Sexy fashion and the city

Published Feb 9, 2011


Fashion Week in the inner city? It’s not a new idea – South African Fashion Weeks have taken place in Newtown’s Turbine Hall and Arts on Main – but the rival Joburg Fashion Week is taking things to a new level.

Imagine models wearing David Tlale designs on Nelson Mandela Bridge, or Abigail Betz showing at the Johannesburg Art Gallery.

Joburg Fashion Week, which runs from February 15 to 19, will see the autumn/winter 2011 collections being shown at various stunning venues in the city, including Randlords, the Bus Factory, Fashion Kapitol, and the Rand Club.

Paul Leisegang, managing director of Africa Fashion International, which runs Joburg Fashion Week, says AFI was keen to separate the image of Joburg Fashion Week from that of similar events held in Cape Town or New York.

The venues would also bring some energy to fashion week for the designers, and help in the city’s regeneration.

“The idea was to get away from clean-cut venues, such as the usual convention centres, and instead use these existing and vibrant spaces in the city,” says Leisegang.

“We want to embrace the spirit of these spaces. We want to bring people back to join us on this journey of rediscovering their city. The theme in our office and the rally call has even become ‘No longer a stranger in our town’.”

While these locations offer interesting backdrops to the collections, Joburg Fashion Week will also be introducing new designers that work and live in Joburg.

Using multiple locations has been made easier with the collaboration of their new sponsors, the Johannesburg Development Agency, Johannesburg Tourism Agency and the City of Johannesburg, says Leisegang.

“We will be making use of the BRT, where you can take your accreditation tag and be driven to the off-site venue,” he says. “And concerning (shows on) the bridge, we will be using the park and ride initiative used in the World Cup.

He says visible policing and CCTV coverage will ensure safety of fashionistas.

Designers and venue hosts are equally thrilled about the initiative.

“All of us situated in the inner city are wildly excited about bringing it here,” says Johannesburg Art Gallery curator Antoinette Murdoch.

“I think it will draw a new audience and demographic. Hopefully people from the north who are interested in fashion will finally take the plunge and come into town,” says Murdoch.

“It will possibly rebuild our lost audiences, especially for those who have felt that it’s been too unsafe to come here. It will be good for them to return and see that there’s nothing to be scared of,” she adds.

Designer Abigail Betz, whose collection will be shown at the gallery, says the venue is right up her alley.

“It’s old and vintage,” says Betz. “I love the feel of history when you walk in there, with its beautiful pressed ceilings and wooden floors.”

Her collection, however, will be exhibited in the basement gallery with its industrial backdrop.

“It’s not your normal ramp, and it will be a different way of viewing the collection.”

Her collection will be based on a glamorous housewife of the 1950s, a concept her label touched on two years ago but will now explore further.

“It’s a big trend overseas,” says Betz. “We’re using subdued colours, like navy, and materials like wool and soft romantic silk. We are also introducing our more affordable wedding dress line.”

Designer David Tlale, who will be showing at the Nelson Mandela Bridge, says the theme of his collection will be garments for the city girl.

“It’s for people who work in the financial district and for people who do everything in the city. It will also focus on ready-to-wear clothes,” he says.

Tlale relishes the challenge of having his clothing line paraded in such a vibrant space.

“It’s about time that we start showcasing what Joburg has to offer to the world, particularly iconic places. We need to take all these amazing venues and put them on the map.

“We need to start learning from places like Paris and the US where they gallivant all around their cities. It’s become popular.” - The Star

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