For the uninitiated Irmgard Mkhabela is one of South African fashion’s hidden treasures. A consummate fashion academic who has taught at length at the Tswhane University of Technology and studied in Sweden, Mkhabela’s explorations of the possibilities of fashion have earned him criticial acclaim and spots at the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg as an independent label and part of the Africa Fashion International (AFI) showcases. The designer’s last big showcase was a women’s wear collection in 2014 called ‘Push-Pull’ that conceptualized silhouettes made entirely via draping and cinching without cuts or seams using materials like Neoprene and wet suit foam.
This year as part of the Couture D’Afrique showcase at the MBFWJ16 Spring 17 showcase the designer showed a menswear collection with a difference, he combined his explorations in mens underwear with athleisure and street wear, drawing inspiration from the 2016 Olympics in Rio as a centre point. Men’s catsuits in vibrant colours like amethyst and Safffron and full body turtle necked swimsuits in paisley were sent down the runway as were slouchy track pants and maroon tailored pants. From sleek underwear to boxy, androgynous jumpsuits, the designer shows the true range of his ability, nailing every look.
But there were also structural pieces, more like we’ve come to expect of Mkhabela with boxy pockets and deconstructed tailoring worked into multivariate, brightly hued jumpsuits, much like racing uniforms. These two different silhouettes provide an interesting contrast, the duality of possibilities for menswear. Nothing is forbidden, nothing is suspect, everything is welcome.
Simon Deiner/SDR Photo