Kaunda Selisho

By Kaunda Selisho


SA Fashion Week: Did Enhle Mbali share catwalk with Black Coffee?

Enhle Mbali’s Essie Apparel showcased ahead of Black Coffee at SA Fashion Week on the night’s Oppo Collection show.

The dramatic nature of their break-up, hearing Enhle Mbali Mlotshwa’s name next to that of Black Coffee immediately piqued the interest of the masses. 

This was exactly the case when the running order for day two of SA Fashion Week (SAFW) was sent out and those in the know saw that Enhle Mbali’s Essie Apparel would be showcasing right before the Black Coffee brand on the night’s Oppo Collection show. 

Not the Black Coffee you think it is

The Black Coffee in question is a brand that belongs to designer Jacques van der Watt. 

He made his SA Fashion Week debut in 1999 and his brand has gone on to become one of the most acclaimed fashion design labels in the South African fashion industry. 

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Along the way, he has scooped up a truckload of design accolades and continues to wow fashion lovers across the world with his creations. 

What did Enhle’s range look like? 

The range that Essie Apparel presented this season at SA Fashion Week, however, left many in the room disappointed for various reasons. The fashion journalist to my right was not impressed with the finish of most of the garments while the two other journalists to my left felt as though the line was not cohesive. 

As lifestyle and entertainment journalists, they were also let down by the fact that the second dress in the range that was sent down the runway was something that Enhle wore three years ago. 

It was a cream, pearl-encrusted mini dress with long sleeves and cutouts seen on the red carpet at the Queen Sono event. 


Enhle Mbali’s Essie Apparel at #SAFashionWeek

♬ Woman – Doja Cat

That dress was followed by lilac, grey and cream looks that seemed to be trying to bridge the gap between athleisure and corporate power dressing. 

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The final look was a dusty pink column dress with a sheer, tiered skirt with a beaded corset over the bodice that also left much to be desired despite how visually interesting it was. 

Beautiful, beautiful gowns…

Another part of SAFW that is often spoken about is the new talent search which has, for a long time, been sponsored by Mr Price. 

The competition was introduced by SA Fashion Week in 1998. In addition to brands like Black Coffee, the new talent search competition also fast-tracked the careers of designers like David Tlale, and more recently, brands like Mmusomaxwell.

“Handpicked from the country’s most exciting young signatures by a panel of industry experts, becoming a finalist or a winner in the New Talent Search is a pivotal launch pad with prizes aimed at giving maximum support in the critical early years,” explains the SAFW website. 

This year, nine designers duked it out for the prize which was ultimately won by Cyla Gonsolves. 

READ: What stars and influencers think of SAFW

According to SA Fashion Week, the designer took inspiration from nature and female empowerment, making nods to her love for reducing, reusing and recycling materials. 

SAFW further added that her inspiration translated into an impeccably tailored and whimsical collection of languid day dresses, cosy knits and contemporary blouses.

As the 2023 SA Fashion Week Mr Price New Talent Search winner, Gonsolves will take home a R50 000 cash prize to continue growing her design studio based on her Cape Town farm. She will also receive a week-long mentorship programme learning the full retail cycle at Mr Price Head Office. 

Furthermore, she’ll begin designing her limited-edition range bringing together her signature elegant aesthetic with her love for handcrafted details to launch in selected Mr Price stores later this year. 

With only one winner, I began to wonder what happens to the other designers, especially when you not only consider how small the SA Fashion Week audience is but also when you think about how limited information was with regards to how to purchase work by the showcasing designers. 

At the time of writing, only two of the eight other designers had easily accessible retail and a searchable online presence. 

Following the showcase, I reached out to one of the New Talent Search designers whose range I liked to enquire about ordering or purchasing a garment, and one week later, I still had not received a response. 

So, if we can barely access these designers beyond the runway shows and the pop-up shops headed up by SA Fashion Week, how exactly are we supposed to participate in the business of ethical fashion? 

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