Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week starts on Thursday at Hyde Park Corner. Picture: Simon Deiner / SDR Photo
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week starts on Thursday at Hyde Park Corner. Picture: Simon Deiner / SDR Photo

Joburg Fashion week gets new sponsor and home

By Emma Jordan Time of article published Mar 2, 2012

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When Joburg Fashion Week kicks off next week, it will be the third incarnation of what started as a localised fashion event that became an edgy representation of the City of Gold and has now emerged as a mature lady of luxury going through what could be best described as her second marriage.

She’s changed her name – becoming the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg – and has relocated, setting up shop on the roof of Hyde Park Corner.

Why, I hear you ask, has this reincarnation taken place? Viewed from a particular angle it seems illogical – African Fashion International has, in the past, been criticised for creating a fashion circus and social spectacle that has little to do with the business of fashion.

“We wanted to make it easier for the buying public to understand an element of luxury in SA fashion,” says Allana Finley, AFI global brand and marketing manager. “Often consumers who can afford to buy ‘designer’, and who are shopping the international luxury brands at Hyde Park Corner, are unaware of the local design talent.

“They don’t know you can mix and match – pair a Burberry coat with a Thula Sindi dress, a pair of Porsche jeans with a trim C Squared jacket.”

Designers showing this year include glamour gods David Tlale (interestingly given an early evening slot – no doubt in the hope that his show won’t run the expected hour or two late) and Gavin Rajah. Rajah has not shown in Joburg since 2009.

According to a press release, Rajah’s collection, entitled Anatome d’une Rose, will be “an exploration of botanical drawings of roses” and will feature “interesting pattern-making techniques”. It goes on to say “the new sense of restrained luxury for me is unequivocally shown in this collection. The focus is on fine fabrics and meticulous craftsmanship”.

But it is the young Joburg-based designer Thula Sindi whose star continues to rise. Taking the much-coveted closing slot – 10pm on Saturday night – confirms his growing fan-base and ever-popular collection stocked on the main floor at Edgars.

Affirming the idea that Joburg Fashion Week hopes to bring together a national cross-section of designers, a selection of KwaZulu-Natal designers will be showing on Friday afternoon in a presentation sponsored by the KZN Fashion Council. They include Karen Monk Klijnstra, Genna-Wae Webster, Kathrin Kidger and Siyathemba Ngwenya.

Leigh Schubert, another Durbanite, will be showing on Saturday night in a joint slot with Abigail Keats. Schubert is part of a collective of SA designers stocked by the US retail giant Nordstrom in their concessionary NY store, Treasure and Bond.

Schubert says that following the Nordstrom association, her business has taken on a new dimension.

“I’m not showing to impress the fashion media,” she says. “I’m showing to sell garments. I want to sell garments. I need to sell garments.

“I think we need to use our fashion weeks and the platforms that we have to the best of our ability. Especially when money is tight, we need to think about a return on our investments.”

Step in the Mercedes sponsorship. Billed as – and admittedly a rather witty pun – the new “vehicle of fashion”, it is an alignment that has had a successful global run for years.

Mercedes-Benz is the headline sponsor of New York, Tokyo and Berlin fashion weeks, as well as Stockholm, Moscow, Sydney, Brisbane and Mexico City. Not to mention countless initiatives around fashion in Paris, Milan, London, Buenos Aires and Beijing. It is hoped that positioning Africa within this bracket will provide instant international leverage.

“Our three-year title sponsorship commitment affords us both local and international exposure for our innovative and cutting-edge luxurious brand,” says president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz SA, Dr Martin Zimmermann.

“Mercedes-Benz is an icon in the realms of fashion as function, form and design, key elements in all our exciting and fascinating models.”

Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, AFI executive chairperson, adds that the AFI showroom will be launched soon, an initiative serving as a resource to international consumers.

She also said 2012 will be the year to connect with “other fashion week platforms on the continent as part of our feed in strategy to Africa Fashion Week”.

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg takes place from March 7 to 10, with tickets available from



Thursday, March 8:

6pm Hyde Park Collective Show

7pm Fabiani

8pm Kluk CGdT

9pm Abigail Betz

10pm Heni


Friday, March 9:

6pm Tashkaya/ Black Coal/ Mosewamosa

7pm Karen Monk Klijnstra/ Genna-Wae Webster/Kathrin Kidger/Siyathemba Ngwenya

8pm David Tlale

9pm C Squared

10pm Dax Martin


Saturday, March 10:

4pm Grapevine/Distinctive Wear /Thabani Mavundla

5pm Danielle Margaux/Wild Fig

6pm Loin Cloth and Ashes/ Avant

7pm Spero Villioti

8pm Gavin Rajah

9pm Abigail Keats/Leigh Schubert

10pm Thula Sindi


Emma Jordan is editor of

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