This university in the city is the only one in the Western Cape to offer fully accredited fashion degrees, and since opening its doors in 2005 has begun to flourish.
Lots of hard work happens here, equipping students in the theory, creative art and development of technical skills needed to turn a concept into a finished work that someone would want to wear.
The campus includes a rooftop terrace with views of the city and Lion’s Head opening into an exciting space filled with designs from the avantgarde to the classic, with sewing rooms, an auditorium and a fully equipped photographic studio.
“Our students come from all over the country, Africa and the rest of the world – only 30% are from Cape Town,” says Allen Leroux, CEO of the institution. “Fashion is big business, and it’s so much more than a talented designer starting their own label, although that is certainly one objective. Fashion is everywhere, in design, in society and the places around us, restaurants, shops, homes. That’s why we say something is in fashion. And you can tell very soon when something has gone out of fashion.”
Leroux has been in fashion design education for years, and when he was looking for a new home for the FEDISA campus, the city centre was the obvious choice. After looking at 20 plus options, the company settled on a rather careworn building overdue for a revamp.
“Many people asked why this area? Five years ago there was very little going on but now look at Bree Street, Church Street and what’s still happening around Heritage Square; this is the ideal location.”
The Cape Town CBD is fast becoming a global destination, not the least for its lifestyle and the alchemic mixture of architecture, history, scenic beauty, good food and entertainment. Its retail mix is also the antithesis of a mall, with stores, goods and people you are unlikely to come across in many areas of the city.
“It’s so inspiring for our students to walk the streets and absorb the design influences – especially from around Africa – and to be exposed to the cosmopolitan atmosphere,” says Leroux. “And, of course, Cape Town is a great place to study. I always say those beaches aren’t going to lie on themselves!”
But there’s also a serious side to the fashion business in the city centre. “This is the home of the major retail groups, and the fashion media. FEDISA works very closely with retailers in our course work and projects, and our shows attract a lot of attention,” he says.
“There are so many opportunities flowing from a degree in fashion – fashion styling, wardrobe design, working as a buyer or in the marketing departments in retail, going into business and many spheres of design. Every piece of clothing that we put on has been designed and thought about – that’s fashion.”