It’s slightly overdue, but part one of my South African Fashion Week photo diary is here. Soweto and the surrounding area will come in part two, but the focus on the first few days of our trip was very much on Johannesburg, or Jozi as the locals refer to it, and the culture and colour that runs through its streets. I was lucky enough to be hosted by South African Tourism UK and, as much as I like to play explorer, it was nice to sit back and let the experts show me what the city had to offer.
My flight to Johannesburg departed at the crack of dawn and the 4am start was further compounded by the fact that I’d only just returned from my honeymoon (via Johannesburg) 24 hours before. However, if there is one country in the world that warrants this form of bodily abuse, then it has to be this incredible nation. Plus, we were flying these legs with KLM, who genuinely rank up there as one of the best airlines I’ve ever flown with. From the proper touchscreen technology and huge catalogue of films, to the witty banter and smiles of the very helpful aircrew, KLM were an absolute pleasure to fly with. I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about a twelve-hour daytime flight, but I found plenty of ways to keep myself busy and lunch and dinner provided welcome, and tasty, distractions.
Our four days in the city would be split between two hotels, but the first was the Southern Sun Hyde Park, literally on top of South African Fashion Week. There was no excuse for being late to any of the shows we would be attending, although we did do our best on the first night to be fashionably late to our front row seats (not advised). The breakfast was excellent here and, although it was quite a distance to the centre of the city, the views from the room were very impressive. It even has its own rooftop infinity pool which was often inhabited by fashionistas from every corner of Africa, giving it a real atmosphere and buzz. Service was excellent, and the staff friendly, meaning our stay at the hotel was more than adequate.
Our trip to the second biggest city in Africa kicked off in style, with a walking street tour of Johannesburg. Our local guide was very knowledgeable and the whole tour was a feast for the eyes. If, as a Londoner, you think that Shoreditch is colourful then you need to traverse the streets of Jozi; every corner presented us with something new to see. A highlight had to be a quick visit to Craft Coffee within the industrial heartland of Newtown. Fresh coffee beans were roasted and pressed in front of our very eyes and gave everyone a much needed wake up call. Throw in street music with soul, very colourful political graffiti and some really cool people and it became a walking tour to remember.
Lunch that day was served in the equally-interesting district of Maboneng, just a short drive from Newtown. Named after the very famous song, the Pata Pata restaurant served an absolute feast and was a welcome pit-stop after a two-hour walk. Steak, of course, was the only option that I could go for but the sides of sweet potato mash and seasoned greens were equally as satisfying. That afternoon was spent chilling out on the rooftop pool catching some vitamin D from the low-lying winter sun (it was still 25-degrees though) and chatting to other guests. Then, as with every evening, we headed into South African Fashion Week.
Heading into the pre-show entertainment space, the flurry of excitement, colour and very interesting individuals gave the whole event a feel-good vibe. London Fashion Week can sometimes feel a little too intense and rushed; here we were able to soak up the occasion in our own leisure. The head of South African Fashion Week even came and chatted to us which was a lovely touch; she was very interested to hear our thoughts and comparisons against the London counterpart. On the catwalk, it was great to see designs and styles that completely turned our northern hemisphere convention of style on its head; the African influence was clearly visible and the injection of colour was more than welcome.
It may come as no surprise, but food and drink definitely became defining points for me on this five-day trip and, after an evening of fashion festivities back at the hotel, we were lucky enough to dine at the famous Wombles Steakhouse in Bryanston. The gargantuan fillet steaks were cooked to absolute perfection and the first-class Pinotage flowed freely. The whole atmosphere in the restaurant was fantastic and it was great to see local South African families sat around the tables; always a good sign. It was a great to way to relax and recap on a very busy 48 hours.
Part two of my South Africa photo diary will be coming to the blog shortly, but if this has whetted your appetite for a trip to the City of Gold then you should definitely check out KLM for flights. Flights from London Heathrow via Amsterdam start from just £420, which is a lot less than I paid for my honeymoon flights with another airline. Plus, if I’m being completely honest, at that price it’s probably worth it for the steak and Pinotage alone. Lekker!