While most of us weren’t looking, fashion rewrote its relationship with trends.

It’s no wonder — with a whole new generation of independent voices taking the world stage — many of them African — fresh messages have shaken up more than silhouettes. They’ve brought new modes of expression into focus, forcing updated thinking across fashion’s pillars, including the unpredictable science of trend analysis and forecasting.

It’s about more than shapes and colors now, and the Autumn/Winter 2024 runway offerings at South African Fashion Week a few days ago were an excellent case study in how and why, across both womenswear and menswear collections.

We’ve read between the lines to surface the origin stories, personal awakenings, and cultural waves that connect the clothes to themes, and connect those themes to us.

TEXTURED RELIEF

One of the most widespread ideas this season was a comforting mix of rich textures, lending many collections an immediately grounding sense of calm. It’s AW24, so of course knitwear and soft crafts were present, but the dizzying array of formats brought a unique warmth to the runway.

Toro Meraki’s Itumeleng Ramakau hand-made most of her collection’s knits and delicate patchwork alongside her grandmother, while designers like Michael Ludwig Hittinger reappropriated densely textured upholstery fabric — a longstanding practice in South Africa’s challenging textile market — with delightfully wearable results.

Even on streetwear-inspired denim, Czene24 brought a special touch of home to the city pavement with a star-like embroidered border motif. Textures were delivered on a palette of mostly dark neutral hues, a natural fit for the winter collections, but with added depth from the layered and mixed approach.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway  wearing Toro Meraki.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Toro Meraki.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Toro Meraki.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Toro Meraki.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Oyama Gonintebe.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Oyama Gonintebe.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

GAME DAY

Is a trend a trend if it’s part of the assignment? That was the question with the sports-themed collections presented for SA Fashion Week’s Scouting Menswear Competition. The brief required finalists to choose a sport to ground their streetwear in, and create prints or other textile manipulations that brought culture (traditional, contemporary or personal) to the story’s surface.

The results were interesting, and also mostly genderless: Nhlanhla Masemola chose tennis, delivering a truly unexpected story that shows just how far the designer’s range stretches beyond the endlessly cool womenswear you may already have seen on Instagram.

Czene24 mixed select details from martial arts gear into a surprising collection of oversized streetwear staples with retro-leaning silhouettes. HLS’ Hlulani Sithole went with golf, offering a new casually tailored uniform for the sport, complete with a uniquely Zulu print. Toro Meraki stayed close to home by selecting Basotho horse riding, folding in elements of Europe’s classic approach to equestrian sport in the form of reimagined jodhpurs. D’KOCK’s skate collection and African Renaissance Design’s take on basketball balanced the refreshing with the familiar.

Beneath all of that, the real trend was this generation of designers’ choice to look to the history of their chosen sport. In a world obsessed with padel and pickleball, their collections told older sports stories with personal connections.

Finalist Sthembiso Mchunu of Watermelon referenced early childhood brushes with the glory days of ‘90s football, creating a full team kit including home and away jerseys and an event suit, while competition winner Robyn Agulhas of Sinchui wove family nostalgia into the assignment by basing her collection on the Cape Town football club her father used to belong to (and sending her pieces down the runway to YoungstaCPT and Shaney Jay’s Benni McCarthy).

A model wearing Nhlanhla Masemola on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Nhlanhla Masemola on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing Czene24 on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Czene24 on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing D'KOCK on the SAFW AW24 runway

A model wearing D’KOCK on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

FOR GENTLEMEN

A trend that pushed its way into color stories, prints and minute details was a beautiful call to repair masculinity. On one end of the spectrum, this trend showed up as softened silhouettes — Ephymol’s sharp tailoring softened its edge this season, with comfort folded into familiar, masculine all-black looks; softness also showed up in VNTU’s tactile finishes and African Renaissance Design’s basketball gear featuring South African mohair.

On the other end, more traditionally masculine clothes served as a canvas for messages of grace and humanity, like Czene24’s ‘chained soul’ print, a call for men to prioritize their mental health. Musawenkosi’s collection centered his grief over his mother’s passing, with colors and textures that celebrate the beauty of memory. Overall this trend’s common thread was an invitation to men to feel and express feelings with more freedom.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Ephymol.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Ephymol.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Ephymol.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Ephymol.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Musawenkosi.

A model on the SAFW AW24 runway wearing Musawenkosi.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

MEN AT WORK

Traditionally tailored men’s workwear blended with utilitarian details this season, bringing the desk-bound knowledge worker and the outdoor adventurer together in one look. Tailored suits and coordinated workwear separates were casualised, but not in streetwear’s direction. While HLS and Musawenkosi both leaned way in on this idea, the best example of the trend was the Franc Elis collection, built on easy-to-wear items that still delivered sharp style results.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Franc Elis on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

SWEET LIKE CANDY

The winter collections borrowed a little brightness from colors traditionally favored in summer — orange, pink, purple, yellow & blue were on full display at Mantsho, Michael Ludwig, MUNKUS, Thula-Tu, Elwen and more. The sugar-sweet palette took floral and botanical prints beyond the natural world, not into psychedelic neons, but into more universal applications that lend themselves to the wearer’s own story, from the classic at Helon Melon to the cosmic at Bam Collective. Silhouettes ranged from minimal to bold, offering both ways to make bright colours more approachable and ways to wear them as loudly as possible.

A model wearing Bam Collective on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Bam Collective on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing Mantsho on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Mantsho on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model wearing Munkus on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Munkus on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A LAYERED LANDSCAPE

Let us introduce you to a styling trend that is quickly becoming its own category: Layers as accessories. Deconstructed and illusionary, asymmetric cut-up layers were added to familiar silhouettes, extending wearability into new dimensions. The trend showed up on the artful beauty of Viviers, the unorthodox crafting of Leon Von Solms, the deadstock canvas wonder of Oyama Gonintebe, and the voluminous yet minimal shapes at Black Coffee. It’s an easy way to switch up casual looks and dare a little more with the wardrobe you already have.

A model wearing Black Coffee on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model wearing Black Coffee on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model in Oyama Gointebe on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model in Oyama Gointebe on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model in Oyama Gointebe on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model in Oyama Gointebe on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

A model in Michael Ludwig on the SAFW AW24 runway.

A model in Michael Ludwig on the SAFW AW24 runway.Photo by Eunice Driver Photography.

One Response

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