Entrepreneur Mamello Yona caught the attention of many viewers when he appeared on the SABC’s Morning Live Sunday edition three weeks ago. And not only the good kind of attention.
He was there to promote a first-ofits-kind fashion event he calls the Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) Fashion Show. He said he would showcase 25 young designers at the famous downtown art gallery in a series of ramp shows to be held on Mondays.
But this week the gallery wrote to him to tell him to stop using its name – and Ghanaian designer Mina Evans complained that the SABC used an image of her work to promote the shows, which she has nothing to do with.
The fashion industry raised its eyebrows too, with several fashion designers warning of the exploitation of young designers who pay to appear in shows.
In a meeting with City Press to hear his side of the story, Yona admitted he had no history in the fashion industry and confirmed that he was charging young designers R3 500 each to show their work. This, he said, was to cover the costs of staging the shows.
He was still hopeful of holding the first show tomorrow, but couldn’t provide a full list of the designers showing, the names of sponsors involved or even an experienced crew to stage the event. He said he didn’t want to talk about the producer he had been working with – who is no longer involved in the project – and said he would produce the show himself. Asked if he has any experience producing fashion shows, the advertising industry entrepreneur said: “No, but I have been to many fashion shows and I know what I’m doing.”
Asked why the shows had been postponed, he said: “So far, I have only about 12 designers ready to showcase their designs, so I’m still waiting for the others to be ready.”
Approached for comment, JAG registrar Tara Weber confirmed that Yona had been in discussions about hiring the venue, which is owned by the city and has a mandate to raise revenue for the city from venue hire. She said the gallery sent Yona an invoice, which he did not pay.
“The events will definitely not go ahead,” she said, “not only due to the fact that the invoice was not paid and the contract not signed”, but that she was wary that there was the potential to defraud young designers.
“JAG did not give out naming rights – in fact, it was specified that we do not do this unless the museum is a partner,” she said.
She also told City Press that she had sent a letter to the SABC to request the removal of the interview clip from YouTube. The clip is still online, though, and the SABC did not acknowledge or respond to City Press questions about the matter at the time of going to print.
Speaking from Ghana, Evans said: “The Mina Evans brand is in no way connected to or even aware of this event. There was no communication either on permission to use an image of our garment as publicity.”
Yona insisted it was the broadcaster that used the image of her work and that he did not provide it. He was hurt when asked if he was harming the industry with a questionable event and insisted he “saw a gap in the market” and that all he wanted to do was to help promote young designers. Later in the week he said he would find a new gallery to
stage the shows.
OUT OF FASHION Mamello Yona, the entrepreneur behind the art gallery fashion shows