Images via Eunice Driver Photography

Gert-Johan Coetzee brings a flash of blue sky to the COVID-19 gloom

South African fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee stamped his name on the ramp at virtual SA Fashion Week.


Images via Eunice Driver Photography

Gert-Johan Coetzee opened the TenTwentyTwenty Digital Collections on Thursday night. A total of 27 designers are showing their collections on the streaming programme, which runs until Saturday 24 October.

Opening night saw ruffles and ruching, flounces and furbelows – and what is a Coetzee range without a gigantic bow or two?

A classic Coetzee bow. Image via Eunice Driver Photography

With his name printed in graphic font on a range of fabric, in a subtle and sometimes not so subtle reminder, he sent out models in waves of blue.

Coetzee was showcasing his new couture and ready-to-wear range at SAFW bi-annual collections which, due to the pandemic, are virtual.

Classic Coetzee

But, while air-kisses and people-watching opportunities were scarce, the show still bore the stamp of classic Gert-Johan Coetzee.

The self-confessed germophobe has undoubtedly been affected by the pandemic. Nearly all the models were sheathed from finger-tip to toe, wearing lycra gloves or stockings which gave their skin a symbol of protection from airborne threats.

As always, his structured garments seemed meticulously executed with baroque opulence and a nod to Africa.

His previous collection in 2020 featured a restricted palette of bright orange against black – this time the designer limited it to cerulean blue and black. It was as if the blue skies of his farm childhood were bumping up against the black mood of the 2020 fashion world.

Black and blue accents. Image via Eunice Driver Photography

Some models strode out in monochromatic urban jungle pantsuits. You could find asymmetrical arm detailing, and a nod to the cattle of Africa.

Some glided through the empty space of the Mall of Africa rippling with African-inspired beadwork skirts.

Others floated in puffballs of tulle with nipped in waists and tightly laced corsets.

In another hint at protection, a multilayered ballgown-like skirt in what looked like plastic, similar to bin liners.

Gert-Johan Coetzee customers

With a red-carpet clientele that includes Oprah, Bonang, Minnie, Demi-Leigh and a Kardashian, it’s hard not to name drop when glancing through the list of GJC customers.

Gert-Johan Coetzee has a kick-ass publicity team, which helps of course, but his real strength lies in his beautiful designs.

He is also an extremely likeable human being, and has become one of SA’s most loved and admired fashion designers. His bursary programme sponsors two new students annually with three-year bursaries in Fashion Studies at his alma mater, Northwest School of Design.

Fashion with a conscience

Gert-Johan Coetzee and his partner Vicky Visagie, who is the GJC brand manager, have placed many social issues on the fashion agenda.

These have included breaking down prejudices about albinism, in partnership with lawyer turned international model Thando Hopa.

Who can forget the year he focussed on water at SAFW, years before it became such a hot-button issue?

He also has highlighted literacy, violence against women, breast-cancer awareness, endangered wildlife and eco-consciousness in fashion.

This year he brought a flash of blue sky to the COVID-19 gloom.

After the October virtual collections, the SAFW Trade Show will feature the work of 50 designers at the Crystal Court at the Mall of Africa from 1 to 3 November. 

Tickets for SAFW are on sale at Computicket.