FOCUS ON EXCELLENCE | MIW
by Andrew Ngozo
desire for local brands. These develop the industry, create jobs and, ultimately, create and foster relationships with buyers and consumers alike.
“The South African fashion industry has the potential to be a multimillion-rand industry. However, there needs to be an understanding that, in order to grow the creative fashion design industry, designers need to take the lead. Of course, the government must develop the support structures around the designers,” states Booyzen. Thanks to Booyzen and her team, SAFW initiated the entry of local fashion designers into national retail outlets such as Stuttafords, Woolworths and Edgars. “We now manage the SAFW Edgars Designers Designer Capsule Collections at Melrose Arch and Sandton,” she reveals.
SAFW, which was launched in 1997, is South Africa’s longest-standing industry event. It provides local designers or brands with a platform to launch their latest collections for buyers and the media at runway shows. Two seasonal events are held annually in Johannesburg to introduce the Spring / Summer and Autumn / Winter Collections for a given year. The aim in future is for designers to build their brands and make enough profit so that they can make their own choices as to where to advertise, where to open stores, and which platform to showcase their work on. Booyzen elaborates: “Your business is only successful if your turnover is enough to give you the freedom to make your own business decisions. If the designers expect funding from external sources other than themselves, they will never be businesses in their own right.”
Sustainable Partnerships for the Future
How is such a seemingly ambitious journey going to be embarked upon? Booyzen explains that SAFW and the designers cannot do it alone. “We need the department stores to start believing in the strength of our own designers and in their ability to lead fashion in South Africa,” she says, adding that changing perceptions through developing perfection will, among other things, be the focus area of SAFW. SAFW does more than just contribute to the country’s status in the fashion world, but gives back in ‘style’. Booyzen says that one of its initiatives was the Fashion Fusion Project that ran for five years. “We worked with just under 1 000 crafters from all the provinces. This created a sustainable income for both the designers and the crafters.” She adds that, while the project only ran for five years, some of the designers are still working with the crafters that SAFW fused them with.
In an effort to make inroads in promoting and selling South African designers to boutiques and department stores, SAFW introduced the Fashion Agent. This has resulted in a database of 345 buyers with 94 boutiques buying from designers through the Fashion Agent. “In the past 12 months, the Fashion Agent achieved a turnover of just under R3.5-million. This not only gives back to the community, but also has a direct influence on job creation,” states Booyzen. SAFW, with Booyzen at the helm, is certainly taking the business of fashion to another level. She mentions that the SAFW Pop Up Shop, for instance, is intended to give designers the opportunity to sell their collections directly to consumers in luxury shopping centres. The upside of this Pop Up Shop is, says Booyzen, that designers are afforded the chance to establish direct contact with the consumer. This hones their research skills and allows them to network and connect with the media.
The team at SAFW is mindful of starting at the grass roots in order to groom talent in the industry. Booyzen reveals that, through the College Competition, held in 28 South African institutions, SAFW identifies promising individuals at an early stage and gives them the opportunity to enter the fashion business. “Through this, we are operating true to our tag line, ‘The Business of Fashion’, as we focus on unearthing, nurturing and developing designers in South Africa,” she notes. Booyzen opines that much still needs to be done by the fashion industry in South Africa. Thus far, she believes that fashion has not played its role. “We will start playing a role only when our designers are ‘export-ready’. They have to be able to compete, and up to an international standard,” she says. At the moment, South Africa is not even vaguely close to achieving this status. “The fact that various entities have shown South African designers on an international platform has only revealed to the international community that we are not on a par with the rest of the world vis-à-vis fashion,” she indicates.
While, admittedly, there is more that can be done, a lot more has been achieved thus far by Booyzen and SAFW. For the founder and director of SAFW, there is no greater joy than seeing designers on their final catwalk. “As they showcase their talent, I smile, because I know the hard work and challenges that designers are faced with in delivering a collection that can sell, can create jobs and can grow their businesses,” she concludes.
In the Business of Fashion
When South African Fashion Week (SAFW) was started in 1997, no one ever dreamt that it would scale to the top of South Africa’s – and the world’s – fashion industry. Today, SAFW is not only synonymous with style, but also with a brand that aims to grow even stronger.
Interesting developments have taken place at SAFW since founder and director Lucilla Booyzen interacted with CEO magazine during the 2012 South African Most Influential Women in Business and Government Awards. “SAFW is the hub of fashion in South Africa. This platform has not only launched dozens of South African design labels, but has also worked with designers to establish sustainable businesses,” she says. These businesses have grown and have created local, national and international markets, and, in so doing, have employed people and developed suppliers. SAFW, notes Booyzen, has shown that a positive difference can be made by creating an awareness and