Crafters get crack at big time

Cindy Preller

A CREATIVE fusion of fashion and craft met this week at the Athenaeum Little Theatre in Port Elizabeth where top designers and local crafters are involved in a skills transfer experience.

Top fashion designers Craig Jacobs, Terrence Bray, Anna-Mari Claasen and Ronel Jordaan flew in from across the country to teach local crafters techniques such as batik (the art of fabric dye) and bead making from paper.

In exchange, the crafters have impressed the designers so much that they will be making use of the work in their own projects in the future.

The exercise is the culmination of the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA)’s programme, Know your Artist, which has been celebrating all forms of art in the city for the past month.

According to the organiser of the fashion and craft week, Stephanie Beyers from Silver Spoon Clothing in Richmond Hill, the week has been very experimental and crafters were encouraged to make items that were not functional, but art pieces which would form part of an exhibition to run for public viewing at the theatre from next week. The exhibition will open on Saturday evening with an exclusive invite-only launch.

“We really just want to put the focus back onto PE as an emerging fashion city, since we have the skilled people and potential to make the economy thrive again in the fashion industry.”

Terrence Bray, who designed Charlene Wittstock’s wedding dress, said he was particularly impressed with the skills level of the local crafters.

“The crafters are not just a labour force but artists in their own right. I have made good contacts with the crafters and will be sending them samples in order for our business relationship to become sustainable.”

Fundudzi label designer and owner Craig Jacobs said he would also make use of the crafters’ work in future since he was expanding his fashion label to accessories. “This will not stop when the week is over. We are teaching the crafters how to make their businesses sustainable and we are coming up with new ideas and gaining valuable resources,” he said.

A Motherwell crafter who specialises in making leather items and clothing, Zola Duda, said what was great about the fashion and craft week was that he could learn and experiment with new mediums, for example new sewing skills by incorporating mohair off-cuts.

“This is my life – I have been making clothes and shoes forever. My grandmother taught me everything I know. I am looking forward to teaching these amazing skills to other people in my community,” Duda said.

Marketing coordinator for Mohair South Africa Anle Marais said they were hoping to see a lot of innovative designs and crafts with the mohair supplied for the project at the end of the week.

Tomorrow the artistic and business cross-pollination continues with third-year fashion design students from NMMU, who will be introduced to the crafters’ work and attend talks on e-commerce, entrepreneurship and the latest fashion design trends.

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