Part One: An Introduction to Soweto Fashion Week

This June, IndustryMe headed all the way across the world in the search for the latest fashion and beauty scoops straight from Africa. South-West of South Africa’s capital city we were ten toes down, planted on front row seats to one of the greatest formed-fabric extravaganzas – Soweto Fashion Week.

But before we get into the fun bits, here’s a brief background on the historical host town:

Named in accordance with geography, the South Western Township housed one of the largest populations of the melanin-enriched as a ways of separating the white community from people of colour during the race-based segregation regime of Apartheid. As a result, the working-class members of the township provided the city of colonial Johannesburg with a labour force that built the capital and where there are workers, there are families.

In the year of 1976 during the civil unrest, a ruling was made by the authoritarian government stating that all syllabi in African schools must be taught in the Afrikaans language which is a linguistic culmination of Dutch, German, French and Khoisan tongues. This ruling triggered rage within multi-cultural students, sparking furious riots within which thousands of students were injured and a recorded number of 176 killed.

Following the first multi-cultural elections in the year of 1994 when the regime was halted, the country was unified and reformative actions started taking place. Architecture and tourism improved to a point where the 2010 FIFA World Cup final was hosted by the Soccer City in Nasrec at the FNB Stadium.

A year later, Stephen Manzini gathered local designers and models in the now urban settlement, founding the bi-annual runway parade featuring Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer collections called Soweto Fashion Week, held at the Zone 6 Venue in the heart of  the hood this year.

With the theme being futuristic cow hide , boasting sponsorships from The Department of Arts & Culture, Darling Hair and local television station, Soweto TV, designs from Nombulelo Qhithi of Colour Blackness who had chosen the Game Of Thrones theme song to accompany her designs down the runway, returning street-wear architects Konka Republic, Tapfumeni Munenge whom has a proven track record of damn-near-perfection when it comes to matching prints and headliner Clavon Leonard, hosting talks and showcasing two dazzling collections for both men and women.

We spoke with a few models, some of whom were seasoned veterans in the industry, about their experiences during the casting process, on the Soweto Fashion Week runway and what life was really like backstage. The models clearly expressed that being within the fashion-arts industry requires having toughened skin and self-confidence. One of the plus-sized models explained her deep appreciation for the way that curves have been received throughout the ages and how the exposition of all types of men and women to the world has had subliminal yet potent body-positive effects on the youth.

We also had the pleasure and honour to speak with renowned designer, Clavon Leonard about his heritage, travels, inspirations and the love he has for his children.

For a deeper scoop on the week that we’ve had, keep it locked for part two of Oh What A Week where we’ll get into the nitty gritty and share our exclusive highlights reel, stop-and-chat interviews with designers, sponsors, models and patrons!