How far ahead is South Africa in taking care of their young creatives? Is this a country that truly nurtures and provides the necessities and opportunities for its young creative minds as much as it does for its sports and politics? Is being an aspiring creative still seen as a ‘Mickey Mouse’ profession, where it’s just meant to be aesthetically pleasing and easy on the eyes?
As a young emerging fashion designer, I’ve constantly been asking myself whether there are enough platforms and opportunities for aspiring fashion designers to gain exposure and essentially live their dreams as fully-fledged fashion designers.
As a creative, I feel so blessed to be surrounded by the most talented, vibrant, passionate, hungriest, free-spirited and eccentric individuals that have their own stories and talents that they use to create their desired designs. Their created pieces become tangible representations of their drawn inspiration. So much of this is happening right here in the tip of Africa! Does society realise the creative juices that the young generation has? More importantly, does South Africa as a whole see the dynamic potential that fashion has?
It is my opinion that, unfortunately, fashion isn’t lived or seen as a culture here. it is not celebrated enough for what it truly stands for and the significant power it can have to each individual.
I have always believed that we live in a fast-paced world where human communication is now based on what we see. Since fashion is an instant language where people make an immediate perception of who you are based on what you are wearing, shouldn’t this be enough reason for South Africa to step it up by taking care of their future fashion designers?
I have been fortunate enough to be exposed to certain platforms that provide a base for young aspiring designers to show their work, but is it enough? And how viable are these platforms? What avenues do hopeful fashion designers have to take in sealing a concrete fashion design career as well as business?
In the first quarter of the year, the Design Indaba is held in Cape Town, a hub for established and emerging designers to showcase their work. This becomes an opportunity for the public to see executed products and progress of what each designer has been working on, allowing local and international interests in engaging with the designer and forming potential relationships and customers.
AFI (Africa Fashion International) and ERSDA (Elle Rising Star Design Awards) seem to be South Africa’s most recognised competitions and organisations that provide professional mentorships and productions for young hopefuls in showcasing their designs, but essentially once that is over, it’s up to the designer to sustain and back their brand and business. I completely understand that each individual must gain a sense of independence and persistence, but how viable are these platforms? How far can R10 000 – R25 000 take you for sustaining a fashion business? Trust me, I am not oblivious that they provide some sort of jump-start to a business… but do they really?
Any fashion designer understands that production goes way beyond the sketch pad. the amount of money that goes into buying the fabrics, materials, adornments and other necessities is beyond. I feel that there is a mediocre cycle that is happening in a country that is so rich with talent, passion and creativity. The majority of our fabrics are average, a large number of laborers are average and unfortunately we have very little or no investors. How many young aspiring fashion designers that have so much talent and ooze the love and passion needed, have to conform themselves to loan sharks in order to start their brand?
Is it ok that young South African fashion designers now approach international folk for sponsorship, internships and mentoring because South Africa unfortunately doesn’t provide enough of these opportunities that are at the same time sustainable for daily living?
The 24th July sparked the beginning of the Mercedes Benz Cape Town Fashion Week A/W 14, a grand showcase where local aspiring and established fashion designers introduced South Africa to their latest creations. With big headliners like Marianne Fassler and Gavin Rajah opening the event with their latest collections, this was a foreshadowing of the exciting shows that were yet to come.
AFI Next Generation introduced up and coming local talents – allowing them the opportunity to promote themselves through the spectacular production. AFI 2013 Fast-track winner, Eleni Labrou, Elle Rising Star Winner (2013) – Nicholas Coutts, Alexandra Blanc and Ernest Mahomane used this opportunity to create sensational ranges that were distinct, strong and to their design aesthetic. Creatively this marked them further in the South African Fashion industry, showing us a representation of where South African fashion is heading. This also becomes the next stage of production and business – through observation and conversations, these four designers have all been commended for their creations, but will South Africa go beyond the talk and spend their monies on the talented four, designer pieces?
This is a post that is purely based on asking questions that seek for logical responses, I aim for this to be an informative forum where we’re allowed to share and make a positive contribution of what we think. With the Mercedes Benz Cape Town Fashion Week now over, we’ll see which fresh talent will conquer the South African fashion scene in creating a business that is as strong as their designs.
Photographer : Mpumelelo Macu