enhle mbali

Candy floss, pantaboots: Enhle Mbali rocks SAFW with edgy fusion

African with a European closet: ‘Blood Psalms’ actress Enhle Mbali’s AW23 Essie Apparel collection took the SA Fashion Week runway by storm.

enhle mbali

Enhle Mbali stunned fashionistas at the South African Fashion Week (SAFW) with the Autumn/Winter 2023 collection for her clothing label Essie Apparel. The actress, designer and TV host’s creations were bursting at the seams with sculptural detail, sensuality and the clever use of various colours to play up the emotions.

For the first time, the designer also presented menswear as part her Essie Apparel luxury brand showcased at SAFW which took place from 20 to 22 October at the Mall in Africa, in Midrand, Johannesburg.

Enhle Mbali’s AW23 Essie Apparel collection was showcased on Day 2 of the South African Fashion Week which was held from 20 to 22 October. Images: Supplied/ SA Fashion Week/ Eunice Driver Photography

Mbali launched her fashion line Essie Apparel in 2019 and in the matter of a just a few months, the designer collected her first international award for best designer collection at the  Fashion Community Week, in San Francisco, United States, according to News24.

And that’s not all…Following hot on the heels of her successful SAFW Autumn/Winter 2020 debut, Essie Apparel was featured in the January 2020 month edition of the prestigious Vogue Italia magazine. The collection was a delightful dazzle of faux leather dresses, catsuits, skirts, puffy jackets and faux fur coats.

Fashion-forward fusion

Enhle Mbali has proven herself to be a true “warrior woman” like her Blood Psalms character Umna. The actress and designer has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after her failed marriage and bitter divorce battle with DJ Black Coffee.

Essie Apparel is known for its fashion-forward fusion designs with a cross-cultural punch.

According to the SAFW website, the AW23 collection “combines an evolution of emotional experiences, travel, and an innate passion for the arts”.

Mbali explained to TimesLIVE that this unique fushion of several European, Asian and African influences, stems from not feeling “African enough” when she was growing up.

“I have always grown up in an awkward space where I was not African enough because I was light-skinned or because of the shape of my body. This has helped me to play with African styles while also adapting them to European styles. Being African and wanting to feel African but having a European closet has helped open my mind.”

Candy floss and tulle…

Speaking to TRUELOVE backstage after her showcase on Friday evening, Mbali said it took her a “crazy two months” to rustle up the collection.

“It was crazy. Crazy because it took us two months and I was designing as I was going. I think I had a bit of a block but when it all came together, it came together well,” said the Essie Apparel owner.

“And my kids love candy floss, so I just played around with tulle, and it looked very much like my house on a Sunday”.

Enhle Mbali: AW23 Essie Apparel SAFW lookbook

Mbali’s words of “being African and wanting to feel African but having a European closet has helped open my mind” were reflected in her AW23 SAFW showcase.

The collection — which consists of mainly evening wear — range from ultra-feminine dreamy pastel dresses and figure-hugging khaki grey to a refreshing pop of citrus neon for some edgy sensual appeal.

Then there was the sexy combo of silk corsets and dark denim; Indochine-inspired safari jackets paired with ankle- length denim skirts and electric blue court shoes; gold corset dresses adorned with chains and Venda hats; cheeky ballet tutu-inspired dresses for a playful night out…the list of wonderful goes on!

Mbali also tapped into reality star Kim Kardashian’s obsession with the Balenciaga “pantaboot”. As a matter of fact, the actress and designer has rocked some pantaboots of her own on several occasions!

According to Style Caster, the shoe-tight-pant combination of the “pantaboot” is a relative new style phenomenon that can be credited to designers, such as Balenciaga.

It often starts with a pointed toe, heeled boot that extends up the leg in monochrome velvet, nylon or spandex material. The sleek continuous shape of the pantaboots has a superhero effect and instantly elongates the wearer’s silhouette. 

All images: Supplied/ SA Fashion Week/ Eunice Driver Photography

Man up!

Take a look at Essie Apparel’s first collection for men:

Watch: AW23 Essie Apparel SAFW runway show