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The future of fashion? SA Fashion Week’s digital makeover

Acclaimed designer Gert-Johan Coetzee said the fashion industry should draw positives from the COVID-19 lockdown and find more sustainable ways of working.

The 2020 SA Fashion Week was live streamed for people around the world in line with COVID-19 lockdown rules. Picture: Twitter @safashionweek

JOHANNESBURG – It wasn’t the usual packed marquee with the crème de la crème of the fashion industry. There wasn’t the usual strut-strut on the catwalk with cameras clicking away and a satisfied crowd clapping.

This is South African Fashion Week under the COVID-19 lockdown. Due to the global pandemic, the fashion industry moved into the digital domain and the fashion show was presented via a virtual platform on Thursday night, with many people across the globe getting front row seats by streaming it.

Leading the digital collections was multi award-winning designer Gert-Johan Coetzee, followed by Lukhanyo Mdingi, Judith-Atelier and MmusoMaxwell.

Asked what the industry could learn from the lockdown, Coetzee said it was about trying to find the positives and striving to be better people.

“As a designer, I’ve always been conscious of the environment around us and trying to find ways to stop global warming. The lockdown and COVID-19 really propelled our sustainable collection so much quicker than we ever anticipated.”

Unlike previous years, the 20/21 collections on the streaming programme didn't focus on one season, but rather incorporated garments to suit cool and warm weather, in line with international trends.

The acclaimed designer explained the inspiration of current collections:

“The colour is this beautiful turquoise/sky blue, I was inspired by the Nguni cow from where I grew up. Also, the significant meaning of the cow; how it connects the spiritual to the physical and that was so special to me.”

Meanwhile, the sponsors of the event had to adjust to lockdown in terms of how the show was executed.

Katleho Mahloane, Executive Head of Segment Marketing at Vodacom, said this year gave people an equal opportunity to grow.

“With every difficulty people grow and the COVID-19 lockdown has given us an opportunity to see things differently. We are here [at the venue] but there are thousands of people tuning in to experience this event. A year ago, we would have been fixated on a venue with limited space.”

Mahloane said the lockdown helped sponsors find different ways of sorting out problems.

The virtual platform will also allow audiences to view, click and pre-order designer collections during and post the event.

The closing shows will see digital collections from the SAFW Scouting Menswear Competition, former competition winner Bi Parel, Thabo Kopele, Gugu, Maklele, Boyde, Xavier Sadan, Artclub and Friends, BLVNK, Franc Elis and Ephymol.

Fashion Week will take place as a three-day streaming programme of 26 digital runway shows until Saturday.