THE Fashion Kapitol has been quietly waiting for its day – and that day came last night. Hips and feet couldn’t keep still as the music and vibe heralded the opening of the Kapitol, and the opening of the Joburg Fashion Week.
The beat never stopped; the clicking cameras were never still; the excited chatter continued unabated; and the models and deejays just kept on walking the ramp and blasting out the songs.
It was the first time Joburg Fashion Week had set foot in the inner city, and the Kapitol was the perfect place to start a new trend.
It was officially opened when the Fashion District guru, Rees Mann; the chairperson of African Fashion International, Precious Moloi-Motsepe; and the Johannesburg Development Agency board chairperson, Luthando Vutula, unveiled a striking graffiti mural.
The JDA has pumped R25-million into the district – R9-million into creating the Kapitol and R16-million into sprucing up the district with new paving, lighting and sewing emblems. The agency has now handed over its management to the Johannesburg Property Company and the Fashion District Institute.
To great applause, Vutula said: “If I can quote Henry Ford: coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, but working together is success. I would like to wish this occasion the greatest success.”
Moloi-Motsepe said, “We’re doing this for you. We believe in you. We know you are the future of our country. We know you are going to succeed in the industry. We know we are going to have many, many, many successful designers from Joburg.”
Some 700 people attended the opening, bringing energy, exuberance and a distinctive African style to the evening. “It was an absolutely outstanding success,” said Rees of the evening. “It showed the City of Johannesburg that their investment in the Fashion District and the Fashion Kapitol was really worth their while.”
Several people commented on how African the evening was compared to previous fashion week shows around the country – from the deejays and break dancers to the feel of the fashion being showcased.
The Kapitol, the focal point of the Fashion District, is Joburg’s first public outdoor fashion ramp. It also has a small amphitheatre. Several buildings were demolished to make room for the venue, a square with 30 shops facing it, and an arcade linking Prichard and Market streets.
In offices upstairs, Gibs Business School and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship opened a week ago, bringing an intellectual focus to the district.
The Kapitol takes up most of the block, which is situated in the heart of the district; the district itself comprises about 26 blocks on the eastern edge of the CBD – boarded by Market, Kerk, Von Weilligh and End streets.
There are over 200 fashion-related outlets in the area, including cut, make and trim operators, a budget clothing retail industry and the studios of several established designers, some of which include Clive Rundle and Bongiwe Walaza, who has just opened a shop in the Kapitol.
Kicking off the much-anticipated Joburg Fashion Week, the Kapitol hosted a graduate day called Fastrack, which offered an entire day dedicated to fast forwarding the careers of design students through mentorships and knowledge exchange.
Paul Leisegang, the managing director of African Fashion International, said: “In partnership with Foschini, Fastrack is a developmental day that will not only showcase young designers, but will also provide an interactive platform with educational and informative activities.”
AFI is the owners and organisers of Joburg Fashion Week, among other fashion weeks.
“[It is] a day created to developing and accelerating the new generation of design talent. Our exciting new partnership with Foschini has the long-term objective of improving the pool of new designers.”
Design schools participating in Fastrack included Spero Villioti Elite Design Academy, Tshwane University of Technology, University of Johannesburg, SewAfrica and Lisof. Participating graduate designers were Kutloano Molokomme, Minette Meyer, Nadine Holloway, Melita Ngoasheng, Lebogang Moatshe, Sunette Scheepers, Jessica Sutherland, Pride Nkosi, Laura Kass, Nkulueko Msibi, Phumzile Langa, Anja Bredell, Nkosi Nkala, Chantelle Nascimento, Sello Medupe and Portia Moruthane.
Joburg Fashion Week runs from 15 to 19 February in various locations around the inner city. For more information, visit the event’s website.