South Africa recently underlined its growing status as a magnet for talented fashion designers when African Fashion International (AFI) hosted another edition of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa (MBFW Africa) in Pretoria.
For five days, shows were held in the Tswane City Hall and other locations in Pretoria, allowing designers from across the continent to exhibit their prowess through subtle combinations of fabric, colour, shapes and lines.
Designs ranged from the simplistic to the extraordinary. Fabrics like cotton, leather and lace easily co-habited in a single garment and there was no limit to how many garish colours a suit could contain.
While some designers covered models completely with their creations, others felt at total liberty to reveal mid-sections, breasts or sometimes near-nude figures through transparent fabrics.
The ‘old school’ effect blended with contemporary touches and casual stuff held their own against strictly formal wear.
Some of the clothes designers paired up with accessory designers for the shows and the overall impact were generally impressive.
Mostly slim, flat-chested models walked the runway accompanying their clothes with bags, purses, footwear and neckwear in sizes, shapes and colours that told their own stories.
Countries represented in Pretoria included Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Tanzania and Angola.
“Every designer and what they feel they should do,” says Ghana’s Duaba Serwa who showed a collection at the MBFW Africa. “I played around with fabrics. Did some fabric manipulation and everyone saw what came out.”
A good number of the designers attributed the inspiration of their work to a variety of interesting sources.
South African designer, Gavin Rajah, who showed his collection at a lushly-wooded, tucked-away location in Pretoria called Illyria House.
He called what he presented Behind The Veil and said it was inspired by the strength of female characters that ruled from behind the veils in the famous King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table fables.
Another Ghanaian designer at the Pretoria show was Mina Evans-Anfom. She said it took her about a month to put her stuff together for MBFW Africa. The theme of her collection was based on butterflies and leaves to signify change and new beginnings.
An obviously noticeable aspect at the shows was that there were no emcees to tell long tales before the models came on. Even the designers, at the end of their collections, only came on briefly to acknowledge the applause of the patrons.
Music for the shows were carefully selected to match the mood and atmosphere created by the various collections. It was pleasant to see a posse of models walk in rhythm to a track by the FOKN Bois (Wanlov and Mensa).
The world-famous South Sudanese supermodel, shocked viewers at one of the shows when she popped up to model for South African designer, Khothatso Tsotetsi.
Everyone screamed and clapped for her but in a way, the appreciation was for all the African designers who exhibited their brilliance at MBFW Africa 2013 in Pretoria.