Designer’s best line is bottom line

Eclectic designs, performance art and a “make-the-money attitude” defined last week’s South African Fashion Week Winter 2012 Designer Collections.

The label Black Coffee had a dancer leading viewers into the design team’s shop at Arts on Main, gumboot dancers opened and closed for designer Amanda Laird Cherry and tap-dancing evoked a quaint atmosphere at Naked Ape men’s wear ­collection.

The first item of the main event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosebank was a young-designer competition featuring, predictably, student design. There was ample experimentation with the female form, giving rise to interesting shapes and abnormal curves. There was a freedom to explore, with no existing clientele or market share to pander to.

Fashion Week director Lucilla Booysen said, however, that she intended to create an “about business” event.

“It’s about creating a space for the designers where they can meet buyers. If you are running a boutique, you want garments that you can make money from. It’s all about making money. We must stop thinking fashion is about a party. If you are not making money then why are you doing this?” she asked.

Selling to the sellers
Booysen said the shows and a two-day buyer’s lounge at the same venue were directed at “making the designers desirable”. The buyer’s lounge was held after the catwalks at the hotel on Monday and Tuesday.

Isabelle Lotter, who runs the Sies! Isabelle clothing label, said that she had participated in Fashion Week five times. She cited the buyer’s lounge as an essential element of showcasing fashion. “We show the whole range to buyers who then place orders. It’s not so much sweetie-darling, ‘mwah-mwah-mwah’. We have two days in which the shops tell us what would work for them. We take notes. I’ve managed to get into shops that love my clothes,” said Lotter.

Shaldon Kopman, who runs the Naked Ape label, said: “You have to find a niche market and fashion is an expensive business. Marketing is extremely expensive. Naked Ape would participate in the buyer’s lounge because ‘getting buyers to see your work is an effort’.

“You can be an artist and do beautiful work. But you have to sell and expose yourself to the local market. Being in an environment where buyers can see what you are doing is a bonus. Our work is exclusive, but we would like to get into the market and want to supply a few retailers,” said Kopman.

Fashion Week will close with a three-day summer 2011 designer pop-up shop, running until October 2 at the Fountain Court in Sandton City shopping mall, which will feature 60 local fashion and accessory designers.

Fashion Week reported that last year this initiative generated R420?000 worth of direct sales for designers.

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