NOTES ON THE HEALTH OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY AND SOME IDEAS REGARDING WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO HIGHLIGHT IN MY NEXT COLLECTION...
One of the key elements of the creation process is the talented machinists and other crafters that help to construct the garments we design. It is a symbiotic partnership where one cannot function without the other. The exploitation of workers in the garment industry has been a hot topic in social media generating massive momentum with the hashtags #whomademyclothes and #fashrev along with the proudly South African #lovezabuyza. Documentaries made after the Rana Plaza collapse, such as The True Cost have also highlighted the plight of workers in the garment manufacturing industry
In a recently published paper concerning transparency in the fashion industry titled IT'S TIME FOR A FASHION REVOLUTION the following interesting points were made.
WE ARE THE FASHION REVOLUTION
Our main focus is to change the narrative surrounding fashion. To transform it into a force for good. We believe that it is everybody’s responsibility; not just the fashion designers, buyers and big retailer, but also the end consumer, who allows this state of affairs to continue by purchasing the “poly-blend T-shirts and runway rip offs”
Highlighting WHERE and by WHOM clothing is made is an integral part of the Fashion revolution’s mantra, telling the stories behind the clothing. Transparently is key to insure that consumers don’t unknowingly aid and abet dubious practices “and contribute to a future that is bad for people and the planet”
WE BELIEVE IN A FASHION INDUSTRY THAT VALUES PEOPLE, THE ENVIRONMENT, CREATIVITY AND PROFIT IN EQUAL MEASURE
As a fairly well established designer in the South African fashion industry I feel that is is my duty and privilege to help spread the message. I have always believed in creating sustainable jobs especially in the labour intensive clothing industry and thus I’ve kind of approached the topic back to front.
In a recent "Eureka!" moment I realised that being an ethical designer does not end with paying a fair wage, crediting all input in design and well as production and insuring that as little as possible waste that we generate ends up in landfills. I need to tell people; consumers, fellow designers and other members of this huge industry, what I’m up to.
The main reasoning behind it is so that my loyal and amazing customer know what they are buying and why they are paying more for my clothing than mass produced runway-ripoffs. I want them to share in the feel good glow; contributing, in whatever manner, to creating more a sustainable industry. I want this ethos to rub off on my fellow designers, most of whom are already ticking all the #fashrev boxes, and inspire them to talk about what they are doing.
By adding more voices to the movement and using any available platform to broadcast it the Fashion Revolution will happen. We have committed 30 years of fast fashion atrocities and created an unsustainable monstrous industry that generates trillions of dollars annually yet fails to honour its most key member.
AFRICAN HANDS CREATING CLOTHING FOR AFRICAN BODIES
South Africa sits at the tip of a culturally rich continent with access to a huge pool of talented craftsmen and -women. Before the rise of the industrial far East we used to boast many successful fabric mills and production houses. Our bodies do not fit the Chinese, European or American mould and we have been forced to feel shame rather than celebrate being healthy human beings. Our sense of style and ethnic signatures has been appropriated the world over, yet we still flock to support cheap, badly made Western fast fashion.
We need to change our own narrative and stop allowing ourselves to be exploited. We have the power to unite the local fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way we think about clothing.
In the past couple of months there has been a spark; a glimmer of light and we need to feed this. Local design talent is amazing; I’m not just blowing my own horn - have you seen what is out there? We have such a wide ranging spectrum of creatives that are working so hard, not just to make their own name and grow their own brand, but to create sustainable jobs, develop and transfer skills. We are known as a nation of entrepreneurs and creatives generally end up having to be entrepreneurs because we are so notoriously hard to employ, but we need to support one another if we want to develop and grow this movement.
In the clothing industry one of the opening whinges is that “we don’t have nice fabric”, “we don’t have the skills” or “that technology is too expensive”. The only way we are going to be able to have nice things is if we grow the industry to such a degree that the need is felt and filled by some other entrepreneurial spirit. In order to get there we need to support one another and do so LOUDLY.
I hate pictures of myself; as a designer I prefer to hide behind my clothing letting it be my face, but I've committed to taking selfies of my outfits as regularly as possible; tagging designers whose clothing I wear and using the appropriate hashtags #twinktwice #lovezabuyza. The goal behind this is to generate awareness around locally designed and created beautiful things.
I've have been posting, and will continue to do so, pictures of this adventure Instagram and occasionally sharing the initiatives on Facebook. I encourage you to join the movement, thank you for supporting local talent, but I urge you to broadcast it so that other will follow and that we can create awareness for the beautiful things that are sculpted in this country.
SIES!isabelle has evolved very organically mainly though word of mouth. We would like to reward our loyal #SIESambassadors by launching this competition to win a R5000 gift voucher to spend on SIES!isabelle clothing at any of the monthly Oh!PEN DAYS hosted at SIES!studio. The idea is fairly simple:
To start at the beginning; after finishing at lisof I worked as a shop slave (technically shop assistant, but “slave” was a more fitting a term) for a year. After that I was fortunate enough to secure a position at a Cut Make and Trim factory (CMT) that produced clothing in downtown Joburg. The owner; my first patterns lecturer, Erica de Greef, guided me exposing me to all the different elements in this insane industry. I worked under her guidance for the next four years learning more about the gritty, practical aspects of fashion than I ever thought existed!
