Pops of colour and bold African print decorated the audience at the Africa Fashion Exchange (AFX) launch on Thursday, 27 September. Speaking at the launch, KwaZulu-Natal Fashion Council (KZNFC) Chairperson, Dr Joy Ndlovu, said that the three-day event would help industry professionals to re-imagine and re-conceptualise fashion through workshops exhibitions and a fashion show to end each day.

“The event brings together designers with a key message to be African and support Africa,” added Ndlovu. “A new aspect of this year’s AFX was the involvement of schools in the event and Grade 12 learners from several schools were invited to the various Saturday sessions,” said Ndlovu.

“We formed a new partnership with the school and the learners are looking forward to Saturday. Their careers guidance counsellor is also thrilled, this event opened her eyes as she never even considered the fashion industry as a career option for learners,” she added. KZNFC Programme Manager, Xolani Zulu, said, “It has been quite a journey for us to get here. “We are grateful that designers are here. I am glad that we are honoured by the guest speakers that have come through – they have a lot of knowledge to share.”

Masana Chikeka, programme manager from the Department of Arts and Culture, said that the department was not only supporting AFX, but was also looking for strategic partnerships with a mandate for skills development.

Nisha Thavar, the managing director of the KZN Fashion Council, said that the show was the key to the survival of the fashion industry and that the theme, ‘Africa By Design’ would highlight how the fashion design and textile sector was an industry that had the potential to contribute to the continent’s economy and fight the plague of poverty and unemployment.

Makhosi Ntshangase, a first year fashion student, said that she was invited to be a part of the event because she won the Dundee July award for best women’s wear and most creative designs. Ntshangase described her bold hooded gown as avant-garde as she pointed out details of the design modelled by, Nogcebo Goba, who wore the garment for the launch. “I was influenced by the theme, which is Africa by design. My garment is futuristic, I did not shy away from the theme. I incorporated Africa with the fabric and the colours. I used the mustard yellow colour in the print because right now it is spring. The bold colours represent my personality and I love using exaggerated sleeves,” said Nsthangase.

Goba said that she was enjoying wearing the gown. “The design is very beautiful and I feel beautiful in it. I especially love the hooded coat,” she said.

Also at the launch was designer, Pinkie Mdunge, who said the AFX had helped her grow as a designer.

“I have met people from the KZN Fashion council who helped me to think outside the box and create better designs,” said Mdunge. AFX was hosted by the KZN Fashion Council from 27 to 29 September.