Ahead of this week’s Soweto Fashion Week (which kicks off today) Live SA sat down with Velly Ngugy, the creative director of SFW, to find out what people can expect from this season’s show.
He prefaces the interview by elaborating on why SFW is “not narrow in its perspective.”
“SFW from the get-go has never been like any other fashion show,” said Velly, he describes it as fashion theatre where the audience is more interactive than they would be at any other show. He explains that this allows attendees to show more appreciation for the overall production.
In addition to not being narrow in it perspective, SFW also aims to bring about a change in the local fashion industry.
“We want to bring African fashion to Soweto and then to export it globally. For now, most of our featured designers are based in Soweto but we eventually hope to have various African countries showcasing at SFW,” he says.
He then goes on to add that “Africa is [politically] liberated and now we need to liberate fashion.”
The preface to the interview side tracked things a little… We barely got the chance to ask Velly exactly what he does at SFW. Very few people have proper insight into what a creative director is and what they do…
Thabiso (one of Live SA’s kick-ass photographers) asked Velly what qualities or skills he thinks aspiring creative directors need to have.
“I cannot speak from an academic perspective because I didn’t go to school for it but one thing I know for sure is that, whatever you do, whether it’s fashion or anything creative, firstly, you have to be very creative, you have to have passion, determination and above all, you have to be someone that thinks outside of the box. A person who does things without worrying about what other people would say.
Above all, you need to trust God. Not everyone is a Christian but no matter how smart and creative you are, I believe that that is where all your ideas come from.”
With that said, Velly explained that he produces the show, recruits and selects the show’s designers and models, creates the concept for each showcase and directs the show. He has been doing this at SFW for the past 2 years.
Although shows are planned months in advance, we asked Velly how a typical week of planning goes when show time is around the corner.
“Hectic! As you said, these things are planned months in advance but the final week involves ensuring everything is done, set, ready, prepared…” he pauses, and then continues “…it’s one thing to plan something but it is another thing to execute it.”
During the final days before the show, it is up to Velly and his team to ensure that the models are available, the designers are ready and the venue is set up. They also host a few pop-up shows at malls in and around Soweto to give crowds a sneak peek. A fashion show is not the only thing attendees can expect. SFW has planned additional entertainment in the form of dancers, artists, parties and a celebrity show on Friday featuring some actors from eTV’s Rhythm City.
With all this planning and effort, we were surprised that Velly needed to take a little time to think about what idea he would like people to take away from SFW.
“Wow… Uhm, I have been so busy planning and that is what I have on my mind. I haven’t actually thought about that. I guess I would like people to gain more of an appreciation for African fashion. At this point, we are fighting unnecessary competition from China, London, New York, France… So now, we’re trying to create a distinction.”
And when it comes to fashion, do you think SA is still lagging behind the international fashion market, asked Thabiso.
“Yes, every country is. Just look at how many African designers are known overseas as compared to how many of their designers we know over here. The thing is that people don’t want to be different. They want to follow what others are doing, they want to follow trends and that is what is killing Africa.
Everyone wants to be like Jimmy Choo, Dolce and Gabbana or Victoria Beckham and that doesn’t work. If I know of Victoria Beckham and the original work she does, why would I want to come to you just because you are doing something similar?”
Velly does not look to other fashion shows or productions for inspiration because he feels as though he would be limiting his ability as a creative director.
“So when I think about my concepts, I think about what I would like to see other people doing at this stage. I am the kind of guy that wants to look into the future but at the same time, I am very African. So for me, it’s all about bringing the two together. The future and Africa…”
With the onus falling on you as the creative producer (and all that you’re responsible for), do you ever worry that you will fail? What is your opinion on failure?
“Failure is a choice,” he say bluntly.
He adds, “when you fail and you accept it, that is failure. A secret of production is to continue with the show even though something has gone wrong. No one will know unless you let on that something is wrong. The same goes for failure and that is why I say that it is a choice.”
The objective of SFW is much clearer now and it’s very apparent that they want to provide an alternative to the conventional fashion week model. If you’re interested in checking out a few shows, it kicks off today and will be going on until Friday at the Soweto Theatre in Soweto. Tickets are available at the door and on Computicket.
*Designers interested in being part of the next showcase can apply by e-mailing their portfolio as well as 2 – 3 high res pictures of their work to firstname.lastname@example.org
Words by: @Kay_Tatyana
Photography by: @Ric3hard
Follow Velly @Vellyvokal
Follow all the Soweto Fashion Week fun @SowetoFashion