Fash­ion Week plunged into cri­sis

Hold­ing com­pany in debt, models and ser­vice providers un­paid

The Herald (South Africa) - - Front Page - Za­man­dulo Malonde mal­on­[email protected]­soblack­star.co.za

The Man­dela Bay Fash­ion Week has been roiled by a bit­ter feud be­tween di­rec­tors, which has left its hold­ing com­pany in debt and a string of models and other ser­vice providers un­paid.

The city’s flag­ship fash­ion ex­trav­a­ganza has been staged an­nu­ally for three years, pulling large crowds to view the cre­ations of top lo­cal de­sign­ers.

The event also pro­vides a plat­form for es­tab­lished brands such as Max­hosa’s Lad­uma Ngx­okolo to give work­shops for up­com­ing de­sign­ers.

Last week, Fash­ion Week founder Llewellyn Wil­liams al­leged in a pub­lic state­ment posted on his Face­book page that his busi­ness part­ner, Sanelisiwe “Max” Mdashe, had trans­ferred money from the com­pany’s bank ac­count to his per­sonal ac­count and van­ished.

Wil­liams said the money had been meant to pay ser­vice providers who par­tic­i­pated in the 2018 event in Oc­to­ber and 2017 fash­ion week win­ner Kholiswa Seti.

Wil­liams said he un­der­stood from third par­ties that Mdashe had taken the money to pay ser­vice providers, in­clud­ing Seti, who re­ceived only R19,000 of the R60,000 cash prize due to her.

The money was meant to go to­wards man­u­fac­tur­ing a spring/sum­mer range of Seti’s gar­ments to be stocked at The Space at Bay­west Mall for six months.

“He [Mdashe] has claimed (via third party sources as I can­not get hold of him di­rectly) that he took funds to pay cer­tain ser­vice providers . . . I can con­firm that none of them have been paid to date,” Wil­liams said in the state­ment.

“As the orig­i­nal founder of the brand, it un­for­tu­nately pains me as I be­lieve I have made a huge mis­take by en­trust­ing an in­di­vid­ual into my brain­child as an of­fi­cial part­ner and al­lowed him to crash it to the ground in a split sec­ond.”

He wrote that he had met some of the un­paid ser­vice providers and would meet oth­ers this week to “find a way for­ward and al­ter­na­tive ar­range­ments for ev­ery­one af­fected to be com­pen­sated as they well de­served”.

Mdashe hit back on Sun­day, al­leg­ing Wil­liams had re­fused to pay cer­tain ser­vice providers, while he had paid some.

He said he took R50,000 of the R100,000 in the com­pany’s bank ac­count and paid at least three ser­vice providers.

“Llewellyn was not com­pletely trans­par­ent about all ser­vice providers – there were some that we both knew of and some that he dealt with pri­vately,” Mdashe said.

“He said he would not pay some and I won­dered what cri­te­ria he fol­lowed in de­cid­ing who gets paid.

“I am not aware of who ex­actly has not been paid yet but I paid ser­vice providers that I was aware had not been paid.”

Three of the ser­vice providers con­firmed that they had been paid by Mdashe.

“Man­dela Bay Fash­ion Week 2018 started on a neg­a­tive bal­ance be­cause there were debts from the pre­vi­ous year that I knew noth­ing about,” Mdashe said.

He said Wil­liams had ap­proached him in Novem­ber sug­gest­ing they close down the com­pany and open an­other un­der the name East­ern Cape Fash­ion Ind­aba, but he re­fused and fo­cused on his plans to ac­cept an­other of­fer from a dif-

‘As the orig­i­nal founder of the brand, it pains me as I be­lieve I have made a huge mis­take by en­trust­ing an in­di­vid­ual into my brain­child as an of­fi­cial part­ner’

Llewellyn Wil­liams


fer­ent com­pany that Wil­liams was aware of. He showed screen­shots of What­sApp con­ver­sa­tions with Wil­liams.

One of the mes­sages seen by The Her­ald reads: “Let’s take R100k and sliza [run] to East Lon­don.”

In an­other mes­sage, Mdashe gives de­tails of a ser­vice provider who had not been paid, to which Wil­liams re­sponds, “Shem.”

Wil­liams, how­ever, said Mdashe had used the mes­sage to paint him in a bad light and claimed the mes­sage about run­ning to East Lon­don was meant as a joke.

He said he did con­sider mov­ing to East Lon­don to start over, but not be­fore pay­ing all par­ties what was due to them.

“I con­sid­ered mov­ing to East Lon­don for var­i­ous rea­sons, in­clud­ing see­ing that the in­dus­try gets a lot more sup­port that side than we do in PE.

“I was not plan­ning to van­ish with peo­ple’s money.

“I’m in talks with the ser­vice providers that haven’t been paid and I am mak­ing ar­range­ments to have them paid, even if it’s out of my own pocket,” Wil­liams said. He con­ceded Seti had not been paid in full.

“We could not pay her be­cause we were dis­ap­pointed by the Man­dela Bay De­vel­op­ment Agency (MBDA), which in­formed me [that it] did not have the bud­get to pro­vide both the R40,000 for pro­duc­tion of the show and R60,000 for the win­ner, as we had ver­bally agreed on.

“[It] ... gave me the R60,000, which we had to use to pay for pro­duc­tion as it was too late,” Wil­liams said.

He said they had only man­aged to pay Seti R19,000 and planned to pay the bal­ance after the 2018 event, but that never ma­te­ri­alised.

When asked how he would have paid off the 2017 debt as well as 2018 costs, Wil­liams said he be­lieved they would have had enough money had spon­sors de­liv­ered on their prom­ises.

He at­trib­uted some of their fi­nan­cial woes to un­fore­seen ad­di­tional costs and cer­tain spon­sors pulling out at the last minute.

MBDA spokesper­son Lu­vuyo Bangazi de­nied the agency had ever promised prize money and pro­duc­tion costs, say­ing that the MBDA had of­fered fi­nan­cial sup­port to af­ford the win­ner an op­por­tu­nity to have ac­cess to mar­kets.

“We com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing a pop-up stall to the value of R60,000, which we pro­vided in ad­di­tion to spon­sor­ing a venue and other ser­vices.

“We never, at any point, promised prize money or any­thing more than we pro­vided,” he said.

Bangazi said he knew noth­ing about the R40,000 pro­duc­tion-re­lated costs that Wil­liams claimed they had agreed on.

Man­dela Bay Fash­ion Week ac­coun­tant Siphosethu Martins con­firmed that the com­pany was al­ready in fi­nan­cial ar­rears be­fore the 2018 event.

He said he was aware of money that was trans­ferred into Mdashe’s per­sonal ac­count, fol­lowed by a trans­fer into Wil­liams’s ac­count in De­cem­ber.

He also con­firmed that he re­ceived pay­ment from Mdashe in the first week of De­cem­ber for ser­vices ren­dered from Au­gust.

FASH­ION FUNDIS: The di­rec­tors of the com­pany are Sanelisiwe ‘Max’ Mdashe, left, and Llewellyn Wil­liams


GLAM­OROUS EVENT: A model on the run­way on the first day of Man­dela Bay Fash­ion Week 2018

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