Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin Opens with Talents from South Africa

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By Bennett  Oghifo

 In the 25th year of global fashion commitment by Mercedes-Benz, Clive Rundle, Floyd Avenue, Rich Mnisi and Viviers staged a group show to open the Fashion Week at Kraftwerk in Berlin

Stuttgart/Berlin. The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin Autumn/Winter 2020 was opened on Monday evening with the group show “Mercedes-Benz presents fashion talents from South Africa”. In the new location at Kraftwerk, Clive Rundle, Floyd Avenue, Rich Mnisi and Viviers sent their models along the 45-metre long catwalk in looks they created especially for Berlin. The group show was the opening event marking the 25th anniversary of the global fashion commitment of Mercedes-Benz, and part of the international young talent promotion programme Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents. Among the guests was the South African top model Candice Swanepoel and followed the appearance of fashion from her home country with great interest.

The fashion scene is gaining in importance in Africa, and particularly in South Africa, and is now attracting more and more attention beyond the borders of the continent. “I am very pleased that with Clive Rundle, Floyd Avenue, Rich Mnisi and Viviers, we have been able to attract four interesting and fascinating international fashion designers from South Africa for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin,” said Bettina Fetzer, Vice President Marketing Mercedes-Benz. “It’s always inspiring to see how creatively the up-and-coming designers work with the resources available to them, and do so in a very natural, sustainable manner. Today’s kick-off show once again underlines our clear international fashion commitment, and at the same time the importance we have attached to promoting young talent for over ten years.”

“The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin is a central part of our global fashion commitment. I am therefore very pleased that we have been able to expand again this season by moving to Kraftwerk and to expand the concept of a fashion event for experts and the general public.” , says Michael Schiebe, Head of Sales Passenger Cars Germany and member of the Executive Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars Sales Germany. “The show with four up-and-coming talents from South Africa underlines our clear commitment to Berlin as cultural centre and one of Europe’s important fashion platforms.”

The fashion expert Annette Pringle-Kölsch has lived in Johannesburg for 15 years and supports numerous up-and-coming designers. She is very familiar with the special conditions under which the fashion scene works in Africa. She explains that the increasing professionalisation of designers and the growing market are an important job creator in the manufacturing businesses and studios. At the same time the resources available to the designers primarily consist of materials disposed of as waste by other countries. Many fabrics are imported and sold via warehouses and markets. This means that most materials are only available in limited quantities, therefore collections are produced by hand as small series with a high level of exclusivity. By upcycling and reusing existing products, the designers inherently work on sustainable basis that conserves resources, while creating high-quality fashion that is one-off in nature.

Clive Rundle is one of South Africa’s most renowned Fashion Designers with a 30 years legacy of creating avantgarde womenswear. He has been in business since 1989, when he opened his first store. Clive tells new stories with old cloth. He marries creative tailoring with vintage and end of line textiles collected over decades from Johannesburg’s local stores. At the heart of his work, he re-imagines these textiles elevating them into timeless luxe womenswear collections layering cloth and silhouettes; a play of light, patterns and tailored body positive shapes.

His designs are a tactile experience pushing sophisticated techniques to the edges seeking transformation and discovery in processes that reveal beauty in textiles that might have been commonly ugly. Working with a repeating tonal palette and core signature shapes means the collections are easily combined in unexpected ways to be worn again and again across seasons.

“The creative process is most interesting, because you are able to review your own development, find new aspects in older creations and see how you have changed,” says Clive Rundle. “My inspiration was the desire to create a collection for the public in Berlin, to imagine what Europeans might want to see of the creativity and heritage of Africa, and to tell a particular story for Berlin.” In 10 layered looks, Clive Rundle revealed female characters that describe the Berlin of his imagination. In this subversive ode to fierce femininity, layers are embedded upon each other bringing together menswear aesthetic in tailored pieces over free lowing body positive silhouettes. Prints speak of urban landscapes and shedding of skin revealing an almost futuristic vision of femininity emerging from that, which is rooted in the complexities of the past of the city.

