Highlights From the Autumn/Winter 2023 Collections at South African Fashion Week

Words by The Folklore Team

All images by Eunice Driver Photography, courtesy of South African Fashion Week


For three days between October 20-22, 27 designers took to the Mall of Africa to launch their new collections on the runway at this fall’s edition of South African Fashion Week.

This year marks the 41st season of SAFW since it was established in 1997. Founder and director Lucilla Booyzen says, “We remain committed to the business of fashion, of marketing and supporting our designer entrepreneurs, creatively and commercially, and most importantly, to provide a platform which gives the visibility required to access the local and global fashion industry.”

From interpreting cultural references in a modern way to showing a commitment to sustainable fashion, collections from the likes of Michael Ludwig Studio, Rubicon and Amanda Laird Cherry’s ALC displayed tailored craftsmanship and timeless design rendered in vibrant colors and unique abstract prints.

Michael Ludwig Studio

Based in Cape Town, Michael Ludwig Studio is a contemporary ready-to-wear brand helmed by LISOF graduate Michael Ludwig Hittinger, who worked in the fashion industry for three years as a buyer, and pattern maker before launching his eponymous brand.

Michael Ludwig Studio’s aesthetic embraces the contrast between masculinity and femininity, which, combined with African design details, are the starting points used to create each collection, with the aim for wearers to express themselves whatever their gender identity. This year’s collection, “Self Sapien”, imagines the replacement of binary stereotypes and gender roles with unique self-expression through solid colours and simple silhouettes.

ALC

Designer Amanda Laird Cherry takes inspiration from her hometown of Durban to create garments that are influenced by its deep, multi-faceted cultures and lifestyles, and interprets them into sophisticated pieces that exemplify craftsmanship and functionality. Known for its range of staple basics and considered separates, familiar styles and silhouettes are updated with utilitarian details to make them both wearable and distinctive.

For the new season, ALC celebrates Durban’s Victoria Street market, using its mounds of spices and structural stalls for its colour palette and patterns, ranging from dusty pink, turmeric, tarragon green, and shades of brown alongside asymmetric drapery and tactile fabrics. The brand makes use of off-cut material and leftover fabrics from previous seasons to create expressive and voluminous silhouettes, detailed with pleats, tulle overlays and contrasting stitches for a deliberate chaotic yet considered look.

Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu

Fikile Sokhulu’s namesake brand made its SAFW debut in 2018 as a finalist in the event’s New Talent Search when she was still a student at the Durban University of Technology. Since, Fikile Zamagcino Sokhulu has grown into a contemporary label that combines an organic aesthetic with feminine sensibilities.

Rubicon

Founded in 2002 by Hangwani Nengovhela, Rubicon is a womenswear brand known for its clean designs with a subtly opulent touch. It offers effortless style, form-flattering silhouettes and timeless design rendered with tailored craftsmanship. With a qualification in textile and clothing techniques, Hangwani has, for more than 20 years, contributed her knowledge and skills to some of South Africa’s fashion and textile industry giants.

Rubicion’s spring/summer 2023 collection, “Still Water Runs Deep”, taps into the designer’s Venda heritage, taking inspiration from its landscapes, such as the Phiphidi Waterfall, to represent the resilience, power and strength of women who, just like water, adapt to life’s challenges by discovering new paths to flow smoothly.

MUNKUS

A contemporary brand that looks to the 1980s and 1990s for its retro-inspired style, MUNKUS was established in 2019 by Soweto-born Thando Ntuli, who named the brand after her childhood nickname.

For SS23, Ntuli pays homage to her mother with a collection entitled “Umama Wami” or “my mother”, exploring the feminine capacity to adapt to a multitude of circumstances despite restrictions and challenges. “Women are a kaleidoscope of colours. From darkness and cold, women bring light and warmth,” Ntuli says. “Women bring life to any room entered. This collection aims to show the multifaceted feminine, which also includes masculine qualities.” She combines various weights of cotton fabric, from the light and airy to heavy bull denim, with a focus on technical detail and pops of conceptual graphics via a print portrait of her mother.