Fashion talent on the rise.
As part of its commitment to taking fashion to the next destination, AFI’s Fastrack 2012 winners, Kyra-Moon Halfpenny, Kim Gush, Shelley Botha and Wetive Lindokuhle Nkosi, recently completed a six-week internship programme at Foschini’s Buying Office and Cape Town design house, Kazak. We meet the finalists and talk fashion dreams realised.
Kyra-Moon Halfpenny, 25, Durban
With a host of favourite labels to name, Kyra-Moon Halfpenny says that Black Coffee is certainly one of them. Adding that a leather jacket and jeans amount to two of fashion’s most genius creations. “I had no idea what to expect when we first embarked on the internship. I was excited to see how it would all unfold. After six weeks, I can safely say that it’s important to look at fashion through a mainstream lens while at the same time moving the customer forward with trends. You have to think about the brand and the customer that you’re designing for. Keep it simple. Play with prints and fabrics, but keep the silhouette simple,” she observes.
Having spent six weeks looking at fashion from a different angle, she notes that you have to be prepared, you need to know the market and the label that you are designing for well, keep up with trends, be professional and gracious.
Although she doesn’t feel like she is the strongest contender, what sets her apart is the story she tells through her collections, she says. “My design vision changes constantly. But it’s down to street wear with the occasional wedding gown.”
So what makes a successful collection? According to Halfpenny, an element of surprise, something unique, needs to be included. Attention to detail, quality and smart use of fabric certainly add to its appeal. “I was born into a fashion environment. Fashion has taken me on a journey since I tapped my first gingham fabric bikini together. That was the first time I actually created something… This programme has made me aware that there are fashion foundations and councils out there that really want to help local designers achieve their goals and aspirations. I’ve become more aware on what’s going on with the infrastructure of developing the fashion industry.”
Kim Gush, 26, Cape Town
Favourite designers? Suzaan Heyns and Ann Demeulemeester.
Most recent purchase? A pair of leather and suede biker boots from Zoom, along with an unhealthy amount of amazingly on trend accessories from China Town.
Dream job: My own design house where I can be successful on all platforms, from commercial to costume design, doing what I love on a daily basis.
The greatest fashion creation of all times? The Kimono. It’s timeless. It’s still influencing fashion today.
Kim Gush believes in big dreams, hard work and great results. When she joined the internship she expected to be “a fifth wheel” she notes. But she walks away understanding the concept of making a commercially viable brand. “Commercial in the sense that the garment needs to sell well as opposed to being a mainstream design. The tiniest finish or accessory on a garment can throw you completely out of price point. I most definitely consider my designs on a more commercial basis now. Fashion really needs to be your passion if you want to have a successful career. There is no instant gratification; it takes great willpower. And, best you wear comfortable, yet stylish, shoes on this journey.”
Describing herself as passionately curious, Gush believes in her aesthetic, and understands the balance of taking critique and making it work without compromising on her vision. “I push boundaries and stand my ground doing so. I know there’s something right about it, the key is to make it available. You want your product to captivate and inspire consumers to purchase it.”
Drawn towards handcrafted work, Gush says we can expect leathers and knits to form part of any of her collections. In fact, her very first creation was a scarf. “There’s no fancy story behind my first creation. My mom taught me how to knit, and as much as I disliked any form of needlework, and with endless amounts of censored vocabulary, I managed to put together something that resembled a scarf. Needless to say, I have improved since then.” And while she understands just how competitive this industry is, Gush notes that you have to constantly improve yourself in order to become irreplaceable. “With a healthy diet of instant noodles and minimal sleep we could possibly see an influx of my ranges available at retail level,” she says about what’s to come.
Shelley Botha, 28, Cape Town
She counts Black Coffee and Burberry to be her favourite brands, and although she is from Durban, following the internship, Shelley Botha now calls Cape Town home. Her most recent fashion purchase is a vintage jacket from Babette in Long Street.
Designing kids clothes at Earthchild, Botha counts denim as the ultimate fashion creation. “I love designing. It makes me happy,” she notes. “I’ve realised that being a fashion student and being a fashion designer are worlds apart. As a student, you don’t necessarily think about every aspect of creating a garment, but as a working designer you have to. It’s a small price to pay to do what I love. Every button, panel, zip, pocket, facing, etc., costs money and the customer has to understand why a garment costs what it does.” It’s important to stand out, love what you do – and all those late nights and weekends are worth it. Most importantly, she notes, this industry is not pretentious; people work extremely hard and sacrifice a lot to put clothing in stores. Although a finalist, Botha doesn’t regard herself to be a top contender, but it’s down to her design vision. “To make a collection that’s better than the last one.”
Keeping her upcoming collection under wraps, Botha adds that sleepless nights, hours of fabric shopping, a load of research and junk food make for a successful collection. “My first design, that I remember, was a pair of ‘shants’, it had one trouser full-leg length and the other above the knee. And, no, it was never developed,” she sighs. So what’s next for Botha? “My kids wear collection at Africa Fashion Week in October.”
Wetive Nkosi, 25, Johannesburg
“I expected a very interesting introduction to this fashion journey I’m embarking on. I gained a lot. This internship has certainly enhanced the way I look at designing clothes in many different ways. I have also taken away that one must have a willing spirit to learn every day. Take all the criticism constructively and move on with life. Know what defines you as designer and stand for it because that’s what will keep you unique. Learn from other people’s mistakes and focus on what you are good at.” Nkosi notes that unique designs, colour combinations, fabrication and quality garment construction techniques all help achieve a successful collection. While she doesn’t have a specific favourite texture in mind, Nkosi enjoys creating her own fabrics out of fabrics to keep her work looking unique. “This competition hasn’t changed my outlook but it has stretched my vision beyond the boundaries I had given it especially the business side of it.”
Catch the creative designs of the AFI Fastrack finalists as part of a limited spring/summer collection at select Foschini stores later this year. The designs can be seen on the catwalk during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg in October.
Photography courtesy of AFI; Simon Deiner & Gary Stemmett / SDR Photo