PRUDENCE MADISHA: Career Life Post Fashion School, The Graduates Dishes

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Prudence Madisha graduated with a Diploma in fashion design, specializing in womenswear ready to wear from Design Academy of Fashion (DAF) in Woodstock Cape Town in 2013. She is currently self-employed, running a small mass fashion manufacturing business. I had a chat with Prudence to find out the more about her career path as a youth South African fashion design graduate. Her student days and career life post fashion school, what she thought she knew then as a fashion design student and what she knows now as an actual fashion designer and business woman.

There is always this debate of book smarts versus street smarts. Hence I wanted to find out from Prudence what her views were regarding the subject of why fashion school is vital for someone who wants to work in the fashion industry. Prudence believes that obtaining a higher education is extremely important for someone who wants to work within the fashion industry. Because “what you are taught at a fashion school teaches you the technical and theoretical aspects of the fashion business.” She also promoted the notion that “in order to be excellent at something you need to fully understand it” and that is where a thorough theoretical and practical studies at a fashion institution will come in handy.

The basic fundamentals that we were taught at the institution Prudence attended were, history of design, the origin of clothes, interpretation of fashion in relation to sub-cultures as we know that fashion is largely influenced by the direction in which the masses react. By understanding the basics, as a designer, you will be able to engage with a client who has a specific brief for you. Throughout the year Prudence says they were taught about designing garments, technical illustrations and selling a garment to a client or a shop and so forth. Then they progressed to fashion marketing which is a subject that will assist a fashion designer on with how to brand their fashion business. Not only that but also help answer questions like, how and to whom to sell the merchandise to.

After finishing with fashion school and obtaining her degree. Prudence realized that “a lot of the fantastic most creative ideas you have, will probably never be produced because when you start working you are constantly doing what clients want and not what you want.” In as much as fashion school will teach you how to be fearless and embrace your creativity, the real working world is a different balls game.

When asked Which subject(s) she wished her institution offered whilst she was a student at DAF. This is what she had to say “I wish DAF had offered fashion entrepreneurship, I mean it is all well and great to be extremely creative but what about some education regarding how to run a sustainable fashion business in South Africa or Africa?” Over and above that she said she would add, psychology to all fashion qualifications “because when you are dealing with people on a daily basis, you need to really understand the type of people they are so that you can respond to their behavior in an appropriate manner. You would also understand their personality which would make it easier for you to understand their sense of style. In addition to that, there is a lot of pressure working within the fashion industry, therefore you would need to work on develop a higher level of emotional intelligence”, stated Prudence.

On the subject of fashion entrepreneurship, she believes that it ideal to teach students or graduates some of the pivotal things like, how to register a fashion business and run it in a manner that is sustainable.  Even though fashion designers operate in a highly competitive and fragmented industry with low barriers to entry Prudence believes it is still essential to know how to run a sustainable fashion business, position yourself accordingly and have a point of differentiation as a brand or a business entity.

As someone who studied and graduated with a fashion qualification and works within the field. I asked Prudence what she thinks needs to be done for the South African fashion industry to commercially grow exponentially. She feels that what would help the fashion industry in South Africa to grow is for our South African government to come up with very strict policies and regulations regarding retail businesses that enter the South African market. Furthermore, the South African government and other private entities should look at funding small businesses in order for them to have capital to produce clothing. If fashion businesses are given opportunities to supply the big south African retailers with merchandise it will help with growing our economy. Instead of the local retailers going to China for production because it is cheaper.” Simplistic and idealistic views, I would yes and no but one thing is certain some things need to change as soon as possible. The reality is all this education and great talent without being commercial viable equates to little if not nothing.

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