New York Fashion Week is literally right around the corner! As the fashion industry prepares for a spectacular week, this September, of fabulous shows, paparazzi, fashionistas, beautiful models, great parties and of course the business of fashion, an equally fabulous show prepares to kick off in South Africa, Arise Capetown Fashion Week.
Behind the scenes working to produce Arise Capetown Fashion Week is our August Ladybrille Magazine Woman of the Month, Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe. In South Africa’s world of fashion and entertainment, Dr. Moloi-Motsepe has made a powerful impression as Chairperson of Africa Fashion International (AFI), a company that parallels IMG World (producers of New York Fashion Week) in terms of quality and caliber of Fashion Weeks in South Africa. AFI produces Arise Africa Fashion Week, Arise Cape Town Fashion Week, Durban Fashion Week, Audi Joburg Fashion Week and Joburg Fashion Week, among many fashion events. Ladybrille Magazine caught up with the respected philanthropist, mother, wife and successful brilliant businesswoman to learn how she does it all!
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Who is Dr. Precious? How do you see and define yourself?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: Wife and a mother of 3 kids. Chairperson of African Fashion International, Director of Motsepe Foundation. I am a passionate businesswoman who tries to lead a life of purpose and to bring up the best in others.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Your previous career was as a medical doctor. In 2006, your family acquired a controlling stake in Leisureworx which is now Africa fashion International [AFI], of which you are Chairman. For you, when did you get your “aha” moment to quit your practice to become a fashion business woman?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: I quit clinical medicine after my third child was born to be home with him and to focus on our family foundation. My interest in fashion was from a development perspective and helping to find and promote designers both locally and help them run thriving business. South African designers are very creative and need to push their creativity as a selling point in the very competitive fashion industry.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Whenever there is an existing forerunner in business, it gets interesting when a competitor emerges. Your emergence into the South African fashion industry received mixed reviews. How do you respond to statements regarding your monopoly of the South African Fashion events production market?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: AFI recognizes and applauds the efforts of all stakeholders within the industry who make a positive contribution. AFI is passionate about what it does. We worked very closely with all stakeholders to create a common vision of a thriving industry. We aim to improve the quality of fashion design output from South Africa and Africa, to promote African brands, and to dramatically raise the profile of fashion designers from the continent. This position brings with it enormous responsibility, one which we do not take lightly.
Our business is to make sure that designers sell their collections at the fashion weeks and this contributes towards sustainable businesses which eventually will employ more people. We need the assistance of many key stakeholders and partners in order to achieve and maintain this common vision.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: From a business angle and with an eye towards the designers that participate in fashion weeks, what is your take on the allegations that there are too many fashion weeks in South Africa, many of which AFI spearheads?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: If one looks at the global fashion calendar, you will notice that there are now more fashion weeks, than there are weeks in the year. There is an ever increasing global competitive matrix in terms of the fashion week space. Our focus is on finding solutions which enable Africa to shine in this space. A major development and improvement born from 3 years of careful planning and market research, is the advent of Arise Africa Fashion Week.
Arise Africa Fashion Week (saw) the consolidation of all major fashion designers under one roof, a truly continental event which (hosted) 51 designers from over 20 African countries.
[A]rise Africa Fashion Week is (our) practical solution to getting one week where international media and buyers (are) able to see under one roof some of the continent’s best designers.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Since AFI’s emergence under your leadership, I have seen very strong marketing and public relations efforts to brand AFI as the leading agency in Africa for African fashion event productions. What is your personal branding philosophy?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: My personal branding philosophy is the same as AFI’s, the principles are equally transferable and applicable.
Broadly speaking, at AFI we believe in extensive market research in order to understand the landscape within which we operate. This is the base knowledge required for our brand strategy, to know and understand our market. We then formulate a brand plan around some extremely stringent targets and we set very high standards. We are ruthless in our pursuit of the goals we set ourselves and do not compromise on issues of integrity, innovation, development, transformation and excellence.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Very often event producers produce shows, designers participate and then it is over. In the case of Sanlam SA Fashion Week, I see an effort for an ongoing long term relationship that truly builds the industry whether via seminars, craftsmanship workshops and so forth. Share with us similar efforts AFI has done to raise the bar and truly help make the SA Fashion industry stronger?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: Long-term vision, goals and relationships are vital to the long-term sustainability and success of any business. It is in this spirit that we concluded a five-year agreement (the most significant in the history of African fashion) with Arise Magazine, as title sponsors of Arise Africa Fashion Week, and other projects, soon to be announced.
We are very passionate about the development of the designers and of the industry as a whole. We have had numerous seminars that deal with day to day requirements and also their long term strategy. The most recent seminar we organized involved key business people, analysts, government and small business together with designers to help them understand and plan better in this global economic down turn. We have also started a broad mentorship program that involves young designers to get hands on experience at the fashion week. This includes other young people who want to go into other areas in fashion such as fashion journalism, photography, fashion week production etc. This is a hands on approach to expose more people to the industry. We are also in serious discussions with other stakeholders which will see the unveiling of further long-term agreements. These tangible long-term agreements and partnerships are the foundation for success and enable AFI and our partners to focus on growth and the development of the sector.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: As you know Ladybrille Magazine is focused on exposing Africa’s sophisticated and cosmopolitan fashions and (entertainment) to Western consumers. When we started, for example, there was one You Tube video, actually from SA, on Africa’s contemporary fashion industry. Today, there are many. What are your predictions as you observe trends and also as an influencer on where you see African fashions going in the West, particularly the USA?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: With the world shrinking each day, global access to Africa’s creative output has become easier than ever before. From traditional craft techniques to signature color palettes and patterns, there has been a recent surge of African influence in fashion capitals around the world. While this is in no way a new trend, it is now also starting to work conversely as more Africans are equally exposed to the rest of the world. With available technology, geography is no longer the obstacle it once was. And of course this has a dramatic influence on the creative output.
African designers are now seeing themselves in the context of the world, and this can’t help but instill a more global relevance to their work. Of course, distinct signatures are still apparent. But the work starts to signify a coherent internal process. It has moved beyond items that may have previously been viewed and used as “inspiration” by the industry abroad, and is now striving to be the end product in itself, make sense and be desirable in markets outside of Africa. The fact that globally we are moving to a place where people have grown weary of processed products spun off an unending production line also bears well for the African designer. In these times when so much seems uncertain, there is a desire for human, meaningful things – not just a product, but something made by human hands, something that’s been invested in, worked on. Something precious and unique. Across Africa, creativity has often been about expression of self, of remaking or altering existing objects, personalizing, adding more soul, if you will. In a sense, the time seems ideal for these two roads to cross.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Nigeria like SA is very aggressive in getting the word out with respect to a more progressive way of looking at Africa through its entertainment industries. You have teamed up with a media colleague who is also a business mogul, Nduka Obaigbena, for Arise Africa Fashion Week. How did that collaborative effort come about?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: A brief meeting in Davos at the World Economic Forum. A recognition of common goals, team effort and lots of sweat.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: You are a mother, wife, mompreneur [smiles] and you appear to juggle all acts well. For us, that makes you a very Ladybrille (brilliant) woman. Nevertheless, define for us what you think makes a brilliant woman and entrepreneur?
Dr. Precious Moloi-Motsepe: 1) Have confidence in yourself; 2) Work hard but smart; 3) Engage people, you never know where your biggest opportunity is going to come from; 3) Invest in personal development and develop those around you; and 4) Have fun. Love what you do and find purpose in what you do.
~Interview by Uduak Oduok