A bit of an ongoing debate behind the scenes at all of the South African fashion weeks is the balance between being “about the clothes” and theatrics on the runway. It seems designers and producers fall into one of two camps: one which want excellent but simple lighting and minimalist staging or the other that wants elephants, dancing girls and marching bands in full on technicolour.

I come down in the theatrics camp myself but I understand the other side of things – some of the stunts inflicted on the poor models are just cringe inducing. Then there is also the pageant style shows that we’ve had to endure from some of the magazines that have involved themselves in local fashion weeks (the final straw for some). But then, and maybe its because i’m a drama school drop out/publicist, I think it would be a terrible shame to limit designers. Some of my favourite fashion moments would be banned if the no fun movement got their way: Spero Villioti’s camper than camp marching band, the YFM shows back in the day at Cape Town Fashion Week, KlukCGdT’s am dram classics like last year’s cluedo…

The arguement (which i’ve heard from a few in the no fun camp) that it’s not what happens overseas is complete nonsense. Julien Macdonald got great coverage by having Kermit the Frog in the front row, Matthew Williamson got Prince get up from his seat and put on a show, and Marc Jacobs ran a show backwards. What these designers get is that fashion weeks are basically a PR excercise, they reach consumers directly (largely via online media and TV) and with so many design brands out there you can’t rely on just producing a stunning collection. Sad but true. As a designer you really need to ask yourself why are you showing at fashion week. It’s not to reach the 300 odd people in the room (SA fashion weeks are targeting buyers as they’re too late in the season for them) it’s a complete marketing excercise and fight for attention and you’re mad not to treat it as such. Last point is if you look at the fashion week images that make the front pages of newspapers such as the Sunday Times they are mostly in the theatrics camp (last year’s old ladies from SA Fashion Week for example).

I’m guessing that Karen Monk Klijnstra is also in the theatrics camp judging by her walking down the ramp in a straightjacket with no theatre/no my way signs all over it.

Any thoughts or opinions on this?

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