You have got to love Soweto! Personified, she is probably a mix of that ‘Rebel Girl’ MXO sung about, and that wunderkind who, despite any challenges, comes out tops. Soweto is brimming with individuals who not only believe they are great but they know it and live it. Yeah, they may not have the resources (such as the equipment, money and support), but they do not allow such things to get in their way. The most recent case study was the debut Soweto Fashion Week that took place this past week.
The Soweto Fashion Week opened on Thursday night and much to my disappointment, I was only able to attend on the last day, Saturday. So there I was in Soweto on a Saturday afternoon, the sun was toasting my back, leaving me feeling ridiculous for wearing a black polo neck. ‘Screw that,’ I told myself and strutted towards Walter Sisulu Square, careful not to soil my bright blue platform heels. After a couple of inquiries the Soweto Hotel was soon in full view. Where were the cars and crowd of impatiently excited people outside this venue? It was morbidly quiet. Did I get my times mixed up and arrived when the event was over? No, this is Soweto Fashion Week, they reassured me. So in I went.
The Soweto Hotel, dimly lit and cosy, welcomed me in. I was led to the conference room where the fashion shows were to be conducted, and nervously took my front row seat. Then, I took in my surroundings: a magogo carrying a child, a handful of colourfully dressed gay guys, an Indian dude occupied with his phone, bubbly Grace greeting and sitting more guests, and a number of members of the male species congregated at the watering hole otherwise known as the Soweto Hotel bar. We were all waiting for the show to begin whether or not those empty rows of chairs behind me filled up or not. And the show began.
A few sincere words from the founder and organizer of Soweto Fashion Week, Stephen Manzini, and the Perfect Deluxe show commenced. A smooth R&B track signalled the first model’s appearance. The Perfect Deluxe outfits comprised mainly of African bridal wear, ruffles and leopard print ruling supreme. The high gloss of bigger and more established fashion weeks (such as SAFW and MBJFW) was non-existent. The carpet made for a runway, the music track was put on repeat, the designs were not immaculately constructed (loose strands of fabric hanging off a dress is plain tacky) and some of the female models had a hard time walking in their heels (thank God no one fell). Perfect Deluxe does have a way to go before they live up to their name but not to say they failed. Their creativity was well executed in their collection, particularly in a gold bottle-top tube dress that got quite a round of applause from the audience.
A short interval and on to the next show: Egnitious. This urban wear collection was one with a strong youthful edge that reminds one of our country’s Struggle Era. The military green of the material and the recurrent 3D prison bars, behind which our political heroes are drawn, made for an interesting show. Visually and intellectually stimulating, Egnitious described his collection as being “vibrant, with a mixture of art”, and it worked.
Funeka and Dejavu followed. This show was pretty biased when it came to the sexes. We were wowed by the women’s wear but the men’s designs were quite bland and the jeans, ill-fitting (a real shame). The dresses were vibrantly gorgeous, playfully cheeky and colourful. The ladybug-inspired yellow polka dot dress was one, among a few, the crowd cheered for.
My experience of this ‘first for Soweto’ event was bitter-sweet. The bitterness being caused by the supposed lack of interest and financial assistance (apparently Manzini raised R60,000 through the help of a number of businessmen, church fundraisers, etc.) in producing this much-needed fashion initiative in Soweto. Yes, there are quite a number of fashion weeks in SA already but this one, where township youngsters receive a platform to show the country (and the world) what they’re made of, cannot be compromised. Watching the Soweto Fashion Week I felt that it was not properly planned and executed, either. And some things, for example music co-ordination, do not require much money to be pulled off successfully and professionally. The ‘sweet’ moment brings me back full circle to the unfaltering determination of Soweto. Despite the many improvements that could have been done and the financial challenges they encountered, Soweto Fashion Week happened. With SFW 2012 over, and lessons learnt, I am confident that the next edition will have us all goo-goo eyed and more in love with Soweto and its fashion.
- By Amandla Kwinana