry politics. Fashion as a craft and artform is built just as much on collections as it is critique. And this is what is sorely lacking in South Africa. So long as we all sit back and blow smoke up each other’s butts over the same old things, will the same old things be the only things celebrated.

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  4. Jason says:

    Hey Yoh,

    Thank you for your comment. I will consider it when I next write.

    I think the global fashion industry as a whole has reached a point where new silhouettes are seldom discovered. I agree that many South African fashion designers aren’t performing on an international scale, but i do sincerely believe that they have the potential to and are making slow but steady progress towards that goal.

    I think it’s important to encourage growth and discussion in a local context, which is why my comments are what they are. I don’t know if you read the first article I wrote on fashion week, but i do offer harsher opinions on some of the designers’ work. As for being in the industry, I work as an assistant fashion designer. I’m hardly up there attempting ‘kiss-assery’ on anyone.

    Your experience is obviously different to mine, but with the exception of the fashion publications in this country who (in my opinion) don’t look at fashion with enough criticism, I find that most other platforms seem to want to complain rather than evaluate the strengths and failures of a collection.

    It’s also important to take context into consideration. Most fashion innovation takes place in the realm of textile and brand marketing these days. I wish that contemporary designers worked in the same spirit as those from the 80’s, when conceptual performance fashion was at it’s height. Sadly, with big business taking over major fashion houses, fashion has been reduced to advertising for fragrance and cosmetics. However, because South African fashion isn’t pulling any big business, it has the potential to sculpt itself in a similar vein to that of, say, the American industry in the 80’s.

    Gareth Pugh and Louise Gray are two of my favorite designers. I don’t know if you are familiar with them. In his early career, Pugh was living in a squatter at some point because his garments were too strange to be sellable. His art was more important to him than making a commercial range. Both these designers embody the spirit of what contemporary design should be about. However, in this current economic climate, most fashion designers are thinking about what they can sell rather than what they want to say. It’s sad, but it’s a harsh reality that most designers have to contend with.

    So yes, as I said: David Tlale’s collection was unwearable. It was only redeeming given that his previous show was such a botch (he was three hours late). I think the quality and finish of his clothing is quite poor. However, the show itself was very good this time, and many of his pieces were quite attractive/conceptually interesting. I can only assume that he drew inspiration from ‘Black Swan’, and given more space I would have liked to have mentioned that I think his concept lacked dimension, but I’m sure no one really cares what I think anyway. 😀

    I disagree with your assertion that Leigh Schubert is crap. She isn’t groundbreaking, but her collection this season was impressive.

    So yes, South African fashion (and fashion critique) needs to step it up a few levels, but I think we are making progress. The Fastrack day at Fashion Week was particularly interesting because young designers (most of whom wouldn’t have the means to show) were given the opportunity to show, and some of their collections were very exciting. Hubre Wahl, for example, was one of the designers I liked a lot. The important thing is that younger and less privileged designers are being given a voice and a forum to show, which means the industry (with all it’s old stuffy houses) is changing. This is why I write the way I do.

    Thanks again Yoh.

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  5. hex says:


    When you talk about “art” rather than commerce, what exactly do you mean? what exactly do any of the garments in either this story, or the previous one, have to express to us other than some kind of vapid, narcissistic desire to create ridiculous-looking clothes in the pretentious space allowed for it. I’d like to hear your comment on the “potential” for this stuff to be art. What is the best that you hope could happen at a fashion show like this?

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  6. Anonymous says:


    I used to feel the same way about fashion, but when I started studying it in more depth, I soon realised that it is far more significant and pervasive than I had previously given it credit. Yes fashion is superficial and very fleeting, but that is part of the beauty of it. You yourself cannot deny how crucial your personal sense of fashion is in defining your own sense of self.

    In the same way that ‘art’ progresses through constant reinvention of subject, medium and technique, fashion too progresses through the development of textile, shape and print. I like fashion because it’s an intermediary between various forms of popular media. Not only is it informed by them, but it also plays a significant role in the expression of those mediums.

