Unapologetically unconventional fashion inspired by Africa in winter

Essie Apparel, which was launched to great acclaim at SA Fashion Week in 2019, will be presenting its eagerly awaited new autumn and winter collection at this year’s event, took place at the Mall of Africa on 20 - 22 October.

Essie’s AW23 is inspired by the unique qualities of winter in Africa; cold nights, chilly mornings and balmy afternoons. The new collection, made entirely in South Africa, interrupts established ideas about what winter colours and winter wear should be, introducing bold colours and unapologetically unconventional designs for both women and men. This is the first time Essie will be presenting menswear as part of its collection and it is set to have the same impact that the label’s collections for women have had right from the start.

Developed with the fashion forward globetrotter in mind, Essie has established a dedicated following since the launch of its first collection, which featured faux leather dresses, catsuits, skirts, puffy jackets and faux fur coats. This bold new look caused a stir both locally and internationally and, since then, the label has gone on to feature in Italian Vogue and to garner its first international award, which was presented at Fashion Community Week in San Francisco in 2020.

 The brainchild of fashion designer, actress and TV presenter, Enhle Mbali, Essie Apparel is known for its fusion designs, which combine her own simple and classy style with just the right touch of African-inspired edginess. 

The new AW23 collection is set to top even the triumph of the AW22 collection, which brought to the catwalk an audacious new take on the safari look, effortlessly combining khaki, leathers, chiffon and other luxury materials in statement pieces that sent a clear message about the quality and innovation of high-end fashion in Africa today; fashion that has broken new ground since 2020.

“Almost unexpectedly, interest in luxury fashion didn’t wane during the pandemic,” says Mbali. “In fact, it weathered the storm better than leading brands like H&M, Esprit, Gap, Zara and J Crew. Tech-savvy buyers moved seamlessly from the physical environment into the online environment, radically extending both reach and accessibility. Prior to 2020, it was unheard of to search for and purchase luxury brands online, but a dramatic turnaround in consumer behaviour and purchasing patterns over the past two-and-a-half years has changed all that.”

The interest in innovative statement fashion, in particular, has skyrocketed. “The audiences that are attracted to our designs are looking for fashion that says something about who they are, where they come from, where they’re going and how they see the world,” says Mbali. “That’s why we combine our proven commitment to workmanship and quality materials with a distinctive creativity and our own special note of urban whimsy. It’s also why our collections speak to contemporary audiences in such a powerful way and why we’ll be making them available online from mid-November

And we’re actively promoting them across all social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.”

Essie Apparel speaks to a new generation that is proud of its heritage and, at the same time, defines itself as a borderless cohort of globally interconnected trendsetters. “The exciting silhouettes of the AW23 collection imagine new frontiers and are infused with our ethos of continually pushing boundaries,” says Mbali. “From a design perspective, they bring together the visual experience of living in contemporary Africa, an evolution of emotional experiences, the influence of travel and an innate passion for the arts.

Image links:  https://bit.ly/3z0uhpC 

About Enhle Mbali

Enhle Mbali developed a love of fashion as a child and today it is what defines her. From an early age, she dreamed of creating garments that would reflect her sense of style and that would define a special place for her in the world of fashion.  As an adult, she started out by stitching together her own designs by hand so meticulously that no one could tell they’d been hand-stitched. Then, in 2015, she presented a fashionable, yet comfortable range of clothing for moms-to-be called SE Preggoz. The range, which was launched in both South Africa and New York, was so popular that it sold out within a matter of weeks.  In 2018, she designed some of the outfits worn by global superstar Beyoncé at the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100, becoming a sought-after names among fashionistas. She went on to launch Essie Apparel in 2019, presenting an entirely new look for today’s urban woman. This year she is launching a menswear range too  - a move that is sure to cement the very special place she has created for herself in the fashion world.