The catwalk’s a haute tin roof

Lucilla Booyzen, the founder of South African Fashion Week (SAFW), which was launched in 1996, never had any formal training in fashion but grew up in a family where chic and elegance were lifestyle fundamentals. She was a high school teacher before being spotted by a model agency, which probably explains why she puts her focus and energy not only into launching designers’ collections but also teaching them to become business savvy.

Despite the fact that the South African calendar offers enough fashion weeks for designers to showcase their work, Booyzen feels that the industry is still running short of appropriate support and is not making the right impact.

And that is where the stiletto-heel shoe pinches — fashion is about so much more than just a one-night stand. It is the possibility of developing brands that give consumers something unique and desirable, while creating employment and building loyalty. It is a savant dose of entrepreneurship and creativity, the humble combination of genius in design and market intelligence.

Within the culture of South African fashion, where glitz and ego is usually de rigueur, SAFW’s business focus and grounded soul is refreshing.

How do you feel about fashion in South Africa?
We are still in our infancy. We have not even touched on junior school.

What do you think are essential elements to a great collection?
Well thought out, stylish and contemporary design, perfect workmanship and top quality. It must be desirable and, above all, original.

Which city is the global capital of fashion?
There is not just one. The five capitals are London, New York, Paris, Milan and Tokyo. We are 41st on the list.

What is your favourite moment during fashion week?
When the designers come out for their curtain call.

What comes next for fashion week?
We want the designers to build their brands and make enough profit so that they can make their own choices: where to advertise, where to open stores and which platform to show their collections at.

In South Africa, which city best represents local fashion?
Johannesburg. It is the business city of South Africa and fashion weeks are always held in the business city of a country.

Which local younger designers do you think are really exciting right now?
I am very excited about the new design blood that is coming through and I am almost too scared to name them because I have found that, in South Africa, the moment people start talking about a designer, he or she is as good as dead. The ego steps in and kills the creativity. Let’s see in the next few years.

Can you define great style?
Style is an expression of yourself, the way you communicate nonverbally. It is the way you walk, the way you talk, behave, stand, sit and the way you dress. It is not linked to your bank account. True style comes from within and is reflected by your outer demeanour.

What trend never dies?
Denim jeans will never die — right next to it stand the little black dress and the miniskirt.

Which designer inspires you?
Yohji Yamamoto.

Which designer would you like to work with?
Miuccia Prada.

What is your favourite scent?
It still is Issey Miyake.

What fashion book inspired you?
X years of Kaos! It is a book on Moschino published in 1993 and based on a retrospective exhibition he did in Milan. I bought the book there and it is the most amazing book you could read.

And the obligatory cheesy question: cheese or chocolate?
Chocolate. But only the Champagne Truffles from Sprungli.

One song that could define you?
A very old Frank Sinatra song that says “I did it my way”. I live my life, my way.

SAFW will take place from April 11 to 15 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosebank. For more information go to

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