Fashion Week plunged into crisis
Holding company in debt, models and service providers unpaid
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’
MANDELA BAY FASHION WEEK FOUNDER
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