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Demand for local design increasing

Feb 21, 2017

Gone are the days of baggy shorts and flip flops, with local designers having shown world-class ranges on the runway at the Lexus SA Menswear Week in Woodstock. CityLife spoke to the show’s creative director, Simon Diener.

How did the SA Menswear Week begin?
“My background is in fashion week ramp photography. For almost 15 years I have been involved with fashion weeks, from shooting, to producing and conceptualising them, not only in South Africa but across Africa and in the UK. As we got involved with moving menswear off the London Fashion Week schedule onto its own platform, I thought it was the right time to bring the concept back to South Africa. The designers were ready – we just needed a platform to showcase it and get it out to the public.”

Fashion has always been a strong thread in the Cape Town story. What do you think about the strength and creativity of the industry at the moment?
“Fashion is one of the largest industries on earth, but unfortunately within Cape Town a large part of this industry has been lost over the past decade. We had a strong cut-make-and-trim and manufacturing industry employing thousands of workers, but as fast fashion, cheap imports and more technologically advanced factories popped up in the east, we lost a lot of production demand. A lot of these skilled workers are finding a slow (too slow!) resurgence in manufacturing through the likes of designers on the Lexus SA Menswear Week platform, who in turn are growing small businesses and employing people based on the back of great design-driven demand.”

What is exceptional about the design talent featured at the show and are there any Cape Town designers that stand out?
“I have to be careful not to name any favourites, as all the designers are close friends and we walk this journey together. The fact that we’re so stringent on who shows at Lexus SA Menswear Week is one of the strengths and successes of the platform. Our curation team ensures we only have the best, not only from Cape Town and South Africa, but really from across the African continent, as the rest of the world looks at the platform to see what is happening. The strength of design across multiple types of fashion is really what makes the event standout.”

Do you think there is greater access into the retail trade for local designers?
“Many people think that fashion week is a glamorous night out filled with celebrities and the like but in reality, although we have this, it’s a business-to-business platform that designers use. It’s a marketing channel for designers to access cost-effective showcasing to a large number of media, as well as buyers from various stores, boutiques, stockists and retailers. There’s definitely an increased demand and awareness of what is happening, as articles like this help highlight the sheer availability and quality of locally manufactured and designed menswear to the general public, who in turn ask for it from their stores.”

What do you find inspirational about the central city area from a fashion and design perspective?
“I am from Cape Town, and I must say that it’s not only inspirational because of the number of creatives that live here, but it’s surrounded by natural, rugged beauty, which means I can mountain bike or run. I use that time to craft the next ideas for fashion weeks from Lagos to London to our very own Menswear Week. There’s always something happening and I love that it feels local while having an international relevance. And, based on how the international media beg to attend our shows, I know Cape Town is a winner.”

Last modified on Tuesday, 21 February 2017 11:57
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CityLife is the newspaper for people who live, work and play in the Cape Town central city area – and our many visitors. It’s a blend of news and information about people and places in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

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