From street wear to evening wear to nothing but underwear – Sanlam SA Fashion Week had it all. Champagne flowed as Johannesburg celebrated another successful week of fashion and flair. The biggest fashion event of the year took place at the Sandton Convention Centre from 16 to 19 September.

I had the opportunity to get behind the scenes, wear the designer clothes and walk the runway. Respected local designers such as Abigail Betz, Gideon, Colleen Eitzen, Amanda Laird Cherry, Soulchild and many more showcased their winter 2010 collections.

The week kicked off with the 50th anniversary of Barbie. Designers had to visualise what Barbies would wear and design outfits according to their interpretation. The audience loved it.

Models and producers were running around backstage to get hair and makeup done. For any local model, doing a show at Fashion Week is a great way to get noticed and build a career. I asked some of my fellow models, some as young as 16, how they coped and whether they enjoyed doing the shows. The response was clear: they loved it. The only problem this year was the shortage of food backstage. Luckily, there was plenty of Evian water and Red Bull to keep us refreshed.

Celebrities were also present. Model Tanya van Graan and Miss South Africa 2009, Tatum Keshwar, worked the runway for the Barbie show. They seemed quite at ease with the rest of the models. Thankfully, no diva behavior could be detected from either side.

Even the designers could not have been friendlier. One of these friendly people is designer Gideon, one of the most respected designers in the country. This year was his first show at SA Fashion Week in four years. The show which was much anticipated after his long absence, did not disappoint.

Backstage, Amanda Laird Cherry spoke about her new collection. The buzz word this year is “recessionista”: someone who can look trendy on a budget. The emphasis of her collection is on affordability. She achieves this by using simple styles and fabrics that are versatile.

Accessories were also a big favourite at the fashion week,. Everything from belts made out of paper to chunky necklaces could be seen. It’s clear that this year’s designs were not trying to copy what the fashion world is doing in Europe and America, but rather stayed true to African roots.

Affordability with a bit of attitude was this year’s fashion motto. Be sure to check out the next fashion week and support local brands and designers. Sanlam SA Fashion Week is set to keep the country’s fashion heart beating.

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