What was to be a glamorous fashion-filled affair, on the weekend, turned out to be a last-minute scurry for a venue and general disorganisation. The showcase, now in its third year, is a platform for up-and-coming Sowetan designers to show off their talents; an opportunity they wouldn't otherwise get in more established fashion weeks, said chairperson and coordinator Violet Manzini.
“In the future [when dealing with sponsors] we are going to sign a contract to hold them to the agreement. We have learnt a lesson,” she added.?
The sponsor pull-out did very little to help the fledgling showcase. There was much confusion about venues; as the first night's showcase took place at Kliptown Square – where there was initially supposed to be a marquee for the duration of the show – and ended on Saturday at the Kliptown Cultural Village.
It was obvious a lot still needed to be done and some of the projected outcomes of the fashion week were glaringly overambitious.
Despite the glitches, Manzini said that there has been some visible growth in Soweto Fashion Week.
“When we launched it in 2011, we hardly had a crowd but we have had so much exposure. We have been invited to Switzerland Fashion Week and were asked to create a catalogue from the garments we showcase, and later this year we are taking some designers to Las Vegas Fashion Week,” she said.
Soweto Fashion Week co-founder Stephen Manzini said the sponsorship deal was done in good faith; they had dealt with the sponsor before and saw no reason to believe they might pull out.
"They had paid for travel costs in the past and with them pulling out we were in no position to cancel or postpone, as people from around the country had booked their flights to Johannesburg and were ready to showcase," he said.
Soweto Fashion Week's objectives
On the fashion week's website Stephen Manzini lists some of the showcase’s objectives as:
- Carving out our own celebrity designers by end of year three;
- To obtain 70% market share of fashion weeks in South Africa by end of year three;
- To be a self-sustained fashion week generating enough revenue to operate with or without financial sponsorship by end of year two and beyond.
Owner of the Randfontein-based label Freshwear Collins Monnakgotla disagrees on the growth front, saying that showcasing at Soweto Fashion Week has not been any help for him. According to Monnakgotla, there hasn’t been much change from him showcasing last year and this year. He was also not aware that a sponsor had pulled out.
“I really think that they should link up with the right people, especially on the media front. We showcase hoping for some media exposure,” he said.
Monnakgotla, who established his label in 2007, described Freshwear as a "funky" label from ekasi. He has showcased at Cape Town Fashion Week and Mpumalanga Fashion Week before.
Despite the disappointment, Violet Manzini is still hopeful.
“We have a vision to see it growing into a huge event that is held in a stadium, and all the Sowetans must come. We want the world to see that Soweto has got talent,” she said.