The die has been cast as Julius Caesar once said......there is no turning back after crossing the Rubicon it would seem.
There have been many emails and telephone calls around the impending launch of a Graduate Fashion Week. A good idea given the fact that there is no platform that graduates can showcase their final year collections to a captive and discerning industry audience. An awesome opportunity to discover new talent, enable potential employers to snap up young creatives and to develop these fledgling designers. I proposed this idea last year to Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe (AFI Chairperson) and at that stage there somehow seemed to be no need for it. Be that as it may this is not an idea which was I claimed to be original (there are many similar type fashion weeks around the world) and as I predicted someone (largely driven this time by Elizabeth Galloway Academy) would come along and pursue it. Anyway given the fact that it was announced that Durban Fashion Week was going to be the seminal platform for young talent in the country there seemed to be no need to further pursue this as an option. Well it now seems that we will have a Graduate Fashion Week spearheaded by tertiary fashion institutions which I think is absolutely brilliant and who better to formulate this event then the people teaching these young minds. This off course has all been facilitated under the Cape Town Fashion Council in Cape Town........well how could they not?
So the interesting news behind it all is that this fashion week is out for pitch as clearly all the institutions are not in the business of running shows or managing the infrastructure required, or they (The Graduate Fashion Week committee/alliance/co-operative) couldn't decide who's brother/sister/hairdresser/boyfriend could produce this event. So it turns out 3 companies pitch, one a shopping mall show producer (cheap) , another a respected producer in the country and wait for it drum roll..................AFI! The latter apparently bringing in all the bells and whistles of management, sponsorship procurement and nationwide television coverage. I managed to check this and all three entities pitching have the same dates on hold at the V&A Waterfront (Marquee venue on Breakwater Boulevard although the venue seems to vacillate between this and The Runway). Forget the lack of ethics that suppliers seem to be bickering over........who found the venue first............who's quote has been distributed to all and sundry etc etc etc etc
This does seem to have caused a few fashionable ears to prick up....... I do think on the surface that they (AFI) are more then entitled to do so as it is an openly capitalist economy that we find ourselves in and quite clearly it fits in with their strategy of 'owning fashion' in the country.
The emails (including to my surprise some correspondence from the players involved!) I am receiving are asking other questions around this though............
- AFI have an existing event which is driven around young designers/graduates in the form of MTN Durban Fashion Week. Is this not a conflict of interest? The intention of establishing this Graduate Fashion Week is to do so on a national basis so is this not about to sidestep MTNDFW? Wonder what the legal opinion on this would be..... as they do have another partner in Vanashree Singh to consider with MTNDFW. Does the CTFC or the tertiary institutions not see this as a conflict of interest or is it acceptable under the banner of being 'synergistic'?
- Why would it seem that the concept of a Graduate Fashion Week was so far fetched last year and this year seemed so attractive. Is this providing AFI with the much needed support for their developmental programme in fashion or an opportunity to harvest young designers for the other fashion weeks they host............or acquiring equity in another event?
- Using the television programme 'African Couture' as leverage is not quite right is it? After all this is not meant to be a programme that specifically covers AFI's events and sponsors solely?
- A Graduate Fashion Week is meant to be representative of the country and inclusive? So anyone spoken to Lucilla Booyzen at SAFW or Sonwabile Ndamase at Vukani Awards?
In pondering all these questions posed I hope that this event goes on to be staged to empower the young designers without there being the type of infighting, bullying and backstabbing reminiscent of the Roman Senate. Whoever is about to be tasked with taking this event forward should do so with the interests of the designers being foremost and not as event organisers or fashion week producers. Furthermore this event has to have a separate identity which embraces and fosters the spirit of young creative talent. The CTFC whilst sitting impervious to the actual needs of these designers needs to act in their best interests with the objectivity of an autonomous body. Whatever happens there is no turning back and we will soon see the labours of those trying to establish this fashion week brought to fruition. Those who scream integrity, honesty and true professionalism should go forth enshrouded with the sound they make and for once think of not their interests but those of the industry that sustains their daily livelihoods.....and positions they hold.
'The world holds enough to satisfy everyone's need, but not everyone's greed' Gandhi
PS - Please do not send me anymore correspondence on this as I have had my say on this and its time to move on............