It was such a gift to come across this during my usual bout of stalking South Africa designers. I'm beginning to notice that so called haute couture designers in South Africa are watering down their flair, their spark, their je ne sais quoi so that what's supposed to high fashion is commercial ready. Jessica Lupton words it perfectly. Also, even though this letter was publish two years ago, October 8th, I think it's still pretty relevant especially because (my goddess) Aqeelah Harron mentioned it too when she finally returned (here).
An Open Letter to The SA Fashion Week Team
Thank you for your invitation to attend your Winter Collection 2014 showcase. Obviously, we decided to not attend. Unlike our contemporaries, who seem completely content to simply complain amongst themselves, we have decided to take a stand and withdraw coverage from SA Fashion Week.
As a publication Gaschette Magazine actively encourages and assists in the growth of the South African fashion industry. We do not believe that our geographic location should influence the quality of work we produce. While we understand that constraints are many, we believe that active involvement, encouragement and a spirit of excellence is needed in order to develop work that can compete on an international standard.
With regards to the young designers showcased at SAFW, it is clear that many (but certainly not all) of these designers are inadequately prepared for a Fashion Week platform. There needs to be a progression from a student graduate show to a professional runway show. It is our sincerest feeling that SAFW should be providing these designers with the tools to better their craft – in the form of focussed workshops and funding. The key to a successful fashion industry is nurturing young talent, not sustaining mediocrity.
There is also a now recurring issue with several more established designers. The quality and trend research seem to have all but fallen away, if not ignored completely. While we understand that fabrics and skilled labour are becoming increasingly expensive in the current economic climate, we believe that adequate timelines and proper curation of collections could change the Fashion Week landscape entirely. As mentioned by Marco Riekstins in his article for Man of the Cloth Let’s Have a Chat (Oct 1, 2012), “I can’t speak for the designers as to why a certain collection looks the way it does, but the delivery on the runway could at least be reworked by professional stylists to make it more relevant to fashion today.”
In discussions with more conceptual designers, the issue has come up that beautifully abstract work is often disregarded in favour of more commercial pieces. It is our belief that runway looks are meant to represent the inspiration for a collection – not look like a catalogue. This showcase after all, has not been billed as “Ready to Wear”. After the runway shows, the collections should then be adjusted for a broader market during the production phase for retailers. How are we supposed to build fashion houses if works are consistently watered down? It seems, to us at least, that the production phase is being undercut as a costing exercise – and though we agree that improved market penetration is key to sustainability, we cannot in good conscience editorialise collections so lacking in imagination and fabrication.
Ticketing and seating are an issue every season. It is frankly confounding how members of the media and buyers are unable to be seated strategically, while a plethora of associated sponsors, students and Joe Soap bachelor parties seem to slip in without a problem. Fashion Week is fabulous and fun yes, but it is ultimately about work and networking. It is not possible for the media to give an adequate report of a show from the rafters and buyers can’t possibly invest in collections from outside the auditorium.
While our team remains committed to its support of the designers and sponsors associated with your platform, we can no longer associate the Gaschette brand with SAFW. Our focus is on developing the South African industry to become a formidable and recognisable player in the international fashion arena, and we feel that SAFW does not currently have them same goal in mind.
We hope that this letter encourages change within your organisation and that it has provided constructive criticism.