The Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, project, which aims to lay the foundations of a sustainable, inclusive, strategic and long-term co-operation. Supplied image.
The Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, project, which aims to lay the foundations of a sustainable, inclusive, strategic and long-term co-operation. Supplied image.

Using fashion to foster relations between South Africa and Italy

By Karishma Dipa Time of article published Jul 25, 2021

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Johannesburg - Italians and South Africans might speak different languages and are separated by thousands of kilometres but there are many similarities between the two proud nations.

From their love for food, family, football as well as rich histories and cultures, the countries are acclaimed for their appreciation for the small things in life.

Fashion is also a language both the South Africans and Italians are fluent in, and now an initiative is hoping to use this to improve relations between the two countries.

The Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, project, which aims to lay the foundations of a sustainable, inclusive, strategic and long-term co-operation between the Italian and South African fashion industries, plans to do exactly that.

It will also see talented local designers gain vital experience from their Italian counterparts, which will culminate in the opportunity to showcase their designs in one of the fashion capitals of the world.

These designers will also be exposed to and work with some of the finest materials and will gain valuable insight into how to establish and grow their fashion houses.

Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, is the work of The Embassy of Italy in Pretoria, in partnership with Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana (National Chamber of Italian Fashion), Polimoda, a prestigious Italian fashion school, non-profit organisation Centro di Firenze per la Moda Italiana and Lineapelle, the most important international fair dedicated to leather, who will also provide materials to be used by the designers for their creations.

The organisations involved in the The Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, project. Supplied image.

It is also being supported by South African Fashion Week (SAFW), the Italian Trade Agency (ICE), as well as the Nelson Mandela Forum.

“This is an amazing opportunity and platform to promote Italian fashion and young designers alongside young South African talent, creating in this manner a reciprocated cultural and design exchange,” SAFW director Lucilla Booyzen explained.

Much work has gone into Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, and in order for it to reach its full potential, the project will focus on three focus areas.

The first is Cradle of Fashion which according to Booyzen, seeks to favour talent-recruitment by establishing an academic co-operation between some of the most prominent and more internationally renowned fashion schools and entities in both Italy and in South Africa.

“SAFW and Polimoda have matched three of the most talented neo-graduates from several South African fashion schools with three of the most talented neo-graduates from Polimoda,” she said.

This group of six junior designers will then go on to participate in a virtual training programme developed by Polimoda, with the contribution of Camera Nazionale della Moda Italiana.

“They will also be paired up and their teamwork will culminate in a joint capsule collection to be showcased in Milan, during the Milan Fashion Week in September 2021 and in Johannesburg during the South African Fashion Week in October 2021.”

The second aspect of Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, is titled Young Lions, which seeks to promote and expand the market for young, but already established, Italian and South African fashion designers.

The Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, project, which aims to lay the foundations of a sustainable, inclusive, strategic and long-term co-operation. Supplied image.

“Two emerging designers, one for each country, will be assisted in identifying business opportunities in South Africa and Italy and establishing a contact with local agents,” said Booyzen.

The final pillar is Mining for fashion materials and tools which involves a round-table discussion and business-to-business meetings between South African and Italian companies operating in the fashion and textile industry.

“At the end of October in Johannesburg, the embassy, with the support of the Italian Trade Agency in Johannesburg, is organising a match-making event focusing on producers and buyers of raw materials, fabrics, leather, textile machinery, aimed at strengthening technical skills and supply chains of the fashion industries in both countries, with a special attention for quality, sustainability, consistent with the innovative approach of circular economy,” said Booyzen.

The SAFW director added that Fashion Bridges – I Ponti della Moda, is determined to provide exposure to young South African designers and to enhance their relations with Italian designers.

This will be achieved through a virtual Visual Diary of the project which has been created to showcase the stories behind each of the designers and their development and growth on and through the Fashion Bridges project.

Booyzen said that the project also has its own unique logo, which serves as the “graphic representation of a new inclusive and sustainable co-operation between Italy and South Africa in Fashion”.

“The design depicts the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, as a reference to Italy and in particular to Polimoda, main actor of the special training program, and the traditional South African shweshwe fabric dating back to the 1800s, that fills the bridge frame, as a reference to South Africa and its style.”

“This logo represents a new platform of creativity between Italy and South Africa, aiming at future business developments, through an exchange of cultural heritage and opportunities. Fashion Bridges: connecting people and visions.”

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