UCT alumnus swops law for fashion and design

18 August 2003
Communication among designers is the only way to establish a South African fashion identity, says fashion designer and entrepreneur, Gavin Rajah.

Rajah, who went into designing fashion while studying law at UCT, now has his own label and his designs are being sold in top boutiques all over the world. He has dressed the likes of Cameron Diaz, P Diddy, Alicia Keys, Brad Pitt and Oprah.

Visiting the university during International Week, he gave his views on South Africa's identity in the fashion. In a country with so many diverse cultures and languages, to have a wardrobe that truly reflects South Africa, would mean many colours, fabrics and styles, he said.

Emphasising that traditional wear is not necessarily fashion, Rajah said many designers were now using the style, not in their natural form, but turning it into something more modern, and different.

"While South Africans are desperate to establish identity, they need to distinguish between traditional wear, and what is fashionable," the designer noted.

"With our country coming out of an era of apartheid and into an open democracy, there is a global interest, which will result in a great outbreak of creativity and exposure of talent."

South Africa has no identity in the fashion world, Rajah contends, and at a show in Paris, designers want to present their fashion collections. Rajah said he is proud to be South African, but he doesn't have to be ethnic. "How does Versace look different to Christian Dior?" In his line, he said," I create an identity using both traditional and creative skills".

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