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Monday, October 5, 2009

The South African Fashion Week / DAC Fashion Fusion Project



South African Fashion Week (SAFW) was launched twelve years ago as an independent platform to showcase South African fashion design. At the time, I recognised that, apart from our talented contemporary designers, we had an untapped reservoir of traditional crafting skill. Having become marginalised from the mainstream design community, it was producing parity products for the conventional curio market. The idea of bringing this handwork resource into the modern design process meant that we could give our crafters – many from impoverished rural areas – a new relevance, both creatively and financially.Our local designers also became alive to the possibility of differentiating their offering by tapping into our unique heritage in a way that was acceptable to modern tastes.My idea of matching our creative past with our contemporary design environment to the benefit of both was immediately shared by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). The Fashion Fusion Project, was launched in Gauteng Province in 2004. It has since expanded across the country, and there are currently collaborative crafter/designer hubs in each of the nine provinces. With their retail footprint in South Africa and insome cases also abroad, the designers who participated in 2008 – Abigail Betz, Terrence Bray, Amanda Laird Cherry, Colleen Eitzen, Sanché Frolich of Story, Robyn Lidsky of Ruby, Nkhensani Nkosi of Stoned Cherrie, Caren and Gina Waldman of Two, and Daniça Lepan and Jacques van der Watt of Black Coffee – have given considerable commercial impetus to the project. Their outlets have opened up a ready conduit to the consumers of Fashion Fusion products, and this has increased the project’s income streams considerably.Ultimately, the vision is to establish retail hubs in each of the provinces in addition to the existing designer outlets in Johannesburg (Gauteng), Cape Town (Western Cape) and Durban (KwaZulu-Natal). This will mean that towns such as Polokwane, Port Elizabeth, Rustenburg, Witbank and Nelspruit will receive a colourful boost that can only be beneficial to their own marketing efforts, particularly in local tourism.Much of the vision is still to be realised. It is now five years since we embarked on our very exciting journey.

Lucilla Booyzen
Director
South African Fashion Week

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