Greetings from Fashion Week! Get a seat in the front row with me, Kira Gimpel, fashion assistant at Marie Claire. My assignment this week is to head into the depths of Spring/Summer fashion week and work like crazy, as well as report to you on the process.

This will entail serious social-media multitasking to share the shows with you, and a lot of schmoozing with other press. Not to mention the designers, as I run backstage and try to get their clothes for use to shoot. If you’ve ever been interested in what the madness of Fashion Week is really like (or the ramblings of a fashion assistant), this diary is for you.

Thursday morning, 17 August

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week hosted by African Fashion International has hit Joburg again, this time at the fabulous Mall of Africa. Technically Day 1 starts today, but a lucky few headed to the Klûk CGDT show last night. Fashion people may pretend to not eat, but trust me, a couple of canapés really got us going – especially when there’s champers involved, too. 

Travel to the 80s with Klûk CGDT

Klûk CGDT’s offering was filled with nostalgia-inducing tunes and female empowerment. The enthusiastic audience was all about the bright prints and metallic power suits. The models paused to pose on the lit-up stand at the centre of the runway and for the grand finale, this turned into a revolving stage complete with silver confetti. A standing ovation for the designers and with that, Fashion Week started with a bang!

Fast-forward to Thursday. Regular Mall of Africa shoppers are staring strangely at all the fashion people, but that’s okay (we love it.) Although the weather today is far too cold and windy to be out and about, we’re here and ready!

In the garden of Gavin Rajah

First up, we head to Gavin Rajah, who has turned the runway into a fairy-tale garden with hanging floral chandeliers. The models, with their matching floral headpieces, glide down the runway in soft floral and lace garments. There are also ruffles, a monochrome edge and a bit of glam thrown in. Fabulous.

Now I head into the very full media tent (it is freezing outside) to meet up with our street-style photographer for the week, Lourens Smit, and we start snapping away at the guests who’ve pulled out all the stops. (Stay tuned for our street-style gallery!)

Next stop, we quickly check out the Xperience AFI area, a new space which is debuting young designers as well as giving all the cool kids a place to dance. There is also a skate ramp and a barber set up. The energy here is brilliant, and exactly what’s needed to freshen things up. Back to the runway for AFI Privé, where there are beautiful basics in yellow, coral and sky blue. I spot a gorgeous black ruffle-trim skirt which I can see working with almost everything in my wardrobe.

To end off Thursday, Thula Sindi presents 50s-inspired full dresses and some very high slits on skirts. Every piece is a crowd-pleaser with this enthusiastic audience, and although the shows have been running a bit late, the tent is packed. There is a red metallic leather jacket that is amazing, and I fall in love with the hair look – two french braids finished off with silver rings, and I sit there trying to figure out just exactly how to do this to my own hair.

Thula Sindi Backstage / Photo by Lourens Smit

Temperatures are very low, but spirits are high, and we walk out of Day 1 excited for what’s to come.

Friday, 18 August

Feeling slightly warmer and more prepared (I’ve got a thermal vest hidden under my Zara dress), I start off Day 2 with a presentation at the MAC store. There is a make-up tutorial inspired by the runway looks, given by the lovely and very talented Raine Tauber. We also check out a hair tutorial by GHD on how to achieve perfect curls. Then it’s time for a Boschendal wine-and-chocolate pairing (YES!) and some delicious Rosé Brut. This is just what we needed to liven our spirits and get us ready for the first show.

As Fashion Week is being held at one of the most impressive malls in Southern Africa, the best retailers are also showcasing, including Karen Millen, G-Star Raw and Hugo Boss. This also means we get a glimpse at some male models, which is always fab.

Mall of Africa Showcase Backstage / Photo by Lourens Smit

Obsessed with Prime Obsession

Next up, I run (literally, time is always of the essence in these situations) to the Experience AFI section, because I’m very keen to check out the Prime Obsession show. Shelley Mokoena and Keneilwe Mothoa, two of the most incredible women in SA fashion, present a beautiful story. It’s rich with meaning and history, but also relevant to today’s fashion scene. They look incredible as they walk to a thunderous applause.

I run back to the main tent, down a quick glass of bubbly and get seated again for the next show. Orapeleng Modutle, who dresses the best of the SA celebs, pulls out all the stops with loads of tulle, wide-brimmed hats and gorgeous floral atop of bright pink. It’s a spectacle, and it’s exciting.

Orapuleng Modutle backstage / Photo by Lourens Smit

To contrast this, the next designer is Adama Paris, who gives us all the #summerholidayinspo we need. Gorgeous white pieces, in soft chiffon and bold lace, are accompanied by bright-orange earrings and bangles. It’s simply beautiful. The designer herself is also glowing and gorgeous.