The local fashion industry is fairly small and well guarded. Sure, anybody can walk into Golden Glow (a fabric wholesaler in Fordsburg) and buy fabric.. in theory.. In real life; it’s tricky. Who to speak to, how to tip, what to ask for, what to avoid, who has the best quality, best price, who is the most reliable, how to find out what fabric is being brought in just after the buyers return from the East and so much more. Having a mentor helps you avoid some very expensive mistakes. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve made my fair share of f#ckups, but it could have been worse.. On my own I would have struggled to survive one season.
On that note; I’ve also been blessed with an amazing financial guide, who happens to be my father and who happens to turn 60 tomorrow. Very few aspiring fashion designers value the importance of being able to draw up a little spread sheet showing their predicted income and expenses. Most fashion diplomas/degrees have only recently started adding business as a possible subject for students to take and then, in most cases, it is presented in such an abstract way that students don’t realise the value of it.
I want to say that I’ve been lucky, but I’ve also put in a fair amount of work.. luck and hard work do seem to go hand-in-hand.. But either way, I wish to continue the cycle of sharing. For the past six years I’ve accommodated interns from the various fashion design institutions/institutes in and around the country. Some helpers have been more successful that others; some have been chased away and some became close friends.
It is a huge risk letting these creatively charged, excitable and oh so young personalities into your space, into my creative bubble, into my secrets that I’ve spent the past decade gathering. I’ve been hurt, had designs stolen and copied; down to the pleats inside the pocket! But I still feel internship is a vital rite of passage between student and designer.
Photographs of some of my fabulous interns courtesy of Lingo Rodrigues and Jess le Roux, depicting some of the mad things we've done. So much love to all my interns, wherever you may be <3
Images courtesy of Jacquin Botha
Fashion week always amazes me. Even thought this is the ninth show I've participated in as SIES!isabelle, with the South African Fashion Week (SAFW) each event is still so different. This season I decided to do an installation rather than I runway collection. In hind sight I don't think I was quite aware of what I was letting myself in for... Creating a whole environment and clothing, that needs to withstand up close scrutiny; eeeeek! panic! To have that amount of freedom -- "Here is your 150 square meter space... PLAY!" -- is scary. But all said and done... I think we pulled it off.
Images courtesy of Ivan Naudee
...so who are "we"?
Scarlet is a design house focusing on unique, contemporary jewelry.
Sisters, Talia and Alexia, drew inspiration from fairy tales and enchanted forests to add a magical element to the show. Their style is both clean and minimal, but also has the most beautiful, intricate detail.
Designing a collection on my own is quite an isolated task, but collaborating with such enthusiastic creatives was an amazing experience. Their jewelry complements my clothing beautifully.
Thank you, absolotely love your work xx
RedOker was born though the vision of using our God given talents, skills and life experience to make a positive difference in those around us.
"We are nation builders, designers and creators of authentic handcrafted products. Our products are proudly made by skilled and committed craftsman in awesome South Africa. Our desire is that every owner of a RedOker product will form a special sentimental and emotional bond with their product that will last a lifetime."
Dankie Casper, Maretha & Lucas; the floating bags made our forest fantastical. You add such a positive energy, its a pleasure to have you work with you.
At Peter’s hair studio we provide our clients with the latest in hair design, care and maintenance. Choose from our world leading professional brands. We care about how you look and feel. We strive to ensure that each client departs looking beautiful and feeling extraordinarily cared for. Rodney and Nikky at Peter’s studio have been passionately involved in the hair industry for over 23 years and are dedicated to providing superior customized care and updated product knowledge.
Visiting Rodney and Nikky is always the most fabulous experience.. so much more than just "getting your hair done". I always leave feeling my best. I'm so happy that we finally got to work together on a fashion week event. The girls looked amazing, each individually styled to suit her look inside my story. It is so wonderful to work with hair stylist that understand me so intuitively. Thank you <3
TALK SHOP is a unique Public Relations consultancy specialising in representing creative individuals and businesses in the fashion and design industries in South Africa. We aim to represent South African designers and other creative professionals in order to increase their visibility in the media and to showcase their talent and product to their target consumers. Through extensive experience in the local fashion industry, TALK SHOP has the ability to assist these businesses to increase their brand recognition and further establish their names in the fashion and design industry. The long-term strategies and personalised efforts at TALK SHOP aim to result in consistent positive media coverage and in turn allow for business growth.
TalkShop has transformed PR from a luxury into a necessity. Dankie Hannah & Suzanne, without you I wouldn't have had anybody at my show! It is such a pleasure to work with you. And Savannah...you are just the best <3 you took my crazy dream and helped make it real, giving me guidance and encouragement. Thank you.
And lastly, but in no way least, to the most amazingestest, bestest helpers EVER! Thank you for "foliage thievery", for spray painting shoes, for knitting the most amazing pieces for me to play with, for jumping in exactly when I needed you most, for constructing weeping willow lights, for making notebooks, for baby sitting, for being Rodney's assistants, for climbing on ladders, for running around, for loading and unloading, for taking responsibility, for fetching coffee, for being enthusiastic and, most importantly, thank you for keeping me sort of sane :)
Louis, Christel, Lorelei, Adiel, Betty and the most fantastic interns Kuschke and Tenisha
Halterneck, crossover and tie under bust
Halterneck wrap with low back
One shoulder Grecian wrap
One shoulder with empire tie