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Project South Africa: University of Johannesburg


During FashionCapital’s trade mission to South Africa we able to meet with some of the top design schools and universities offering courses in fashion and design.

FashionCapital works closely with schools and colleges in the UK so this was a great opportunity to experience first hand the cultural differences and course curriculums set by the South African educational system. It was also a chance to introduce FashionCapital and explain exactly what we can do to help students and graduates, even if they are on the other side of the world!

On day one in South Africa I met with Desiree Smal, Head of Department of Fashion Design at the University of Johannesburg. The University of Johannesburg was established on 1 December 2005. It is the result of the incorporation of the Soweto and East Rand campuses of Vista University into the Rand Afrikaans University, which took place on 1 January 2004, and the merger of the Rand Afrikaans University (into which the two Vista campuses had been incorporated) and the Technikon Witwatersrand on 1 January 2005, to create the University of Johannesburg (UJ). With over 40,000 full-time students and 2,700 permanent employees, it is one of the largest residential universities in South Africa.

The university consists of many different faculties and in 2006 the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture took occupation of their newly designed and built for purpose facility on the Auckland Park Bunting Road Campus. This world-class facility consists of a number of customised design studios, well equipped workshops, a dedicated art and design library, computer laboratories and a gallery. There are a wide variety of courses available ranging from Architecture to Fashion Design to Fine Art. 

As I explained to Desiree who we were and what Fashion Capital does to help young designers in the UK she was clearly impressed with the level of expertise and support we provide. She expressed how this support and after care once students had graduated was simply not available. Once students leave our faculty we have no choice but to move onto the next set of students. It would however be wonderful if we knew they had that help and guidance. The fashion industry is so vast and difficult to break into graduates are often left stranded.”

This is exactly where we help. I discussed with Desiree the possibility of FashionCapital providing workshops and seminars for the students; students could visit the UK and experience one of the world’s greatest fashion capitals that is London. We could network them with buyers, retailers and manufacturers, provide two stockists, promote them on the portal for the industry www.fashioncapital.co.uk and much more. An exchange programme could also be devised where by our UK designers visit South Africa. There are so many possibilities and opportunities so watch this space for further developments.

I would like to thank Desiree for meeting with me and look forward to collaborating with the University of Johannesburg in order to raise the profile for fashion and design students in South Africa.

Jenni Sutton

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