A model confidently walks down the runway, wearing a cropped, sporty dress in a multicolored print, paired with ornate earrings and flat shoes. This look could have easily been seen on the runways of Paris or Milan, but it came down a catwalk in Cape Town, South Africa, during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town last week.
The look was designed by Marianne Fassler, known as the grande dame of South African fashion. Her style mirrors a local taste for contemporaneity infused with tradition: Although the silhouette is global, a knowing eye will quickly notice various, subtle cultural references, like prints and accessories that nod at traditional Zulu fashion.
Like many designers who showed at Cape Town Fashion Week, Fassler’s style tends to be described by a local buzzword, “Afropolitan.” “It’s a cosmopolitan approach to African aesthetic: Africa through the lens of modernity and global relevance,” explains Kyle Boshoff, the retail buyer for AFI, an organization committed to boosting upscale African fashion round the world, and who works hand in hand with fashion week.
Twenty years after the end of Apartheid, a young generation of designers is looking to explore a new area for self-expression, equality, and freedom. “This is what our country is all about today,” says Coutts. He adds, “Fashion will continue to fight for freedom.”