Adama Paris backstage / Photo by Lourens Smit

Last up in this set is Khosi Nkosi, who have refined their designs – still using the usual peplum and frill, but with African-inspired prints and bright florals. Unsurprisingly, florals are in for spring/summer. Bright florals at that. Noted.

The FROW is worth fighting for

The next show is packed: fans of Tsotetsi KL and TN Collectiv have gathered to support their faves. As media, you’re assigned a FROW (front row, for the newbies) seat. However, if you’re late, your seat might get taken, and because we’re trying to get rid of the fashion-diva stigma, you just have to squish in.

Jewels and tulle at Tsotetsi KL

For Tsotetsi KL, there are gorgeous pearl-embellished dresses, in deep colours, and more soft tulle. The entire collection works together so well, and is really lovely to look at. TN Collectiv also does not disappoint. More tulle and netting (another big trend to come) is set against printed dresses, and the crowd literally goes wild.

The night is a success, and as people start leaving to head to David Tlale’s off-site show, I’m feeling a bit under the weather, and have to head home and rest up before the final day’s shows. Tucked into bed, I head to Instagram (thankful it exists) to have a look at other Instastories of the show. It looks beautiful and dramatic – classic Tlale. Fashion assistant over and out, for now…

Saturday, 19 August

There’s something exciting about Fashion Week in the daytime. It might be that it actually feels like what Fashion Week must feel like overseas, OR that everyone is able to properly see your outfit. Either way, it feels fab. I’m a little exhausted but I know I have to soak up every last bit of the last day.

Starting off with none other than … a glass of bubbles. I want no judgement here, because judgement, unless it’s about your outfit, doesn’t exist during Fashion Week. It’s time to hand over to Sheena Bagshawe, who is taking over our account for Day 3.

‘Hey! I’m Sheena Bagshawe, a fashion stylist, blogger and former MC intern. I was lucky enough to attend the shows on Saturday and do a quick Insta takeover for my friends at Marie Claire. My day started with a trip to Akedo’s studio to pick up something to wear  The cold front was real so I picked out the most cuddly pink coat on the rail. I went through a little early to meet up with Kira, and the street-stylers and photographers (and curious shoppers) were out in full force.’

Itumeleng Modise. Pic by Lourens Smit

Getting Fassler Fabulous

I’m going to start this by declaring that I’m pretty biased when it comes to Marianne Fassler’s Leopard Frock. I love the designer’s aesthetic and how her show always feels jubilant. The show is titled Conside(red) and was a response to a trip the brand’s Creative Director Lezanne Viviers took to Morocco. There is an opening performance by Manthe Ribane, followed by pieces featuring cutout animal appliqué, a bright colour palette and thoughtfully layered textures. I feel all goose-bumpy when the whole team, including all the seamstresses, dance down the runway.

Photo by Lourens Smit

Photo by Lourens Smit

Kira and I had a late-lunch/early-dinner situation where I may have over-ordered some tapas, and then bolted down to the main tent for the next shows.

Ruff Tung brings in The Curve

Tanzanian designer Sheria Ngowi started the next set with tailored menswear, bringing a distinctly global feel by mixing suiting basics with mandarin collars, kimono sleeves and bright colours. Scalo by Sello Medupe built on his design legacy of evening and red-carpet wear, in a bright pallette of sunshine yellow, cobalt blue and orchid purple.
I was seated next to blogger Candice Bresler, who is doing socials for Ruff Tung. She told me a bit about the collection. Ruff Tung sent several curve models down the runway, which was really refreshing. The lack of representation of different shapes and sizes is severely lacking, so big ups to Ruff Tang on taking a positive stand.

Morland Magic

Then it was straight on to Shana Morland’s collection, with tons of sheer boho layers, lace, embroidered florals and a huge amount of detailing: a festival babe’s summer dream. Finishing off this show was Stefania Morland – that’s Shana’s mom, BTW. Stefania is known for her distinctly feminine style with lashings of embellishment. This season I’ve certainly noticed a few 2000s-inspired silhouettes, and there were some low-waisted, tie-front skirts that wouldn’t have looked out of place on comeback queen Paris Hilton.

Fabiani’s First Womenswear Show

By now the shows were about an hour and a half late and the production crew are hustling. But with the copious amount of Boschendal’s sparkly wine at the bar and fashion media friends around, it’s actually chilled. The closing show was Fabiani. It was their first foray into womenswear, and I was expecting fashion catering towards the corporate woman’s needs – but WOAH. We got late-80s/early-90s Versace-esque glitz, with suits and brand chain mail tops. My favourite was a loose sequinned shift with sparkly knee-high boots – I like shiny things, what can I say. And with that I’m signing off. ‘
Thank you for joining Sheena and myself on this Fashion Week journey. We hope you got all the info you’ve ever needed on Fashion Week, and that you’ll be joining us next time!