In November 2022, South Africa fielded its biggest ever exhibitor group at Australia’s premier trade fair for footwear and leather wares.
Now a year on, the South Africans are back with an even larger presence – 14 labels bound to impress with their blend of quality craftsmanship, exoticism and individuality at the Footwear and Accessories Show Australia, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, November 21-23.
Making welcome returns will be Ekamu Brands which began in KwaZulu-Natal Province in 2012 and produces leather sandals, slippers, boots and bags that fuse contemporary African fashion with traditional styles, and WEEF – co-founded in 2013 by young Cape Town designers Devan Swanepoel and Patrick Musil – whose refined leather bow ties, skinny ties, suspenders and pocket squares mark the truly suave 21st century gentleman.
Both Ekamu and WEEF are renowned for their emphasis on fine handcrafting. It is a passion shared by several who will exhibit at the South African pavilion, from vivacious designer Penelope Gugu Bhengu whose Gugu Mobile Boutique includes intricately beaded shoes and jewellery, to footwear icon, Strassbergers, founded almost 200 years ago in Western Cape municipality, Cederberg.
Among other individual talents will be two who epitomise the allure of South African fashion.
Durban-based designer Deven Hurku is the creator of Get Elevated – a riveting blend of Indian, African and Western influences. The glamorous couture label began as a home-based operation, had its official launch at the 2018 African Fashion Exchange and won international attention when Hurku was among 12 South African designers showcased in London at African Fashion Week in August 2019.
Like Deven Hurku, Adria van Rooyen can boast a long career – more than 20 years’ experience in the creative industries from photography and graphic design to printing and publishing. The East Coast designer and environmentalist is also the talent behind eye-catching leather handbag label Seventyfour. Some would call her the ultimate purist.
“I am proud that Seventyfour is a slow fashion brand,” says Van Rooyen, who meticulously handcrafts her bags and accessories from cutting the leathers to saddle-stitching them with waxed thread – each piece can take up to two days to make – and has named her creations after endangered ocean seafood species.
Adding further variety and colour at the South African pavilion will be exhibitors specialising in exotic leathers and skins – among them, Fathima Khan who designs luxury handbags, purses, wallets and belts, and Royalty Hides whose Nguni home décor range includes rugs, ottomans, cushion covers and patchwork placemats. Nguni is a cattle breed indigenous to Southern Africa.
Visit the South Africa Pavilion at the Footwear & Accessories Show on 21 – 23 October 2023. Registration is free for those in the fashion industry.