In an industry where many designers are struggling, it’s time to look at creating clothing that finds the balance between being South African and commercially viable. This is according to Eileen Booysen, a Cape Town-based designer, who will be basing her fashion design master’s thesis on this.
Eileen graduated from Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2010 and has worked in a bridal store and also shadowed a millinery designer. She currently works at a hotel uniform design company but her passion lies in her own creations; she runs Eileen Booysen couture while creating occasion-wear for clients on the side.
Despite the lack of market for couture in South Africa, she said the reason she chose it was because “she had a day job”, admitting designers need to be established in order for it to work for them.
Her new commercial concept range she’s working on will “give something to everyone”. She believes everybody has a common thread running through them and hopes to tap into this psyche to create things each person likes.
As outlandish as this concept sounds, she’s not out to find the elusive South African identity but rather to find what fits everyone, to better local production standards and improve the perception of locally-made fashion. She reckons her design background will assist her with this, because moving from couture to commercial is easier than learning how to create couture after making commercial.
Chasing trends is tiring and Eileen says not following them is what inspires her as well as finding something fresh to create. “I appreciate the craft and pattern making instead of trends,” she said. “A designer should be a problem-solver that creates something new.”
Her advice to upcoming designers is to find a place where they’re indispensable and to use what makes them unique. Although an obstacle most of them face is competition as well as financial issues, “there are so many fashion designers out there and even well-known designers are struggling, which scares me.”
She also advises graduates, who want to go solo, to work for someone else beforehand to learn about the market, get important contacts and gain support for when they venture on their own.
As she prepares to once again become a student with a plan to discover what makes the South African fashion industry tick, Eileen has a lot ahead of her, but with a determined attitude she tackles this journey.
See more fron Eileen here