21 Years and Counting, SA Fashion Week Strives On

What does it really take to sustain a business for 21 years? Maybe a special kind of acumen and resilience. Londiwe Mbhele reflects and interprets the building blocks of SA Fashion Week becoming what it is right now.

SA Fashion Week (SAFW) can be summed up by looking at how it has maintained its clout as a sustainable business. Many designers have gained market advantage by showcasing there (SAFW). This is because SAFW is not modelled as just a display or showcasing platform. Over the years it has reinvented operations and systems ensuring that designers understand fashion as a business, through strategic partnerships with Edgars and Woolworths namely.
The partnerships have opened up the science of retail and a quicker access to customers for designers. They get to learn the make of retail, pricing, basically the system and process that must be well-oiled before customers get to touch the final product. So we can say the melding of business and creativity has been a key lever in SAFW being a stable business for the past 21 years.
This milestone then had to be reflected on, of which Managing Director and founder, Lucille Booyzen has consolidated into a book titled: 21 Years of SA Fashion Week, unveiled at the autumn-winter 2019 collections in Sandton City, coupled with an exhibition at the venue.
There are plenty of characteristics SAFW has proved for its sustainability. Some of these characteristics are a concomitant of longevity. From the professional team, organisation of pre to post event communication, the designer focus and support, trade shows, pop-up shops and opening up fashion to accommodate insiders and different guests at a world-class main event twice a year. For anyone with even the slightest interest in fashion, it is something to look forward to.
Some among us started our careers in fashion many years after the first SAFW in 1997. Through television and magazines, we peered into a world we were curious about, which had your Bongiwe Walaza, Stoned Cherrie, Craig Native and Black Coffee. A world we wanted to be a part of and make monumental contributions towards. Seeing this is possible, in all the turbulence experienced by our country and its economy, it’s been business as usual at SAFW.
Years later, we arrived into a fashion week that opened us even more to the talent of our country. Where new talent had a place right next to established designers and new styles were replicated season after season; where bloggers and influencers were carving themselves a place, sitting tightly next to editors.
The likes of Amanda Laird Cherrie, Clive Rundle, Rubicon and Sies Isabelle have woven a story we want to follow each season. Coming with a gale force of the state of our culture has been the young who are keeping up with the consumer. Top names that instantly ring are Rich Mnisi, Thebe Magugu, AKJP, Wanda Lephoto, Klipa, The Watermelon Social Club and Mmuso Maxwell.