Young designers get leg up into industry

African Fashion International, the company that hosts Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Johannesburg and Cape Town, has teamed up with the Foschini group to facilitate a new route into the industry.

YOUNG TALENT: The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week is an annual event that exposes South Africa’s designers to the fashion world
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A national fashion design development programme, AFI Fastrack, aims to develop young South African fashion design talent through mentorship and by offering the opportunity to create full fashion collections as part of their training.

Participants will also get exposure in AFI national fashion weeks.

“The programme trains young designers in business acumen, merchandising and how to develop a commercial range. They are taught about the ways in which to build a sustainable, profitable business,” said Bella Cebekhulu, the business development manager of AFI.

“AFI Fastrack is a significant part of African Fashion International’s development programme as we want more of our designers to be passionate about their craft in order to achieve success – which means giving them the necessary skills to run a profitable fashion business. When our designers succeed, the entire industry benefits and more jobs are created,” said Precious Moloi-Motsepe, chairwoman of AFI.

She said Fastrack provided an ongoing platform to develop a generation of designers that may not otherwise have had these opportunities. “The exchange of knowledge will be used to maximise the winners’ output of creativity while enhancing their business capabilities.”

Foschini provides raw materials and educational tools to the designers to cultivate their collections and the Fastrack designers have the opportunity to stock their clothes for two months at Foschini stores.

The government has also pitched in to assist the fashion industry in a bid to boost job creation.

At the beginning of July 2010, the Cape Town Fashion Council secured the approval of R12.3-million from the Department of Trade and Industry’s Clothing and Textile Competitiveness Improvement Programme grant scheme to establish a Fashion Cluster.

The cluster will promote the growth of 23 local design brands which manufacture in South Africa and would help sustain jobs in manufacturing and other design functions in the Western Cape.

“The intent is to create and sustain jobs by competitive product design and good business acumen rather than competing only on price. Designer brand growth leads to growth in the clothing sector pipeline employment. However, job-creation numbers cannot be projected in the short term and can only be assessed post the second semester of the project,” said council CEO Bryan Kamkilawan. The programme kicks off in August.

Kamkilawan said the council was looking at export trade fairs as an area of growth.

“Our South African designers have a competitive edge regarding value-added design, fair trade and cleaner production, which are aligned with international consumer trends. An evaluated designer selection process that matches their product aesthetic to the relevant country trade fair will effect a directed outcome. The Design Indaba Expo [held this year in Cape Town] yielded a R320000 sales return for our designers in 2012,” he said.

“With international fast-fashion retailers growing their market share in the South African market, this will influence a partnership between local retailers and designers regarding product development. The partnership between local brands and retail is a key milestone of the Fashion cluster, but buying South African design needs to be promoted,” said Kamkilawan.

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