Cape Town’s frock fraternity flocks north next week for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg with the belief that a presence in the country’s economic capital leads to business growth.
Event organiser African Fashion International has invited established Cape Town-based fashion designers Gavin Rajah and Kluk CGDT as well as upstarts Danielle Margaux to show their autumn/winter collections. The four-day parade in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, starts next Wednesday (March 7).
Design duo Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel du Toit, who run their Kluk CGDT clothing studio on Bree Street in the inner-city, have shown in Johannesburg for the last ten years. They also run shop in that city.
Kluk said that working in Cape Town and Johannesburg has revealed invaluable insights into what it takes to crack the Gauteng market. It has also exposed contrasts between each city’s fashion sensibilities.
“People are in a hurry in Johannesburg and they want things now. The sales volume in our Johannesburg shop is higher as women walk in and shop. In Cape Town, women prefer to take their time. We sell more bridal dresses at home,” said Kluk.
Du Toit adds that their Gauteng clientele includes “a lot of self-employed executive women”.
“They spend their own money. They come to a store and shop in Jimmy Choo (shoes). In Cape Town, women would keep their Choo for a special occasion. That’s how our customers are different,” he said.
“We also find that in Johannesburg women will buy a special dress and wear it to work. In Cape Town, a dress like that is kept for a special occasion.”
Kluk said that showing in Johannesburg was also part of making sure that they were an “international brand”.
“We’ve shown in Johannesburg and (as a result) have ambassador’s wives who shop with us. We plan to open a shop in Pretoria as well because that is where most diplomats live. They can’t take an hour or two out of their day to look for clothes. We need to be there for them,” said Kluk.
He added that to maintain an appeal to wealthy clients – whether in Johannesburg or Cape Town – they produced only nine of each dress that they design for their shops.
“The lady who is the head of the bank doesn’t want to walk into the boardroom and see another woman with the same dress on,” explained Du Toit.
As a brand beyond borders, Kluk CGDT will show collections in Berlin, Moscow and Paris this year. They also will participate in a fashion event in Lagos, Nigeria, before showing in Johannesburg on Thursday night.
Marc Gooding, head of brands at House of Monatic clothing manufacturer in Salt River, said that Johannesburg’s higher salaries, disposable income and power-dressing was good for the fashion business. Monatic will show its C-Squared Carducci men’s formal wear next week.
“About 65% of our sales are in Gauteng. We would go out of business if we just made clothes for the Western Cape,” said Gooding.
“There is a different dress sense in Johannesburg. There is a lot of power-dressing that you see more in other big cities. They are status oriented. If someone is power dressing in Cape Town it would be to wear a nice linen suit without a tie.”
Gooding said that in Johannesburg designers were showing their clothes to an audience that “wants to be seen as being successful”.
“They go out to a restaurant because it is the most prestigious place to be seen at. So when they go out after work they still want to make an impression,” he said.
“We have done research on our customers. We found that a woman in Johannesburg would buy an overcoat just to wear it while walking from her car to her office. It’s all about how you look and arrive through that door.”
Danielle Margaux, a women’s wear designer, launched her label three years ago and will show in Johannesburg for the first time this week. She wants to “create a personal relationship with clients in Johannesburg”.
“It’s a hub for business people and there’s a huge fashion following. People have cash to buy our clothes. In Cape Town you have item buyers but in Johannesburg you have range buyers,” said Margaux.
“I view this as an opportunity to extend my business. I showed at Cape Town fashion week last year and got a lot of new clients. I hope that I will pick up more clients. I want to also sell in more upmarket boutiques.”
Margaux said that showing in Johannesburg could also lead to “more prospects overseas”.
It seems that these Cape Town fashion designers have a tough sell ahead of them though. They are among 25 industry colleagues from across the country participating in 20 shows. Fashion designers from other cities include well-known Johannesburg-based David Tlale and Thula Sindi.