My daughter loves it, okay?
Andrea Nagel adds her own touch to South African Fashion Week
THE South African fashion industry is taking off, with young designers making beautiful clothes that are impossible for an addict like me to resist. SA Fashion Week kicks off tomorrow - and once again the front row will be bursting at the seams with fashion writers dressed to impress in the latest clothes from our top local designers.
This year I have something a little different up my ''haute couture" sleeve.
One of the greatest couturiers, Ralph Lauren, once said: ''I don't design clothes, I design dreams." Well, with a few closets full of other people's dreams, I thought it was time to have some of my own.
Since high school, when I paid a friend to make my rag doll because I couldn't face another hour of unpicking, I've never put needle to cloth. But I love clothes, I have good design sense - and, well, how hard could it be?
My friend, the designer Lisa Jaffe, creator of the label Guillotine, was roped in to help me. ''As long as your name is on the label, not mine," she joked.
I started with grand ambitions of making an intricate dress with darts, folds and pleats aplenty. But Lisa, the voice of experience and reason, reminded me that I had a day to design and make my fashion week outfit. She suggested I try something fairly simple, like a maxi skirt.
I started by choosing my fabric - a gorgeous metallic, in keeping with the season's trend (to cut out a step, I used some fabric that Lisa already had, avoiding an afternoon traipsing around the Oriental Plaza).
With the material in hand it was time to sit down and design.
''I wouldn't try pockets, zips, darts, hemming, bias cuts or buttonholes with your level of expertise," Lisa said quizzically, eyeing my design. ''I think the most you can manage is straight seams, maybe wide, loose pleats and an elastic waistband, with help from my tailor, James Mtapasha," she said, assigning him to me for the afternoon.
With my misguided ambitions still in evidence, I asked about making a pattern. She laughed.
''You go to design school for years to learn how to do that. Top designers make pattern-making their life's work. I think you can give the pattern a skip."
In her wonderful space at Lillian Studios, Fordsburg, with the delicious smell of Pakistani cooking wafting up from the restaurant downstairs, Jessie Nossel, Lisa's production assistant, James and I got to work. Jessie showed me how to pin and mark fabric with a washable marker before cutting it ready to be sewed on the Guillotine industrial machine.
Amid laughter at the wonkiness of my cutting I sat down to show them my moves on the machine. If they thought my cutting was funny, they hadn't seen my sewing yet. Jess showed me how to thread the roll of cotton and the bobbin, to lift the arm of the needle by operating a lever under the table with my knee and to press down slowly on the pedal to start sewing.
''It's just like driving," she said. ''Try not to go too fast."
I spent a lot of time unpicking but eventually managed to sew the pleats of two layers of fabric in a semi-straight line and to sew the two sides of the skirt together. ''We'll skip the over-locking," Jess said.
To finish off, I cut some orange fabric, wrapped it around a piece of elastic cut to fit my waist and, with the help of James for the tricky bits, carefully sewed it onto the top of the skirt.
Lastly, I sewed the lower, long layer direct onto the middle layer of fabric in a kind of afterthought to give the skirt length and to hide my multitude of mistakes.
Luckily the over-the-top design and the shiny fabric distract from my workmanship. Lisa, James and Jess might be laughing at my heavily disguised talent but I got the validation I needed when I arrived home and my five-year-old daughter exclaimed: ''Oh mom, that's beautiful . you made that? Please make one for me." Tomorrow night at SA Fashion Week we'll see if the front row feels the same way.
CLOTHING design and construction can be studied at Inscape Design College.
In less than a year - part-time - you will be able to make garments for sale through boutiques and retailers.
There are Inscape colleges around the country. Contact Inscape in Johannesburg on 011-327-2002, or find more information on www.olearn.co.za
LISOF is one of the best-known fashion design schools in the country.
It offers full-time, part-time and distance learning courses and has schools in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.
Contact LISOF in Johannesburg on 011-788-6617, or go to www.lisof.co.za