LB: I was a complete nervous wreck. That evening I had to use completely new models who knew nothing, who couldn’t even walk on a runway. But once I did the show, the Chinese government people wouldn’t turn their backs on me, they were thanking me because then they understood what we were doing. And they had these big banners in the street with all the models’ faces and your garments. And we had flags, South African flags and gold flags. It was incredible.
CR: The best part was that the people who came to the show had actually won their tickets in a draw and had no interest in fashion. They’d won their tickets and then came and sat in their seats. And they were seeing semi-naked girls for the first time, because we were completely inappropriate, of course.
LB: You’ve done incredible work with [visual and performance artist] Steven Cohen. You told me the other day about the times he’s worn one of your dresses.
CR: I don’t know how many times he’s worn it, but it’s a staple dress that, he says, has its own passport. I think it has been to 30 different countries. We stapled 100 000 staples as the dress, but he’s worn that to shreds, it’s completely falling apart. That dress has acquired its own life.
LB: Do you think that there’s enough support for designers in South Africa?
CR: I think the landscape is changing. There is now a global interest in African fashion. That’s a different mindset to what we started out with. We didn’t have that support. So, it’s fantastic that there is now interest in the continent. What happens here has just been happening on its own for many, many years. Of course, once people start putting their eyes on it, it means the aesthetic must change. I believe that there is an interest but then, you know, you have to fit into the global market.
LB: In closing, why are designers important in a country? I’ve always felt that without design, there’s no fashion, and we should be a design-led and not a manufacturing-led industry.
CR: Clothes themselves have become like a language. One visual tells a million stories. I mean, fashion and design are about images. It’s not about anything else. It’s an image that tells a story.
• Lucilla Booyzen is the founder and director of SA Fashion Week, after having started out as a model and segueing into show production.
• Clive Rundle is an iconic South African fashion designer renowned for his elegant and intricate constructions.