My love for fashion was always more than just looking fabulous, I always wanted to learn more and from that learning experience I can be able to relate to my newest passion. However finding somebody to show me the ins-and-outs was a mission. The people in the fashion industry are very hard to approach and for a sartorial fanatic like me I had to consult the Internet for anything I wanted to know regarding this subject.
While on a mission to learn as much as possible about the fashion world, I went to every major fashion week in South Africa and I did all of that while still working at the golf course as a club pro. So I would basically take my leave whenever there’s a fashion week taking place. Because of the love I had for fashion I continued to seek more and while still grinding at it, that’s when I met Zamaswazi. We met at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week JOBURG which was held in Newton, downtown Johannesburg. He was still working as a merchandiser at a wholesale store and designing occasionally. He showed me some of his work and right there I saw potential and I didn’t hesitate to tell him that I’m not a designer but I have a few ideas that I would like to experiment. At that time I could not afford the services of the established designers and Zama was God sent.
Both of us never knew much, but he had the skill and I had a bit of knowledge gained from the net and my travels to fashion weeks. We met and discussed what designs I would like him to do for me for the next fashion week. He designed amazing outfits with little resources and with no academic designer background. With that said the garments were not 100% perfect but there was great potential and a brighter future. It was at that time that I decided to invest my time in building him and his brand.
We started from scratch showing at local fashion weeks and every time after a show we’d go back to the drawing board to find ways that we can improve. We invested in one industrial machinery to improve the efficiency and quality of work. Working on a tight budget we could not afford to hire tailors and seamstresses. Driven by the vision we could only ask the closest expert we could find and it was Zama’s mother who taught him how to use the sewing machine. It was tough and we came across a number of challenges while we were perusing to make it through the major fashion weeks. And even at that stage it was still hard to approach the people in the fashion industry for any information on how to make it in the major fashion shows that hosts the fashion world’s most elite. Not that we were ready but we wanted to know what was required of us and to evaluate our standards to meet those of the elite designers. One of the challenges was that we did not have any fashion qualifications and that was a stumbling block. Our goal was to make and sell as many garments so we can get money to get Zamaswazi enrolled to a fashion institution.
While we were still making garments and showcasing at those entry level fashion weeks, we still had high hopes that we’ll get our breakthrough. Since it was hard to be recognised in South Africa, we got invited to showcase in Accra, Ghana. We did the collection and made more garments to come up with funds for logistics to get to Ghana. After all that grinding, we managed to come up with funds to purchase a flight ticket. Yes only one ticket because only one of us could go and that had to be Zamaswazi. Unfortunately he couldn’t make it due to unforeseen circumstance.
With all that loss we never gave up on our goals, as we went back to the drawing board to see what is it that we can do to work on marketing the brand. As I kept on attending these fashion weeks with hopes to find something or someone to give us some advice regarding the fashion world. I was now familiar with the designers; models; and even the media people even though they didn’t know who I was. Going to these fashion weeks I never compromised when it came to my look of the day. I made sure I always come back looking different; new and even more stylish than before. With all the efforts I made I came back home feeling down, it was like I was never even there. I felt unappreciated and I learned that I either need to be somebody famous or wear something extremely exotic or rather avant-garde. It was only the people that dressed like that that got acknowledged and as for the “Suitableman” they saw nothing new, just another guy in a suit which they see almost every day in the corporate world.
I then decided to go visit a place where they appreciated the sartorial way of dressing and I knew that I will get all my questioned answered. That place was all the way in Europe, Italy and it was an event that took place in January and June. This event is known as Pitti Uomo, which is a menswear fashion trade fair where international brands can come exhibit their latest collection. I call it the mecca of menswear fashion and style, because you see all kinds of sartorial fashion and style. I knew that being there will shift the attention back to us especially since I would be the only South African who’s dandy dressed and this would be the platform to show off South African talent. The response was so overwhelming it was like I was home. The people there were so impressed to an extent that they didn’t believe that it was my first time attending. Seeing so many photographers wanting a piece of me was so humbling.
Coming back home was business as usual and a month later I went to attend another fashion week and not much had change, I was still another guy in a suit. On the business side of thing, we capitalised the marketing of the brand on social media by circulating all the images of my outfits taken in Florence to raise the public awareness. Things started looking up as we then entered a menswear designer scout competition which was part of South African Fashion Week. It was a make or break opportunity and because this was our opportunity to finally make it on the runway of a major fashion week. With all the hard work and perseverance we made to the finals and finally our goal was achieved as we were awarded the opportunity to showcase our collection to a bigger audience.
After all we went through we achieved our goal. With this story I learned that success is much more fruitful when is shared. It was also the lesson that revived the saying “Rome was never built in one day” I hope this piece would inspire you to continue working hard and persevering with your goals.
Until next time, keep working on it!