The bending of genders on the runway has become de rigueur in South African fashion, as the recent SA Menswear Week revealed. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s a big global trend and some of our designers have actually been at it even before Selfridges went Agender and Gucci put boys in blouses (at the risk of sounding self congratulatory, some of my best friends call me ‘Sandiblouse’ and have been for years *wink*).
One of these designers is Alexandra Blanc, who we first saw at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Cape Town (MBFWCT), last year, where she presented a collection modeled by both male and female models, who swapped some of the garments on the runway, driving home the idea of clothing made for both sexes.
At the BOKEH Film Festival in Cape Town almost two months ago, Miss Blanc presented yet another gender-neutral showcase, this time in two stages. Says the designer of her brand: “(BLANC) is centred around the individual. I want to offer them the freedom to choose a garment that fits their body and personality best. The collection I showed at MBFWCT was completely unisex as I felt that it would be most effective to highlight the unisex aspect of my brand in that show. Neobodies, shown at the Bokeh Fashion Film Festival, was mostly unisex with some items that were created with the male figure in mind and others with the female figure. The same collection, styled differently, was shown on two nights; the first was a menswear show and the second, womenswear.”
It’s not just the gender binary that Alexandra is challenging, she is also experimenting with alternative ways of showcasing fashion. At the BOKEH Fashion Film Festival, her first fashion film, also titled Neobodies and directed by Dirk Steenkamp, was screened. At SAWM AW15, those who attended will have seen her static presentation at the Cape Town Stadium show venue entrance. The idea, Alexandra told us ahead of SAMW, was to present a collection of “trans-seasonal modular pieces with clean cuts and clever twists.”
“I prefer static presentations and installations over a runway show due to the tactile interaction that they afford,” she tells Skattie. “With SA Menswear Week, specifically, I wanted to focus on fewer, well thought-out garments instead of creating another whole new collection. I am steering away from the idea that clothing must be replaced with ‘the new’ and ‘the old, you know, things like ‘so last season’; that is not the kind of brand that I am building. The core of my brand is transcending boundaries and putting the individual at the centre. I want to liquefy not only gender boundaries but also seasonal ones as much as possible. Instead of producing separate collections with different themes, I want to slowly build on existing pieces, prizing quality over quantity, and fostering a connection that the wearer would start to form with each piece.”
By Sandiso Ngubane
Images: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo
Video: Dirk Steenkamp/Vimeo