The 4th installment of the prestigious fashion and lifestyle showcase, Free State Fashion Week (FSFW) took place from 19 – 21 September at the Sun Windmill, in Bloemfontein, running in tandem with Milan Fashion Week on the other side of the fashion equator.

With this year’s theme being so apt for Heritage month - Our Roots Conquer - we thought it fitting to cast our eyes solely on FSFW this past weekend as an integral part of our fashion month coverage. 

READ MORE: Meet Candy Smith, the woman who's determined to make Free State another one of South Africa's major fashion hubs 

This therefore challenged designers to go beyond what is usual, regular or customary, while cementing their unique design stamp through their collections that spoke to their African heritage. A designer who proved most successful here was Mabel Black, who walked away with the Emerging Designer of the Year Award. 

Similarly to our takeaway from New York Fashion Week earlier in September, this 3-day fashion showcase offered more than just tailored threads and door-height models, but rather it also said something about our social and cultural environment. 

READ MORE: From breastfeeding on the runway to tackling immigration laws, these are the most memorable moments of New York Fashion Week so far 

Inclusive casting

Given the fact that Bloemfontein is prime scouting territory for international agents, where the likes of Ansolet Rossouw who has walked for Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel shows on more than one occasion, it's commendable that the models who walked the runway for each of the designers' shows were a diverse array of identities. 

Esihle Mhluzi - Face of Free State runner up - walks for Makgosi Creations on Day 1. 

Free State Fashion Week

A curvy model walks for The Denim Era show on Day 1.

Free Sate Fashion Week

A curvy model walks for Makgosi Creations. 

Free State Fashion Week

Curvy models, dark-skinned models, petite (height) models, age-diverse models, and differently-abled models all paraded the runway in garments that were made for everyday women much like the Savage x Fenty show. The MMC collection stood out as one that was created primarily with plus size women in mind. 

Gender-based violence awareness 

Fashion has become a good channel through which awareness can be raised about various social ills and political events can be raised. Two examples of this are Alessandro Michele's Gucci Cruise 2020 show which was a response to the Alabama abortion ban earlier in 2019, and more recently, Prabal Gurung who addressed the U.S.' immigration laws at his New York Fashion Week show. 

READ MORE: The Gucci Cruise 2020 show was a welcome nod to the pro-choice conversation amid recent abortion ban controversies 

Hestie Jacobs is one such designer who did the same with her FSFW show on Day Two, that saw a few models walking down the runway holding #AmINext and #EnoughisEnough placards. 

Free State Fashion Week
Free State Fashion Week

Palesa Mokubung is celebrated where she started

We've been making a pleasant noise about Palesa Mokubung for most of 2019 now ever since the news of her H&M x Mantsho collection was announced. And she's been received with an applause just as loud in her home province of the Free State. 

READ MORE: H&M’s first African designer label collaboration with Mantsho by Palesa Mokubung is finally here

The Joburg-based designer not only wowed the vibrant audience with a flawless, inimitable collection on the closing night of FSFW, but she was awarded with a FSFW Lifetime Achiever Award in recognition of her local and international contribution to the fashion industry. 

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Collections we'd love to shop 

Refiloe Mocwa 

An undeniable sense of retail readiness for Spring/Summer 2020 was seen flowing seamlessly throughout this collection.

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Free State Fashion Week

TVL Collection - Thabiso Vincent Leeuw

This was a cohesive collection with red carpet potential. 

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Images: Supplied 

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