The menswear designer Floyd Avenue presented eight looks from his new autumn/winter 2020 collection “Within Your Ken”. The collection focusses on sharply tailored jackets and coats, as well as utility trousers in dark-blue and olive-green. Asymmetrical features and details such as prominent zippers, buttons and orange laces are included as intentional, characteristic styling elements. Floyd Avenue mainly uses cotton fabrics for his collections, as natural fibres age more slowly and prolong the usable life of clothing items. “At present factories are closing at an alarming rate in the South African textile industry,” said the designer. “I buy up these fabrics so that they do not end up on a rubbish tip.” Floyd Avenue also uses zippers and buttons from left-over stock, which means that almost every item is a one-off in these small details. The two looks created exclusively for the show in Berlin were designed with two completely different winters on the two continents in mind. “I designed these looks with a view to the climate in Germany – people in South Africa would not wear these models. This show is a real milestone for me, as I’ve never shown my creations outside Africa. But I’ve already established contacts among European buyers, and hope I can build up new relationships there.”

Lezanne Viviers presented items from her OR/BITING AURABOROS collection under her VIVIERS label. The name is derived from a poem composed during the creative process for the collection, whose subject is infinity and the inter-connectivity of the universe. OR/BITING AURABOROS was partly designed in collaboration with the artist Marlene Steyn, and the creations abandon all rationality and appeal to the subconscious. The materials used, for example silk, viscose, cotton, nylon and industrial fibres in intense colours, create appealing contrasts with the matt and shiny, fixed and flowing, natural and synthetic areas. Exclusively in Berlin, VIVIERS showed the ORBITING Dress as a symbol of the infinite connection with the precious metal gold, and the Magic Cube Dress of hand-dyed Nigerian batik created using an upcycling process. “We use residual materials to produce new creations and avoid waste wherever possible, and produce all clothing items by hand in our Lotus House studio and concept space in Johannesburg. All the editions are limited to ensure that they sell out completely, and we want their wearers to take pleasure in the uniqueness and quality of these items for a long time,” said Lezanne Viviers. “I want the public at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin to appreciate the richness of our culture and the creativity of the designers, and hope that this will open up new opportunities for us in Europe.”

“Alkebulan” is the name of the collection designed exclusively for the show by Rich Mnisi. The name is the oldest word for Africa, and the looks follow this inspiration to show the continent’s beauty and rich tradition in glowing colours. The proportions and layering are typical of Rich Mnisi’s design idiom. With a wealth of colours and extravagant applications, the collection reflects the values and manual skills he learned from his mother and grandmother. The looks created by Mnisi are produced by a group of local seamstresses who benefit from the employment and the knowledge transfer during production of the complicated patterns and the upcycling of remainder materials. For example, the hanging labels of Rich Mnisi are made from scraps of material, which he finely cuts in a blender. He then uses this to make the paper for his labels and also embeds fine seeds. A new plant grows from a Rich Mnisi label and the label is completely sustainable. “It’s wonderful to come to Berlin as part of the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents,” said Rich Mnisi. “I’m looking forward to the city and the Berlin fashion market, and to interacting with both.”

The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is being held in the new Kraftwerk location for the first time, and is open until 15 January 2020. Some 16 other designers are presenting their autumn/winter 2020 collections on the catwalk. On the publicly accessible ground floor of Kraftwerk, there are also exhibitions and installations that represent the fashion scene and give end consumers an outlook on the coming season.

25 years of Mercedes-Benz fashion activities

Over the last 25 years, Mercedes-Benz has established itself as a major player in the worldwide fashion industry and created an authentic network in the fashion scene with its commitment to designer initiatives and as a partner of Fashion Weeks and events. The brand is currently active on over 70 platforms in more than 40 countries, among them the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Weeks in Australia, Mexico, Madrid, Tiflis and Berlin, as well as the famous International Festival for Fashion, Photography and Fashion Accessories in Hyères. The overview of the company’s involvement is revised annually.

Ensuring a responsible future for the fashion sector

Mercedes-Benz has committed itself to a sustainable future for luxury design, and is actively engaged in promoting the responsible growth of its fashion partnerships. This is done with the focus on best practices and a dialogue with creative people dedicated to furthering the values of sophisticated and intuitive design, new ideas and innovation. Promoting new fashion locations and supporting the next generation of up-and-coming creative talent around the world continue to be major aspects of the fashion strategy of Mercedes-Benz. With the young talent promotion programme Mercedes-Benz Fashion Talents and the annual Fashion Stories, the company has supported 140 designers on over platforms around the world, among them platforms in Milan, London, New York, Beijing, Prague, Istanbul and Berlin. The overview of the company’s involvement is revised annually.