About a week ago, I had the opportunity of joining The Istituto Italiano Di Cultura for an exclusive fashion masterclass at Sandton Sun Hotel Conference room. The masterclass was presented by special guest, professor Eugenia Paulicelli who is from Queens College and The Graduate Center, The City University of New York.

Eugenia made her way to South Africa in celebration of Italian Design Day 2019, which is celebrated every year in many different cities around the world. Different fields of design are celebrated, from interior, graphic design, to architecture. This year, in Johannesburg South Africa, the particular celebration is focused on Italian Fashion. As part of the celebration, you have until the 7th of April to journey through Sandton City’s Diamond walk to see some of the most spectacular Italian designer dresses dating back to the 1980s.

Italian Genius A Fashion Retrospective – Diamond Walk Sandton City

Now back to fashion masterclass. I found it to be quite an insightful session, particularly looking at the meaningful relationship between fashion and national identity. The fashion industry at large was identified many years ago by Paris, once called the Capital Of Fashion, to be one of the most important role players in the development of the country’s economy. Fashion was also one of the most powerful symbolic forces to attract people to Paris.

Understanding the conversation particularly in the context of South African fashion was of high priority for me. With such great talent from my own country taking the world by storm, I wanted to understand what we too need to be doing in order to move in the right direction and carve out our very own legacy in the world of fashion. What I got as a round up was basically how the relevant local industries need to work together in order to grow the South African fashion industry. From Marketing and Pr, Media, Celebrities, Textile Industry, all the way to the Tourism industry.


Gianni Versace 1980s

A couple of questions were asked in the room which I would like to paraphrase and share with you all.

Question: Do you think South Africa can play a meaningful role in global fashion. If so, what do we have to do to play that role?

Eugenia: Yes. I think It’s important to create infrastructure, collaboration, institutions, create a cluster that doesn’t just show fashion. There’s no real break in history, but more continuity and threads that we can use again in order to continue to build. PR and marketing is important! So, creating a cluster of people who are important in each category to work as a team is going to be very important. Linking craft communities and making the most of technology is an opportunity not to be missed.

Gianni Versace 1980s
Gianni Versace 1980s

To wrap things up, Lucille of SAFW generously summed things up perfectly for us all in the room, so as to bring the conversation back to South Africa, particularly for designers. Below I have shared the key points she made:

It is very important as designers to understand their importance in the development of what we do in the South African Fashion industry.

It is necessary that designers in South Africa archive their work. Every garment, collection made needs to be archived for the future of fashion in South Africa.

It’s important for designers to invite the media, make friends with the media.

Research is very important. You can never know enough!

It is very important for South African designers to know other South African designers in particular. South African designers who have paved the way in order for us to get to where we are now.

Getting PR is important for the promotion of your garments. Don’t undermine the need for PR.

Gianfranco Ferre 1980s/1990s


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