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South African Fashion Week now onwards in April & October
Dec '08
In a move roundly welcomed by local designers and retailers, the country's premier fashion design showcase, the Sanlam South African Fashion Week (SSAFW), has aligned its show calendar with the retail sector's forward planning cycles to capitalise on the growing appetite for local design.

It will therefore host the annual summer collections in April 2009 and the winter collections in October, a departure from its tradition of showing the collections at the onset of the season and predominantly with exclusive private customers in mind.

“The new events schedule will accommodate the retail environment which requires a three-month planning and production process at minimum to function optimally. By introducing longer lead times between showing a seasonal collection and having to deliver it in store, designers will now be able to seriously engage with the formal retail sector and bring a stronger offering to the market, both in terms of range assortment and structure as well and logistical production and delivery”, says director Lucilla Booyzen.

“Since the inception of the SSAFW twelve years ago, we have seen a deepening maturity within the design community. Designers are ready to tap into the potential of real business growth presented by broadening their markets beyond a select group of private clients.”

Her sentiments are echoed by Nkhensani Nkosi, whose Stoned Cherrie signature pioneered the Afro chic aesthetic and who successfully supplies the Woolworths group, in addition to her own outlet in Johannesburg's The Zone.

“The industry will only grow meaningfully if it is driven and disciplined by commercial objectives and the rigours of large scale production and retail.”

According to Jean Oldknow, ladieswear buyer for Stuttafords, the 18 store national chain has long recognized the potential for local designers to introduce an “it” factor into its merchandise assortment and thus became the first retailer to introduce a local designer label, Hip Hop, in key stores twelve years ago.

“We recognize the advantages of having a broader selection of high caliber, fresh and smaller collections readily available. The more excitement, signature variation and interest we can add to our retail floor, the greater the likelihood of enticing consumers to buy, particularly during tougher economic times.

Designers are also perfectly positioned to respond quickly to a trend against shorter lead times which is vital to retail success,” she said.

Industry commentator, Dion Chang also believes that bringing the designers in line with retail production cycles will inject new commercial vitality into the local environment.

“This will enable designers to finally be able to sell and produce, not only for a wider range of boutiques, but also start engaging with local chain stores, who have never been able to buy local designers clothing because the collections have always been shownfor the season. South Africa has never really had a design industry that could supply and support the local commercial, retail industry – until now.

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