WHAT’S NOT To celebrate?
The growth of the economy is only inevitable when nurturing talent is at the epicentre of a business. Enter the Durban Fashion Fair, an annual four-day event that showcases the best new and established creatives Durban has to o er.
Heading up the fair is Sindi Shangase, business support, tourism and markets unit programme manager for ethekwini Municipality. A lover of fashion, evident from her tortoise-shell cat-eye spectacles and super cool fade, it’s clear that whatever formula she and her team have produced is working. Initially assisting crafters, they then expanded into programmes for the performing arts sector, leading them to work with fashion entrepreneurs. “There’s a technical element that we need to involve ourselves in, so that designers are able to uphold the standards required by the market,” says Sindi, who focuses on ensuring designers are ready for market.
“If I have to compare myself from before the DFF to where I am now, it’s a lot dierent. I am where I am because of the knowledge I’ve gained from the platform,” says multi-dff Award winner Martin John Steenkamp, whose journey has been no overnight success.
From working in a local supermarket for seven years to being accepted into the MRP Foundation, a non-profit which assists young designers, his determination and endurance is second to none. In just three years of showing at the DFF, he has been able to refine his message. “I see myself as a designer who embodies futuristic ideals,” Martin explains. As his clientele grows, he hopes to continue to build his brand, attracting customers from across the country, while continuing to perfect his signature.
“It’s like a drug: once you start, you can’t stop; it keeps you on a high,” says Amanda Laird Cherry about her love of fashion. A veteran in the industry, Amanda founded her brand 22 years ago, with a team of two in an apartment on the Berea. Slow and concentrated steps are how she came to create such a formidable brand. “Interning is so important, and going into factory environments and learning about the bottlenecks that happen along the production lines is a huge step in the right direction.”
The commitment of the KZN government in growing the fashion industry must be commended; its vision is strongly aligned with aiding economic growth and strengthening young artists. Although there may be nationwide areas of improvement with regards to supplying better machinery, better training facilities for factory employees and the expansion in the manufacturing of local textiles, there must be a point of departure, and it looks like KZN is well on its way to a new horizon.