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The MTN Durban Fashion Week: What?

Is the MTN Durban Fashion week really about being a platform for emerging designers or is it just entertainment for fashionistas?
Working as a brand marketer, I have been priviledged to come in contact with a good few Durban-based fashion designers over the period 2006 - 2007.

These guys run all over the show showcasing their designs. They are used and abused in very lowkey events that offer no real value or sustenance beyond the actual event. That is forgiveable.

However, when you have a fashion event of monumental proportions that is hosted by the wife of a top movie producer and financed by a multi-billion rand telecoms giant.. one should at least see some of the money or the credibility trickle down to the participating designers. MTN Durban Fashion Week has been running for a good few years now, and a reasonable number of designers that have been part of this event are nowhere near getting off the ground.

Remember I said that I have had the priviledge to get up close with a good few, so I know that these guys really bust their gut trying to outdo each other for Durban Fashion Week. They borrow money to buy fabric and hire machines, employ people they cannot pay and run to and fro trying to get creative work done for nothing (which is where my company assisted). Fashion week comes and goes, and the designers have absolutely nothing to show for it.

I am not in fashion, but being a creative as well; this saddens me greatly. And it begs the question: "Why are we then doing Fashion Week?". Wouldn't it be more beneficial if designers pooled together, take the space of 3 - 4 stalls at the Essenwood Market and sell their wares there on a Saturday?

Or the alternative.. to mimic Paul Simon and start their own version of YDE?

I don't have the answers because I'm not in fashion...but being on the outside looking in gives me a clearer perspective and makes me question what they're doing and where they're going doing that.

And with the hoards of Durban-reared designers now living in other cities - Gavin Rajah and Themba Mngomezulu being prime examples - wouldn't it be more beneficial if someone hosted a fashion event that actually contributed toward nurturing and putting the spotlight on new talent, with the outcome being an increase in media profile and business bottom line????????????????????????????????????????
Forum created by Arthur Van Wyk
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Hear, hear-
I agree wholeheartedly with your comments. Somehow, you only make it if you're already a name in the fashion industry and those who have made it, are not interested in nurturing new talent. I have a friend who has the aspiration to become a top designer and she's done the studying and grovelling bit, but she's not been able to crack the big time because you need lots of money and influential friends and you cannot, as a struggling artist, keep giving away your blood, sweat and tears in the hope of persuading some diva to wear your design. MTN should relook the purpose of the show and ensure that somebody, except those who already have it, get exposure and backing they need.
Posted on 30 Jun 2008 10:13
Definitely an interesting observation by the author of this article, but his "perhaps because I'm not in it, I can see more clearly from the outside" view is the problem with half the content in the article. There's a fine line to tread I imagine from the organisers point of view, that of balancing new and emerging talent (which Durban Fashion Week is in relation to the other ones in SA), and that of putting commercially viable talent down the runway. As someone who attends all the 5 major events across South Africa every year, I think I'm better guided to offer an insight that Arthur in his rush to sensationalise has clearly missed. I've watched Durban Fashion Week mature, and there was certainly no shortage of new talent down the ramp this year. Infact everything from the first show, through to the last was new talent. But lets take this further, each of these designers had the opportunity to present their stuff at the buyers lounge I observed in the Press Room, and from chatting to the organisers, there is a dedicated person to developing these people. Lets take this even further and look at the seminars (no cost, info widely available) that were available to all aspiring designers, and the first step into the glamourous world of the fashion week. Building a fashion brand is way beyond simply having a show at Durban Fashion Week, it's years of legwork, hard graft and blood on the ground marketing new channels, developing ranges constantly, and if you're any good (the schools are just pumping out fashion grads) perhaps you'll stand out and can be part of the showcase. As someone involved with the media, I've noticed the huge uptake in images from these designers, who get just as much page space as the established designers that showed (Gavin Rajah, Karen Monk Klijnstra, Carducci, etc), and these established designers are required to add the seal of approval to the event in a way.
Posted on 8 Jul 2008 23:34
Arthur C. Van Wyk
Posted on 14 Jul 2008 15:04
Arthur Charlez
Wow. I wrote this piece 7 years ago. But I still firmly of the opinion that the DFW event had no development agenda. Everything they did was fuelled by the funds that MTN pumped into the project. Once the MTN money dried up that wa sthe end of the event. Even Precious Motsepe's AFI has not carried on hosting the show since they owned 50% of the show. There was no passion behind it. There was no vision behind it. It was just money that needed to be used and VSHE Productions used the money as best they could. If someone with a vision for the entire Durban fashion industry was behind the wheel of the event, it would not have died out in 2008..
Posted on 27 Jan 2015 13:03
Arthur Charlez
I like that you act as defense counsel for DFW. But you tackle none of the points I make in your counter argument. If you did, you would have cited designers that went on to be great after participating in DFW. In 2008 Sibu Msimang, Kwame Khuzwayo, Lynette Ganesan and Katherine Montague went to India to showcase their designs as part of a designer contingent that included Nkhensani Nkosi and Malcolm Kluk. The aforementioned designers were the "development talent" that were supposed to have been "springboarded" by that particular experience. Please do yourself a favour and check up on them today - almost 7 years later. I mention the above designers because an agency that I owned at the time - KOOLOOMA - was the only entity that got them ink in a print publication (Daily News) at the time. This was shortly after the DFW and not a finger was lifted by AFI or VSHE to get these designers some ink, even if it was with a hidden agenda to promote their own brands.
Posted on 27 Jan 2015 13:10