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The Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg started with Fastrack, a platform for young designers to show their collections and land internships and mentors.
FASHIONISTAS were out in full force at African Fashion International’s Fastrack, which showcased up-and-coming young designers vying for top honours.

K-Lawrence TsotetsiA model showcases a ball gown by K-Lawrence TsotetsiAFI Fastrack is a national fashion design development platform, established to nurture South Africa’s young talent. It offers young designers an opportunity to fast-track their careers through mentorships and business development coaching.

Following a successful inaugural year in 2011, AFI Fastrack was back on 7 March on Hyde Park Corner’s rooftop at the start of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg.

Spearheaded by AFI in partnership with Foschini, the clothing retail chain, Fastrack gave graduate designers the opportunity to show their best designs. The fashion journalist and stylist, Noni Gasa, hosted the fashionable affair, where 12 hopefuls put their elegant designs on the ramp.

The finalists included Tamryn van de Merwe, Jessica-Ann Fell, KhothatsoTsotetsi, Kyra-Moon Halfpenny, Ricci Janse van Rensburg, Wetive Lindokuhle Macia Nkosi, Tzvi Karp, Kim Gush, Hugo Fleur, Shelley Botha, Bianca Troost and Angie Masike. It was all about bright flashes of colour, knit, pastels, floral, embroidery, lace and elegant ball gowns with a 21st century twist – even a gothic look made an appearance.

Wetive NkosiElegance and colourThe adjudication panel had the stressful task of selecting three winners, which finally ended up being four winners and a special mention. On the panel were Aspasia Karas, the editor of Marie Claire Magazine and a member of the National Fashion Council; David Tlale, the fashion designer; Palesa Gaarekoe, the senior project manager at Gauteng Economic Development Agency; Abisha Tembo, the chief director of the Department of Trade and Industry; Jenny le Roux, the fashion doyen and owner and founder of Habits; and Johan Crouse, the head of trends and design at Foschini.

Before the winners were announced, Tlale said the panel had the daunting task of selecting winners, but that they were looking for something unique. The winners were Nkosi, Botha, Halfpenny and Gush, with a special mention for Karp.

Explaining her work, Nkosi said: “My collection [is] different, simple and stylish … I enjoy creating fabrics out of fabrics and combining a mixture of colourful threads.”

Of Gush, AFI said she “combines her training in film and fashion with her passion for ancient histories to create stories of the untold. She explores both the traditional and the modern in her construction, meshing old and new worlds into her own hybrid creations.”

Shelley Botha showcases children's clothingShelley Botha showcases children's clothingIt said Halfpenny “draws her inspiration from black South Africans, Mother Nature and New York City by looking through photographic references of how black South Africans addressed their use of materials and how they would utilise those materials”.

Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, AFI’s executive chairperson, stressed the importance of developing and nurturing talent from a young age.

“AFI Fastrack is a huge part of African Fashion International’s development initiative. We want more of our designers to achieve success in their careers, which means giving them the necessary skills to run a profitable fashion business. When our designers succeed, the entire industry benefits and thus more jobs are created.”

The winners get an internship with Foschini, after which they will get an opportunity to develop their capsule collections, which will be launched at Africa Fashion Week 2012 in October.

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