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Armani Conquers China, Chastises the Pope June 01st, 2012 @ 11:53 AM



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South Africa Fashion Week: Building the Industry on Tradition and Goodwill

Erin Skrypek
August 21st, 2006 @ 1:37 PM

It is hard to compare the fashion presented at the 10th Sanlam South Africa Fashion Week, which took place from July 27th to 30th in Johannesburg, to the kind of fashion that comes out of the fashion weeks of New York, Paris, Milan and London - especially considering a number of the designers showing in these cities, like Karl Lagerfeld, Ralph Lauren and those under LVMH and the Gucci and Prada Groups, have budgets large enough to fuel several countries with years worth of food, medicine and clothing supplies.

But that doesn't mean South Africa isn't interesting fashion-wise.

Lucilla Booyzen, a white South African woman, has been taking great pains over the past ten years to make a difference in her country via building the fashion industry.

Since she began, her goal hasn't been to solely showcase South Africa's most talented designers. Instead, she's attempted to grow the country's general economy by sustaining the diverse, traditional cultures that were suppressed during the country's apartheid era, when a black South African had fewer rights than a South African dog.

For those from the West, this is clearly a new take on fashion.

Booyzen's project is a combination of three things: fashion shows, workshops and seminars and a fashion fusion project that helps create work for underprivileged South Africans. The workshops, seminars and fusion project are sponsored by the country's Department of Arts and Culture.

The project pairs 225 crafters from all of South Africa's nine provinces with 27 local designers. The crafters work with the designers to embellish their designs with traditional beading, embroidery or appliqué techniques. The pieces are then either sold at fashion week in the marketplace setting that surrounds the three catwalks set up in Sandton, the new business center in Johannesburg, or in boutiques that carry the designers' collections.

Through this program new fashion is promoted and traditional arts of the native tribes preserved. Both parties build commerce for themselves. It is a win-win situation.

The workshops and seminars that Booyzen has organized are also extraordinary. Each year members of the fashion community from New York, London and/or Paris are invited down to South Africa to teach various aspects of their trade.

This year Albertus Swanepoel, a New York-based milliner from Tshwane (formerly Pretoria) who makes hats for designers like Marc Jacobs, Proenza Schouler, Paul Smith and Tuleh, attended the fashion week in Johannesburg, as did Francois Bouchet, head draper and patternmaker at Carolina Herrera, Carol Tulloch, the curator of "Black British Style," a recent exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum and Koto Bolofo, a highly-regarded, Paris-based photographer who shoots regularly for Italian Vogue, GQ, L'Official, among many others.

Bolofo was a particularly special speaker as he was exiled from South Africa when he was a child; his father was a history teacher who was caught with Karl Marx books among his materials and was persecuted for his supposed communist practices.

To attract such interesting and successful individuals in order to inform a group of hopeful individuals with very few resources was incredibly fortunate and the result of Booyzen's endless energy and enthusiasm for what she does. Lucky for South Africa, Booyzen has traveled extensively, first as a model, then as a fashion producer - hence her organizational abilities - and knows what it takes to draw great talent from all over the world to help support her venture: A cause.

Though still a work in progress, Booyzen has made great strides. Her South Africa Fashion Week will continue to grow until it finds a way to put itself on the international fashion map – and has already seared itself on the international goodwill map.

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