Candy Smith talks Free State Fashion Week

Candy Smith

Free State Fashion Week founder & CEO Candy Smith chats to us about the annual prestigious fashion and lifestyle event. By Kwanele Mathebula

Free State Fashion Week (FSFW) was inspired by my desire to share talent with the world. I realised that the province had a lot of hidden talent. I wanted to help the designers gain national and eventually, international exposure.

A lot of work has gone into creating FSFW. Getting the idea off the ground was difficult, largely because I didn’t have the capital to do so. I had to self-fund the entire event to ensure its success, and that was all worth it. Slowly but surely when people started to see the vision, we started getting sponsors to grow the brand. This has led to international recognition and close working relationships with Brooklyn Fashion Week where our designers have showcased.

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Launching the fashion design hub has been a huge career highlight. In 2018, we launched the Free Stare Fashion Hub, an institution that provides theoretical and practical experience in the clothing design and manufacturing industry. The first-year students put together a collection in record time. I was impressed with the quality of their work because it proved that they had a passion for what they did. I am excited to see what they will produce this year.

This year’s theme is Our Roots Conquer. Attendees can expect all the glitz and glamour of our roots through various fabrics and textures. We will also have a masterclass hosted by Palesa Mokubung, who will share her success story with all our designers. The masterclass will also include business and financial development from the Small Enterprise Development Agency and various banks.

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I advise people who want to start their own fashion weeks to run it like a business. Firstly, make sure that your idea is patented and registered so that you can have access to assistance if you need it. Take yourself and idea seriously so as to receive the same from others. Lastly, market your business properly and promote among as many designers as possible in your area.

FSFW has exciting plans for the rest of 2019. We are launching our first FSFW magazine that will focus on fashion within the province and South Africa as a whole. We will also be launching our FSFW online and pop-up shops within Mimosa Mall in Bloemfontein to ensure that our designers can make an income. Finally, 3 designers, Thabiso Vincent Lueew, Mabel, Black and Rorisang Ratsui, have been invited to showcase at Brooklyn Fashion Week in New York which is exciting.