    For years there has been a an exchange of ideas between the worlds of art and fashion, from turn of the 20th century artists who helped redefine popular conceptions of women in the media, to the 80’s club kid scene that broke down the walls between art and fashion (remember that Andy Warhol and David Lachapelle were both immensely influenced by fashion).

    Fashion can be very conceptual. Look at the work of Thierry Mugler, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gareth Pugh or even our very own David West. These are just some examples of designers who’s work is very political. You need only look at their work to see that it is aesthetically and conceptually a work of art. Marc Jacobs, for example, is one of several designers that constantly collaborate with artists to mass-produce art in the form of fashion.

    The clothes you wear aren’t just clothes, they are ideas that have developped over years. The hemline alone is one of the most significant symbols of the women’s liberation struggle.

    Why do you think people wear suits in an office? Fashion has psychological power: power to opress and to liberate. It’s undeniable. The Hijab is a powerful symbol of oppresion in Islam. However, it wasn’t always used as such. In fact, women started wearing the Hijab in early nomadic communities as a means of spiritual empowerment, and to protect themselves from the prying eyes of horny desert marauders.

    I sincerely believe that Fashion is one of the most undervalued and understudied disciplines out there. I understand the stigmas attached to the fashion industry, but I can promise you that a lot of them aren’t true.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    Thanks Hex

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  7. hex says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive reply. Gives me a lot to think about. May I press ahead with another question? HOW is the work of any one of your cited designers explicitly political per se? it’s possible for a lot of things to have an incidental (or perhaps inescapable, if defined broadly enough) political dimension, but I’m interested in how these fashion designers contribute to political discourse.

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  8. Jason says:

    No worries Hex, I love questions.

    David West is a great example of a political fashion designer. As it stands, most of the fashion houses in South Africa have (as a result of socio-economic circumstances) catered to a predominantly ‘European’ market.

    In 2003, David West designed a collection called ‘Contemporary South African Wardrobe’. Not only did it feature silhouettes unique to the cape flats, he showcased the range in an editorial spread using the flats as the actual setting and by using some of the locals as models.

    I’m sure you get the drift, but he was making a statement about a number of things:
    1) that ‘high fashion’ in this country (catering mostly to the affluent white consumer sentiment) is only further propagating the socio-economic and cultural rift that divides this country.
    2) that designers and consumers alike are responsible for supporting ‘new’ South African goods that represent the country as a whole, support local industry and provide opportunities for sustainable development in local communities (the fabric he used was all local, and the prints were inspired by elements of traditional South African culture).
    3) that South Africans don’t have an identity per se, as we are still too segregated to conceive of an integrated culture.

    Jean-Paul Gaultier is famous for his profound impact on the lgbt rights movement. He advanced the queer aesthetic through his fashion, and often used religious imagery in his designs as a form of camp kitsch, but also as a means to criticize religious institutions (specifically the catholic church) for oppressing women and human sexuality in general.

    It’s important to remember how all these design elements eventually filter down into mainstream culture, which means that every time a young gay man wears a nautical themed t-shirt as a way of asserting gay pride, he is actually paying homage – not only to the early gay pride movements – but to Jean-Paul Gaultier himself.

    I could write an essay about this, but i won’t ruin your life with the details. 😀

    Thanks again for the questions, Hex.

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  9. Dan says:

    @Jason I assume this was your comment (apologies if it was not) ” I like fashion because it’s an intermediary between various forms of popular media. Not only is it informed by them, but it also plays a significant role in the expression of those mediums.”

    No offence to your actual article but I found this idea more interesting and compelling than the article itself. As were your words on David West’s and Jean-Paul Gaultier’s work. If you have time (and the will) I would love to hear more of your thoughts on this topic.

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  10. US of Arseholes says:

    Really Andy? Another one?

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  11. Andy says:


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