Fashion design is the art of application of design and aesthetics or natural beauty to clothing and accessories. Fashion design is influenced by cultural and social attitudes, and has varied over time and place and in this case JJ Schoeman has perfected the meaning of what Fashion Design is with his exceptional design skills.
JJ Schoeman is known to be South Africa’s best Fashion designer since the 1990’s and with that said, you must now have a clear picture as to where JJ Schoeman comes from and his experience in the Fashion industry. He opened his own boutique in Rosebank during the fall of 2003.
In 1995, JJ took things to the next level and launched his own label – JJ Schoeman (which is not that discrepant from his name) a clothing line that aims specifically at women’s evening wear. JJ Schoeman is known in the industry for his exquisite yet unique designs that have taken the ‘Fashion Avenue’ by storm and for offering a ‘Work Of Art’ to the table.
I had the opportunity to have a chat with the King of Fashion Design about his exceptional label, Fashion Week and his future endeavours! Here is what the reigning South-African Fashion Designer had to say:
1. How do you define JJ Schoeman? Who is the man behind such an amazing brand?
The inscription on the label reads : ”a work of art.” Besides art we strive to create dresses that are timeless and classic, the forever dress, a perfect dress, well-fitting and beautifully cut and made.
When it comes to me personally, I am the one always standing last in the queue. I view myself as the least important person. I take it one day at a time. I know that I appreciate quality over quantity. It is important to me that I continue to make progress every day doing what I love most. To me simplicity is the best thing simply because for a simple thing to be memorable and unforgettable it has to perfect in every way. I work every day, train and retrain my staff every day, check up on them from time to time and learn new things every day. My three Chihuahuas, family and life partner means a lot to me.
2. You have worked with amazing clients. How has the journey been for you?
My time working in fashion has seen many facets, from as low as below the bottom to as high as the highest top and everything in-between. Days are different, weeks are different and years vary also completely. I have learnt that no matter how sure you feel when you reach a level of contentment, there is always an up as well as a down side to consider, as one simply cannot know or cannot tell the future. Any question/problem has a solution and you can find it, think long enough and it comes to you. Wisdom is key. People/clients are very different from each other and one always hopes for the best outcome. Patience is a virtue.
3. A look behind your brand. How did it come about?
I worked for a few years for many large companies as well as individuals and I tried to learn everything about making clothes that there is. I opened my first store in Dunkeld West called Collingwood Couture named after my grandparents. A few years later I ran a flea market store called African Panache in Boksburg. When I moved to Rosebank in January 2000 I had a studio without a name and opened a store in 2003 with JJ Creazioni Originali written on the entrance. It was only when I moved to my second position in Rosebank when the name changed to JJ Schoeman in 2006. It was actually my partner Leon Mare who said that I should have this name as it is my name and he likes it. My argument was that my name is just not memorable when you say it and it took some time for him to convince me. Needless to say we made the label and today everything runs with this name that we produce.
4. During the fall of 2010 – one of your creations was the best evening wear at Miss Earth. How does this make you feel as a designer?
Thank you for knowing that. It came about in an unexpected way. I have been dressing Tamerin Jardine since she is 16, making many special evening dresses over ten years. When she won the Miss Earth title I was commissioned to make a dress for Tamerin by her mom to compete at the International Miss Earth event. The theme was ‘The Ocean.’ There is a competition in the world where all the evening dresses compete that was shown in the same year at every major pageant of importance. This dress was best evening wear that night and made the cut that year to Top Five Best Evening Wear in the World and I felt delighted and deeply honoured. I was very pleased for my client as our mutual passion for fashion made it to somewhere important.
5. Fashion Week is just around the corner. What should fashionista’s look forward to from your collection?
My collection is available immediately. The collection is current, no placing orders for delivery in three months as usual. Whatever is on the runway can be bought in different sizes in an instant. It also includes a trick dress that will fit anybody from a 32 to a 46 and we are including dresses for the fuller figure. The collection is built around my top sellers and is the latest looks in fashion right now.
6. QUESTION: The best highlight in your LIFE?
I had so many highlights in my life in different categories that it is difficult to pin pinpoint just one. From sport to theatre and academics. A fashion highlight was the year I was invited to do a collection of 120 dresses in conjunction with a team of local designers that I invited to assist me, for the Miss World held in Johannesburg in 2010. Besides that, I got to dress my first Miss World, the current Miss World of that year for the Mayor’s welcome Ball. Mrs Julia Morley, President of the MWO then invited me to be a celebrity adjudicator for the pageant, judging all the rounds and the final at Gallagher Estate; that was probably my best highlight.
7. Favourite Fashion Designer? And why?
When Gianni Versace was alive, he was my favourite. Then John Galliano became my favourite until he resigned from Dior. Then I loved Alexander McQueen who committed suicide later. These days I am enjoying what Zac Posen does in New York but my favourite designer is most definitely Karl Lagerfeld. What I love is that he is doing outstanding work for so many different labels including Chanel. The other reason I like him is the year I decided to take up dress designing was the year in which Karl and Yves St. Laurent tied for an International Young Designer Award as they was just entering the world of fashion in the 70’s. Its many years later and Karl rules the world of fashion.
8. During your journey – who inspires you?
In a situation of custom making an individual special occasion garment, my client inspires me. For retail it is fabric and trying to create the hottest seller that is an inspiration. For fantasies from my mind, my dressmaker’s dummy inspires me. Inspiration comes to me mostly through working with fabric, colour, texture and form. As I am working, inspiration keeps coming. During my journey I am inspired by my nearest and dearest like my closest family and friends and close colleagues.
9. What are your future endeavours?
It seems that a reality TV show is on the cards where I have a part in. Fashion is changing rapidly and it is almost reckless to plan too much in advance too fast. Time and technology will tell, I don’t have big plans besides to continue to do what I am doing.
10. Your concrete advice to upcoming fashion designers?
It is wonderful to be inspired by the success of leaders and others in the fashion industry. One must however caution to stay true to oneself and focus more on the business of fashion than the glamorous events of fashion as well as everything else that takes away your time of focusing on the technicalities in the workroom. Fashion is a numbers game where cash is King, so focus on sales for starters. When the money comes from your daily progress, you can plan and think. If you want to succeed you must do it yourself, there isn’t somebody going to come and make it happen for you. As you work , you will learn and find your way.
11. Your favorite quote to date?
“You can if you want to” – This is something my mother always said to me simply as she always knew that I was able to realize anything I wished for, but I had to want to. So I think just to add in is half of the ability to be able to.