SA FW and Sunglass Hut hosted an exclusive semi-final for the New Talent Search yesterday in Sandton. This initiative aims to build young talent of designers in South Africa. Eight young designers, some still at school came face to face with the judges again yesterday to sell their brands.
Ageo by Arnold Phasa, Danielle Frylinck, I Just Am, Ipikoko, Turner Studio, Kentse Masilo, Liu Liu and Mmusomaxwell are in the top 8. Watching their collections, I am amazed by how matured and impeccable their work is. From the tailoring to the fabric mixture you can tell that we have a dedicated breed of designers. Finishing is still an issue but compared to the rest of Africa, our designers are top notch.
One designer who caught my eye was Nobuntu Mbhele of I just am. and her work oozes practical luxury. She took fabric you would normally overlook and turned it into classy garments that are solid in color but still ladylike. “My collection is basically from deconstruction and remaking of fabric. I always want to find a new way to make something that is innovative. For this collection I used fabric that is masculine for women’s wear but I toned it down with the pink satin. It was also inspired by the idea of sleepwear. I love that you can wear sleep wear outside,”she says.
The sleep wear trend dominated 2016-2017 and probably deserves Trend of the Year. Thanks to Rihanna who revolutionized streetwear with sleepwear. But many trend followers have dismally failed to wear the trend in a stylish way. Just like any other trend, so much can go wrong if you don’t understand what’s good for your body and what looks good on you .
“People get this trend wrong because they don’t understand that it’s meant to be luxurious. It’s not supposed to be something you wear on a daily basis going to the market. You have to find a way to not make it look like sleepwear even though it is sleepwear.”
Talented as these young designers may be, the tragedy they face is lack of support from locals. South Africans are behind in supporting and buying local brands. People also fail to see and acknowledge the value of local brands therefore finding it a better option to splurge on international luxury brands than local luxury brands. With this kind of thinking and act, they forget how costly fabric and garment production is more especially when it’s locally produced. It’s not just the fabric price that is considered but logistics and labour which has to be in line with the laws to avoid cheap labour.
“When it comes to the pricing of local brands, people do not understand how expensive fabric is. It’s a lot of money and also the work that goes into making garments. If for example you are like Laduma who creates his own textiles, it’s even more costly because of the machines you use. So if people want grand fashion, they must pay for grand fashion,” she adds.
Danielle Frylinck of Danielle Frylinck Design attests to what Mbhele says about investing in good quality local brands. “The process of getting local people to buy into our brands is slow but we are getting there. In my case for example, there’s a group of girls who shop only with me and other local brands. With environmental issues, more fashion lovers are asking questions and they are supportive of designers who share the same values.”
For a very long time, every designer dreamt of opening their own store, but this new generation feels it doesn’t have time nor the money for the admin and cost that comes with having your own store. So the idea of incubator are preferred instead. “My goal is to do a designer based concept store because the industry is so small and we need to help each other . To have your own store is a lot of work and we are small brands, where are we going to get the funding?”
In the past few years a lot of designers have adopted concepts like Pop Up Stores, Online Stores and concepts stores like Fashion Kraal and Work Shop New Town to avoid costs. Maxwell Boko who is co-founder of MmusoMaxwell with Mmuso Potsane shares the same goals as Frylinck. He believes his brand will easily excel at an already established department store.
“I definitely want to be in a retail store because it’s too risky and too much of a responsibility to have your own store. We are trying to get to retail stores and we won’t tone down the quality but will make the designs more practical for the ladies to wear,” he says.
The future of South African fashion looks bright but all stakeholders will have to come on board if it’s to succeed. In countries like the UK the fashion industry contributes billions to the country’s GDP. Our industry has the same potential and can excel the same way if retail stores open up doors like Macy’s and Neiman Marcus is doing in the US. We can also limit the number of international brands we stock so we can make more space for local brands. Accessibility will make it possible for South Africans to buy local brands. Young designers, including some established designers, do not have funds for marketing campaigns, all they rely on is social media and word of mouth.
So it is about time that we see this industry for what it is, an industry that can add value to our economy and change a lot of people’s lives.
The top 8 finalists of the Sunglass Hut New Talent Search will open up SAFW AW18 next week in Sandton.