Durban, South Africa: September 27, 2018: IT’S “all systems go” for the provincial African Fashion Exchange (AFX) extravaganza, the chairperson of the KZN Fashion Council, Dr Joy Ndlovu, said just before cutting the ribbon to open the event this morning. The KZN Fashion Council, which predicts that AFX will put the region on the global fashion radar, is hosting the three-day action-packed event at the Greyville Racecourse Convention Centre from September 27-29.

“Everyone is excited. All our stakeholders are on board and we are all geared up for a great time,” she beamed. “We have local and national designers showcasing their fashions as well as internationally-known designers from other African countries.” She told guests that the KZN Fashion Council was on a mission to revive the fashion and textile industry and had a range of initiatives to help achieve that. Nisha Thavar, the managing director of the KZN Fashion Council, said that the show was the key to the survival of the fashion industry.

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. Masana Chikeka, programme manager (design) at the Department of Arts and Culture, said that the department was not only supporting AFX but was also looking for strategic partnerships. It had a mandate for skills development and there were opportunities for young designers, she said.

A new aspect of this year’s AFX was the involvement of schools in the event, the chairperson said. Grade 12 pupils from several schools had been invited to the various Saturday sessions, including a rural school, the Sibusisiwe Technical Comprehensive High School in Umbumbulu, on the KZN South Coast. “We have formed a new partnership with the school and the pupils are looking forward to Saturday. Their careers guidance counsellor is also thrilled as this event has opened her eyes as she had never even considered the fashion industry as a career option for pupils,” Ndlovu said.

The partnership will be a long-term relationship too as there is the prospect that the KZN Fashion Council will help out with the pupils’ matric dresses. As well as finding out all about the fashion industry on Saturday, the school-goers will also be able to shadow the service providers involved in the AFX, giving them an even further unique insight into the business. As soon as the ribbon-cutting ceremony was over, delegates got down to the serious business of knowledge-sharing, giving them the chance to listen and learn from industry thought-leaders and trend-setters on a range of topics affecting and challenging the fashion and related industries.

There will be four topics a day, with speakers and panellists debating the industry’s hot issues. Trends, Textiles, “the 4th Industrial Revolution in the fashion design industry” and “The African Body” (a special research presentation) are on the agenda today, to be followed tonight by an invitation-only gala dinner showcasing the first of the designers. Tomorrow’s topics are: (9 am) “African Luxury” which will question when African brands will take their place alongside the leading luxury global powerhouses. At 10 am, the spotlight will be thrown on “Cultural Appropriation-Theft or Innovation”, a discussion about the protection of intellectual property.

Fit and Sizing is the topic at 11 am (there will also be a demonstration), followed at noon by the all-important subject of “Retailing (and what it takes).” Then, from 6-9pm, there will be evening of fashion shows for invited guests. Saturday’s knowledge-sharing sessions kick off at 9 am with another important issue: “The Power of Social Media”, following at 10 am by another hot subject “Business Intelligence.”

At 11 am, the importance of “Pan African Export” is on the agenda, followed at noon by the final knowledge-sharing session, “Fashion Meets Film.” And, from 6-9pm, audiences can look forward to yet more fashion shows, by invitation only. Exhibitions by talented crafters will run throughout the three days of AFX. All the knowledge-sharing sessions, the fashion shows and exhibitions are free.