Cape Town Fashion Week has long been the highlight of city’s winter social scene. Many of South Africa’s top designers live in The Mother City and the Cape is also home to many textile and manufacturing businesses.

Capetonians are renowned for celebrating fashion creativity and our beautiful city provides a magnificent backdrop for glamorous social events and stylish sartorial splendour.

I was back at Cape Town Fashion Week for the fifth year running. Years of studying the industry, getting to know the creatives as well as local and international fashion trends have given me a perspective on the industry and a measure against which to test the 2009 Cape Town fashion offering.

African Fashion International (AFI), organisers of the Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban Fashion Weeks, held Cape Town Fashion Week, showcasing many of the county’s leading fashion designers, at the Cape Town Convention Centre from the 19th to the 22nd of August.

Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe, chairperson of AFI, declared: “Our goal is to promote African talent, both locally and on a global scale. In 2009, we are showcasing fashion at a time of global economic crisis. What is the Prognosis for South Africa? Savvy fashion entrepreneurs need to turn the challenges we currently face into opportunities. The message is clear – deliver good value for money, seize new opportunities”.

Craig Port

But sadly, all good intentions aside, this year’s Cape Town Fashion Week was not what it used to be. Thanks to the evils of politics and large egos the concept has become fragmented and feeble.

Rajah and Kluk held their own shows elsewhere, big names like Rosenwerth and Hip Hop have hopped away to other fashion pastures, and without these big names showcasing at the event, it left a void of creative collapse. “Black hole” has become the new black.

Top of the Fashion Pops was seasoned professional Craig Port who wowed a packed Friday night auditorium with his distinctive brand of resort chic. Port has his hand firmly placed on the pulse of international trends and combined this with his romantic design signature and affordable offerings to please his plethora of fashion fans. His swimwear collection was paraded by an army of muscular models and this magnificent meaty maelstrom is certainly going to be talked about for a very long time…

Fashion Sumo supremo and entrepreneurial wheeler-dealer Gavin Rajah declared that he could not be tossed with the bureaucracy and creative restrictions of the organisers and he broke away, holding his show at the BMW showroom on the Foreshore. The event was packed to capacity with the audience quite well aware that this was the show to be seen at.

Unfortunately the venue became a fashion trap and seating was too close to the runway which led to his dazzling outfits not being properly seen or appreciated. Leading the Rajah spectacle was ageing Mince drag ariste Kieron Legacy who looked like a bloated Nessie.

Gavin Rajah

Even the social side of Fashion Week was disappointing. The opening party at Bungalow in Camps Bay was a fading star compared to the parties of previous years. The media rooms, which once were a buzz of excitement, personality and glamour, had deteriorated into an arbitrary dormitory of finger food and fluff. There is generally more excitement at airports. Yawn.

The once fantastic after parties were, surprisingly, the biggest letdown. We attended the Carducci party at The Grand Daddy Hotel (formerly Metropole Hotel) and that consisted of about 15 fading fashionistas. The main after parties were at Fashion TV Bar and HQ but our informants there said that those were empty, useless and not worth the effort of travelling to.

It disturbs me greatly that things have come to this from the once great social events that took place. Can we blame economics? Perhaps, but money has never stood in the way of Capetonians partying and celebrating our abundant creativity.

In summary, let’s focus on the collections and not the surrounding fragmented culture. If you care enough to follow fashion, this coming season you should reinvent the 80’s.

Skinny pants are in (so please ‘sommer frow away your flares!”); the look is tight and sleek; Afro-punk rules and the 80s has finally become more sensible and stylish. Purple is the new black; profusions of pink and green abound, and acid tones liven up denim and muted basics.

Creative classicism is the way to go. The message in short: Be bold. Be brave. Be beautiful.

Click here to view our extensive Cape Town Fashion Week 2009 Gallery.

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