Tell us what your intention was when you created SAFW.
I started SA Fashion Week so that we could build the fashion industry of SA into a designer-led country as opposed to mass retail. SAFW is essentially a marketing and sales, wholesale and retail platform.
How are SAFW designers adapting to the Corona pandemic?
The designer community is predominantly made of SMMEs. They all employ small contingents of artisans, such as seamstresses and pattern makers. It’s been a superhuman challenge for these businesses to stay afloat, adapt to new methods of retail and retain jobs in the absence of trade or cash flow. This new real-life and online hybrid opportunity enables the industry to do business effectively while being highly mindful of the safety aspects associated with the pandemic to showcase their collections.
How has the changing landscape impacted SAFW?
Corona had a dramatic impact on SAFW, the designers and the industry in its entirety from manufacturer to consumer, forcing SAFW to also reinvent itself and transform traditional shows resulting in the production of a virtual Fashion Week in October 2020 (and now in April 2021). The results were staggering, we had more eyeballs on the shows than ever before, a wider reach and the designers were introduced to international agents and online stores.
Has this transition impacted sponsorship?
SAFW has always aligned itself with likeminded-partners who understand our vision of creating a strong creative fashion design industry that can contribute to the GDP of the country. This year’s partners include The Mall of Africa, Satiskin, the fully sustainable Diamond Fibre Collection, and M.A.C and Carlton Hair. The scoop of the show is the talented Lukhanyo, who has been selected as a finalist for the LVMH competition.
The latest statistics indicates that the annual turnover of SA fashion designers is over R800 million. I believe, now more than ever, that big corporates will understand that they have to invest in businesses that are committed to building local industry. This is where the future lies.
What’s interesting or fresh this year?
With a staggering 244 unique never-seen-before garments, and a welcome focus on slow fashion, the designers reworked, re-used and reinvented their collections in astonishing ways.
For example, revered designer Amanda Laird Cherry created her collection from old shirts; Clive Rundle recycled his past collections, Chief of Angel’s Oscar Ncube combined natural leather and fabrics, the ever-popular Ephymol made a collection using old fabrics unearthed in his storeroom and this year’s New Talent Show brief was based on sustainability and natural fibres.
How have trends changed?
There’s no doubt the pandemic has forced consumers to reconsider how they shop and what they buy. We’re seeing a notable increase in more modest and trans-seasonal garments. Fashion trends have always been a reflection of the times we live in. And it couldn’t be truer of the collections presented by this year’s designers which show great introspection and reinvention with recycling, up-cycling and sustainability at its core. They have created collections with a story based on real-life and not trends set by profit chasers.
The Pandemic has forced all of us to re-evaluate how we do things, and how to live our lives in a more responsible manner. The online stores, boutiques and department stores need to rethink their business models, and the consumer their shopping habits eg. focusing on buying only the clothes we need and at the right price in order to reduce waste, build resources and create jobs.
What can showing at SAFW do for a designer’s career?
SAFW is the cornerstone of many successful SA designer’s careers. We spotlight the designers, taking them from showing their collections to the trade show and the pop-up shop. We provide a marketing platform connecting them to the media, buyers of boutiques and department stores, their followers and influencers.
How can a creative learn to make a career from being a designer?
The only way designers can create wealth is to sell, and to do that you need to be a designer and an entrepreneur at the same time.
Where does our industry need to go?
We need to be a designer-led industry and not a manufacturing-led one. We have to focus on building our local fashion industry and the full value chain. Why buy imported goods if you can buy from our equally talented local designers and boost the economy.
Lucilla Booyzen Director SAFW