Slice of Life: ​Designing possibilities

Maria McCloy: "Everyone was smiling and I was smiling." (Michelle Wastie)

Maria McCloy: "Everyone was smiling and I was smiling." (Michelle Wastie)

I was basically the Fashion Week virgin. There were eight of us in the Woolworths Style By SA show, but I was new to it all. I was kind of amazed by the whole process.
I knew I wanted my designs to be in a shop eventually, but hadn’t even dreamed of Fashion Week. At the end of last year, I got a message from David West – who I look up to immensely for what he has done in fashion – about working with Woolworths, and I was like, ‘Oh my God… that’s amazing’. Preparing for the show, I was on such a high, because I was being featured alongside designers I really, really admire.

Before for the show, I joked with my friend, asking her if she’s going to be coming to my wedding – because that show is about the closest I’m going to get to having a wedding: walking down a ramp – the aisle – and all my friends and family there.

On the day, I was taking pictures of everything backstage. I mean, you see these fashion week environments, but suddenly it’s you. And then, all of a sudden, it’s real: After three months of work, it’s your turn to walk down the ramp. I was like, ‘You guys go first’. But when I came out, it felt really bright and really, really happy. I heard people in the front row shouting my name and I knew my friends and family were there, even though I couldn’t see them. Everyone was smiling and I was smiling. I don’t think I ever did so much smiling in my damn life. I know you can get a wobbly lip from crying, but I got a wobbly lip from smiling. I wasn’t really thinking of anything when I was walking down the ramp. I was just super happy. But afterwards, you reflect and you realise, ‘Oh my god, this started with me selling earrings in 2007… It began with five earrings and here I am’. With everything I went through – all the work I had put in – I felt validated.

Everyone was – and still is – really happy for me. Not, ‘Darling, that’s fabulous’ happy, but genuinely happy for me. One guy was like, ‘You’ve switched the way people think the fashion world works; you’ve made it seem possible’.

I could feel that love and support on that ramp. I’m still amazed. My friends were like, ‘If ever you’re having a bad day, just think of that moment and how you were smiling’.

Maria McCloy, 41, as told to Carl Collison, the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail&Guardian

Carl Collison

Carl Collison

Carl Collison is the Other Foundation’s Rainbow Fellow at the Mail & Guardian. He has contributed to a range of local and international publications, covering social justice issues as well as art and is committed to defending and advancing the human rights of the LGBTI community in Southern Africa. Read more from Carl Collison

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