MTC Windhoek Fashion Week 2023 - The good, the bad and the ugly!
As the dust settles and we release our last bits of content from the 2023 MTC Windhoek Fashion Week (WFW), this proudly Namibian fashion writer could not go without penning her annual review of Namibia's biggest fashion event. While it had its moments of brilliance, this edition equally featured its hitches and missed opportunities. Eight years into the game, we can't be blamed for expecting a better show from the organisers and showcasing designers alike.
The Welcoming Party: A Lacklustre Welcome
The Fashion Pitch Night participants took centre stage at the Welcoming Party, but unfortunately, so did the organiser's tardiness. The fact that most of us in attendance had to learn the Welcoming Party and Pitch Night would be merged into one long and drawn-out evening made it worse. This was when I realised that the absence of many industry insiders set the tone for a subdued start to Namibia's biggest week in fashion, hinting at a diminishing interest in this year's event. The highlights of the night were the exhibitions from the talented participants, and meeting and connecting with other attendees. This also made me less upset to miss an opportunity to stay in bed.
Menswear Steals the Spotlight
In a refreshing departure from the norm, menswear emerged as a standout category at the runway shows. Namibian brand Sitwala stood head and shoulders above the rest with an immaculate collection that drew on safari themes with a dose of traditional Namibian cultural elements. We saw the famous Damara/Nama patchwork as well as the odelela fabric of the Aawambo people. The collection also features something for the ladies with pantsuits in traditional fabric and silk. Sitwala's collection showcased cohesion and immaculate craftsmanship, proving that boys also want to have fun with their fashion.
The nod to masculine themes was loud and proud, a refreshing departure from the often female-dominated spotlight. I also loved the men's collections by Alda Fun in Fashion (Angola), whose lively pieces are the opposite of the dull and monotonous tones we're used to seeing on men. House of Saint Luke (SA) gave us everything from ruffles to sheer fabric in the year's hottest colour trend - red-orange. It was a party over at Andila Andila (SA), with colourful shimmers and soft silhouettes. Going back to basics, Jigga (SA) gave us utilitarian workwear for the urban man on the go.
(Photo credit: Shamase Studios)
Alda Fun in Fashion (Angola) Andila Andila (SA) House of Saint Luke (SA)
As predicted, a new wave of Namibian designers made a lasting impression. Two standout talents presented collections that were not only cohesive but hinted at a promising future for Namibian fashion. This injection of fresh creativity came from the maiden fashion week collections of Chanté Jenae and Fallone Tembwe, both University of Namibia (Unam) graduates. The Fashion Pitch Night participants further proved that the kids are indeed all right. All creatives who participated showcased fresh, innovative ideas that gave hope for Namibia's fashion future. Here's an honourable mention to another newcomer, Debora Ndjiharine (Dzaam), who I was also excited to see. Her recycled and upcycled all-denim collection was the perfect ode to this year's WFW theme: Sustainably Namibian. While she may need more work in terms of execution, I can see her going far, considering she harbours such distinctness at an early stage of her career.
(Photo credit: Shamase Studios)
A crucial aspect that could have elevated the overall experience of this year's WFW was the production quality on the runway. The Jacaranda collection by Melisa Poulton suffered a lack of showmanship, leaving me longing for a touch of drama. The collection, inspired by the jacaranda tree fell short of inspiring.
The highly anticipated Lioness and Melisa collaboration failed to deliver, marking a missed opportunity for what could be an epic Namibian fashion moment. Despite bringing fitness instructor, life coach and former model Emily Kandanga out of modelling retirement and featuring former rapper Snazzy as one of the star models, it was not enough for this collection to stand out. Poorly constructed and seemingly rushed, the collection was a letdown and not something that compares to the previous works of both Lioness and Melisa. Amidst the production shortcomings, designers like Sirenga presented show-stopping pieces, injecting much-needed drama and flair into the runway shows. While I thought this needed more effort on choreography, lighting and music choice, Sirenga managed to stand out by sheer talent alone.
(Photo credit: Shamase Studios)
Lioness x Melisa Poulton Melisa Poulton Sirenga
Pan-African Representation: A Call for Reciprocity
While celebrating the inclusion of designers from neighbouring countries, there's a call for reciprocity. Namibian designers deserve opportunities to showcase abroad, and this mutual
support could further strengthen the regional fashion landscape. The hope is that Namibian
talents shine on international platforms as well. It's surely no easy feat for designers to
showcase in Namibia or outside the country. But this is where industry leaders can do their part in helping emerging designers take up these opportunities. I would like to see the MTC WFW facilitate and uplift local designers in this area. If this doesn't happen, we'll continue to see the industry remain clustered with only a handful of well-connected talents making it.
The Ever Elusive Namibian Style
We can all agree that Namibians have come a long way with our style identity. However, the blue carpet was filled with full-on evening gowns and elaborate garments reminiscent of a glamorous award show. Guys, fashion week is and should never be that deep. Let's relax and have some fun with our looks next time, and by we, I'm referring to myself too. My look for the opening night ATE but I could have done more with the rest of my choices.
Fashion week should be a playground of fun and experimentation, and the call is for Namibians, including the writer, to infuse more playfulness into their fashion choices. Think of the Japanese and their playful aesthetic, French romanticism, or even our neighbouring South Africans with their loud and bold style. It's time we start taking risks as Namibians, as I believe only that will help us get close to discovering what our unique style is as a nation. That, coupled with supporting our designers and fashion creatives, is a recipe for success we desperately need!
I should shout out to my favourite blue carpet looks. Content creators and all-around cool kids Eliud Andima and Valencia brought all the fashion we needed to the blue carpet and were my best-dressed picks for the event.
All in all, MTC Windhoek Fashion Week 2023 presented a mixed bag of highs and lows. The event maintained its eight-year streak, but the need for discernment in overall execution remains. As an eternal optimist, I remain hopeful that as we enter a decade of fashion week, Namibia will finally find its rhythm in this thing called fashion.
Until next time,
Yours in fashion ...