ATELIER DAJEE: Career Life Post Fashion School, The Graduates Dishes

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Ahmed Dajee taking the final walk at his debut at SA Fashion Week AW16

I caught up with Ahmed Dajee earlier this year before he jetted off to London to be part of the London Fashion Week calendar events. Where he was showcasing some of his AW17 collection at a pop up store in SoHo London. Ahmed attended the Design School Southern Africa and dropped out in 2010 to pursue self-studies followed by studying a course in jewelry, architecture and shoe design. He is currently enrolled at tertiary studying Islamic studies, a seven-year course and he busy completing his 4th year. He is running his namesake brand Atelier Dajee which was founded in 2009 whilst pursuing his studies.

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How vital is fashion school for someone who wants to work in the fashion industry?

Whilst I was in college I always thought it to be important, however, after completing only a year I realized the syllabus was very slow in terms of progress in design and manufacturing. I also felt the approach to local design was not emphasized but rather more focus was placed on international. For example, the local markets were not explained and the disco lights of glamour in fashion were explained. Which I found to be a sort of deception to the reality for many who leave these institutions and are left working in their homes or backrooms.

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What is that one thing (some things) fashion school will teach you?

It teaches you perception of an idea, I also found it to have focused of that instead of creating beautiful pieces that explain who you are as a designer. Fashion school teaches you how to design and the ability to bring something from inspiration to a garment. Not only that but you will be taught garment construction based on basic patterns, which I feel needs to now start including other forms of construction like draping and so forth.

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What’s the one thing you would tell fashion students to expect in the real world?

The glitz and glamor’s of the Ferris wheel in fashion aren’t always as beautiful as the top view. It takes years or almost a lifetime to build a brand that will last the trip downwards as well. A lot of hard work, tears, and creativity with a very wise business mind is required.

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Which subject(s) you wish your institution offered whilst you were a student there?

Draping and Haute couture techniques

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Which subject(s) would you add to all fashion school qualifications and why?

I would restructure the syllabus to suit a market in which the students are in rather than teach them more about global markets which are far-fetched until they learn their own design aesthetic and target market. I would personally love to have lecturers and field experts critique students and advise them on improving instead of the students blindly wandering off and thinking it is easy after finishing off their studies.

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As someone who studied a fashion qualification and works within the field. What do you think needs to be done for the South African fashion industry to commercially grow exponentially?

We need a detailed understanding of our local fashion consumers and build each other instead of throwing each other under the bus. I personally have been discriminated by the very same people whom through limited resources I am forced to work with.  There is a high amount of unfairness from platforms which are supposed to help better designers yet they silently wish your fail. I see no growth in our local fashion designers from a point when it comes to true business or creativity which would enable us to grow and even export our items globally. There is a lack of fabric suppliers and fabrics that are competitively priced in the market and are affordable. Also, the more the fashion industry moves ahead the more and more I notice less attention being placed on good quality and craftsmanship. We need to enable people to learn not only design but patternmaking, cutting, fabrics, and stitching in order to have the best we can be, on an international level.

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