Strutting on the catwalk with UJU Designs. The Soweto space is rising as the new hub of haute couture.
UJU Designs on display, Manzini says that, “SFW treats audiences to the latest summer trends, featuring glamorous, colour-rich designs.”
(Images: Eunice Driver Photography www.eunicedriver.com)
• Jackie Phamotse
Communications and Marketing Manager
Soweto Fashion Week
+27 79 635 6376
Melissa Jane Cook
Strutting their stuff, pouting their lips and swinging their hips, models draped in designer fashion stalked the catwalk as the biannual Soweto Fashion Week kicked off on 21 November.
Established to showcase local talent and help designers launch their fashion businesses, Soweto Fashion Week was founded in 2011 by Stephen Manzini.
Manzini is an entrepreneur who sees opportunities around every corner and has his fingers in many pies. He owns Jericho Events, which produces the fashion extravaganza.
“Growing up, my friends always complained about the South African fashion industry and how elitist it was. I never really believed it until I experienced it myself. I decided right then that I wasn’t going to sit back and complain as well but start a fashion week that would later grow into stores and a fashion magazine. Fast forward and this is our second Soweto Fashion Week.
“One truth holds for most of the designers; the South African fashion industry is tough to crack with minimal resources.
“Most of these designers have had to work with minimal budgets and no proper equipment. Educating oneself further whilst trying to make money and grow a brand is hard if you are not focused and hands on.”
Inspiring African designs
Manzini says producing the event is very challenging; however, despite obstacles, the brand is growing in the global market.
“While travelling overseas Irealised thatinternational people are inspired by African designers. We have phenomenal talent here and this is a perfect opportunity to treat audiences to the latest summer trends, featuring glamorous, colour-rich designs.”
Designers from across Africa, including Zimbabwe and Botswana, unveiled their fabulous creations over the event’s three nights, with Ngugi Velly Vere, Soweto Fashion Week’s creative director saying, “Soweto bought Africa together from its history, so it is very fitting to have this event here.”
He adds that “This week is a podium that inspires and supports to build consciousness of upcoming and established designers in South Africa, particularly those based in Soweto. This space is rising as the new hub of haute couture.”
Communications and marketing manager for the event, Jackie Phamotse says: “We have nothing but a great end state to this event, a lot of hard work and passion runs through the art that will be displayed. Many people are taking us seriously, as we are building a global brand.”
Manzini explains that Soweto Fashion Week primarily wants designers to grow, not just on the creative front, but also commercially, for them to build sustainable businesses around their craft.
“The event is not just about models sashaying fashionable clothing; the event expects more engagements, sales and a larger crowd, including fashion buyers.
“The brand is growing so in order to protect our name, this year, we carefully selected and handpicked our designers.”
Tapping Soweto’s talent
Manzini believes Soweto is a region of untapped potential in the South African fashion world and Soweto Fashion Week is empowering underprivileged designers.
“We scout for some of our designers just like models on the streets.
“We appeal more to our global community and township community by our ways of doing business hence growing the South African fashion industry dramatically by reaching the nation’s majority and closing the gap in the fashion week industry demographically.”
He adds that the event aims to dominate the fashion industry on a global scale, making a mark for Africa-made clothing. He believes that western and eastern nations have come to dominate the clothing industry worldwide, and hopesSoweto Fashion Week will make a dent in that domination “Soweto style”.
Manzini says that South Africa has a unique diversity of cultures, and that with this diversity come countless combinations and inspirations. Given the proper training, encouragement and support, young design talent would flourish.
Phamotse adds: “Our vision at the end is to help designers come to a place where they have grown to a higher level and have learned the business of fashion. The concept of this exciting series of shows is to create a relaxed environment for fashionistas to enjoy a top-of-the-line runway show and have the opportunity to place orders and interact with the designers.”
Manzini says that “When you witnessthe talent and the dedication of the designers, it is evident to see why fashion is worth being part of at all.”
Soweto Fashion Week was held at theSoweto Hotel on the Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication (Freedom Square) in Kliptown, with the who’s who of South African fashion gathering to support the 12 emerging, and established, style mavericks. Designers included Fresh Wear, Thesis and from Botswana, Woolaholic. SFW was sponsored by Darling Hair South Africa.