Images courtesy of Henne, Artclub and Friends & Aje

Style highlights from the Southern Hemisphere

The looks that turned heads at 2023 Fashion Week Australia & SA

By Renee Fortune 

The fashion stage south of the equator recently witnessed a spectacular convergence of creative forces as Australia and South Africa hosted their highly anticipated Fashion Week events for the year 2023. 

South Africa's Fashion Week 2023 showcased the fusion of traditional African aesthetics with contemporary design sensibilities. Designers drew inspiration from their diverse cultural backgrounds, incorporating bold prints, vibrant colours, and intricate craftsmanship into their collections. 

A month later, Afterpay Australia Fashion Week captured the essence of the continent's unique fashion identity. Showcasing an array of ethically sourced fabrics, recyclable materials, and zero-waste production techniques, Australian designers unveiled a new era of fashion where style and sustainability harmoniously coexist. 

Journey with us as we explore the ground-breaking designs, emerging talents, and influential trends that emerged from these stellar events. Pull up a chair, you’re in for a treat.

Minimalism for what?

South Africa Fashion Week S/S23 | 20 April - 23 April

So much can be said about the South African fashion industry. One thing no could ever claim however, is that South African designers err on the side of the subtle. If anything this year’s Fashion Week demonstrated, it was that Mzansi’s local design talent is louder and prouder than ever. 

More than 30 designers took to the runway this year, showcasing their renditions of S/S23 fashion in all its sun-kissed glory. Daring metallics and flamboyant head adornments shared the runway with immaculately beaded jewellery, splashes of vibrant colour and a delightful pastiche of prints. 

Now in its 26th year after being established in 1997, the Fashion Week institution in South Africa is relatively new. But that certainly doesn’t mean that South African talent has not been working hard behind the scenes to earn a spot amongst the world’s fashion capital greats. 

One factor that makes South Africa’s brand of creativity unique is the industry’s openness to collaboration. Staying true to the spirit of ubuntu – a South African concept that speaks to interdependence, 2023’s Fashion Week welcomed designers and innovators from outside the country’s borders, including Italy and Mozambique. The last few years has seen the emergence of several intercontinental projects, aimed at fostering closer connections between South Africa’s fashion industry and its global counterparts. The Italian fashion community has been particularly instrumental in collaborating with South African designers and giving local talent a chance to shine on international shores. 

This year saw one of our very own brands, Viviers Studio hit the runway with designer, Lezanne Viviers’s new collection which was recently debuted at Milan Fashion Week. The collection, entitled, ‘Karroo, Land of Thirst,’ showcased the richness of the local textile production landscape. Partnering with Mohair SA and Cape Wools, Viviers brought texture to the forefront, with detailed fashion pieces featuring luxurious blends of wool, mohair and ostrich by-products. We really couldn’t be prouder. 

This year’s Fashion Week also put the spotlight on Indigenous culture, using fashion to tell the stories that have moulded the country’s rich heritage. Rubicon’s collection brought together hints of Eastern and Western influences, blended together with Africa’s trademark style. The collection was a nod to the reimagined myth of origin story about the lost kingdom on Mapungubwe. The aesthetic was romantic and sensual, translating into garments that flowed effortlessly, only to be reined in by structured edging. Mantsho, another crowd-favourite, brought extravagance to the catwalk, treating guests to the opulence of frills, ruffles, ribbons and layers; all finished off with a daring winged liner. 

This year’s Fashion Week represented a yearning for more – more expression, more freedom, more exploration – South Africa’s fashion community wants it all. 

Feast your eyes on these top runway looks:

Viviers Studio | Courtesy of SA Fashion Week

Artclub and Friends | Photo: Sathia Pather

C.U.C.C.L.A | Courtesy of SA Fashion Week

Sun Goddess | Courtesy of SA Fashion Week

Chibaia | Photo: Sathia Pather

Viviers Studio | Courtesy of SA Fashion Week

Mantsho | Photo: Sathia Pather

Rubicon | Photo: Eunice Driver

From Down Under to the World

Afterpay Australia Fashion Week | 15 May – 19 May

The heritage and customs of Australia’s Indigenous peoples first took centrestage in 2021, when Fashion Week was opened with a traditional ‘Welcome to the Country’ ceremony hosted by the Gadigal people. 29 clan groups, collectively referred to as the Eora Nation, make up this coastal Aboriginal community whose territory stretched along the southern side of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). Historically, the footprint of Australia’s Indigenous communities in mainstream industries has been minimal. But, thanks to the ongoing efforts of advocates for cultural appreciation and fair representation, this picture is slowly changing.

This year, the ‘Welcome to the Country’ ceremony marked the third iteration of what is fast becoming an integral part of Fashion Week. Guests experienced a traditional smoking ceremony. Performed by members of the Muggera Dance Company, the ceremony was performed inside a fluorescent pink sand circle, with dancers holding smoldering branches of eucalyptus leaves. It was the beginning of a show that would see its first standalone show by an Indigenous designer, Denni Francisco. 

Her label, Ngali was one of this year’s most talked-about events. Francisco is a proud Wradjuri woman, a member of the largest Aboriginal groups in central New South Wales and the second largest on the continent. This year, she made history in what became a first for First Nations visibility and Fashion Week couldn’t get enough of what Ngali brought to the runway. 

The collection, entitled Murriyang translates as ‘skyworld,’ with all 30 looks representing an “imagining of how we would see country and waterways from the sky.’ Prints were the hero of the show, in serene colour palettes featuring dove-greys, peachy oranges and azure blues. Outfits were set off by intricate headpieces fashioned from woven raffia, emu feathers and sea shells. 

Nicol & Ford | Photos: Aisha Hume

Following this decadent indulgence in all things printed was Maggie Marilyn’s brand of liveable luxury. Hand-painted florals inspired by Maggie’s mother’s rose garden, classic stripes and rich textures like denim and bubbled silk were given the perfect finish with the artist’s flourish – a generous sprinkle of sparkle. We were here for Maggie’s strictly sustainable approach, which brought in biodegradable textiles and plant-based sequins. 

The uber contemporary aesthetic was interrupted for a few sweet moments of Olde World glamour in the collections of Nicol & Ford which showcased their fair share of drama and sensuality, reminding us that every moment of modernity is; in some way, a nod to the classic. 

Overall, Afterpay Australia Fashion Week 2023 was well-balanced and refreshingly vibrant, with this year’s line-up presenting the perfect blend of emerging talent and the industry’s biggest names in fashion. 

These are some of the looks we loved: 

Henne | Photo: James Gourley/Getty 

Youkhana | Photo: Getty

Aje | Photo: Courtesy of Aje for VOGUE Runway

Maggie Marilyn | Photo: Isidore Montag /

Cue | Photo: Getty

Ngali | Photo: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

ALEMAIS | Photo: Isidore Montag /

Gail Sorronda | Photo:Getty

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