Local designer off to Italy

Ms Elzaan Smith and her business partner, Mr Hilton Watson.

A fashion designer and businesswoman from Carletonville heard on Tuesday that she has been chosen to show off some of her locally produced creations in Italy.
The fact that she was invited to the Torino Fashion Week is the culmination of several years of hard work for Ms Elzaan Smith (36). She loved making her own clothes when she was in school and even went for lessons after she later bought a sewing machine. But she really only started making clothing commercially around 2015, despite the fact that she had no formal training in the field. She started a business called KDC (Katrien Designing Company), named after her daughter, Katrien, and made traditional African designs for children.
‘I started off very small and used pieces of leftover material that I gathered from my mom’s friends in town to make my creations,’ she says.
These clothes became so popular, however, that she started a winter collection that focused on women’s jackets. After posts of some of her clothing got 1 900 likes on Facebook, and orders from clients from Johannesburg and Vereeniging started rolling in, Smith not only opened a boutique in town but also decided to start production herself.
“I went through three manufacturers in Johannesburg and was never really satisfied with the work they did,’ she says.
It was then that she got in contact with a South African living in Dubai, Mr Hilton Watson, who helped her to develop her business, which is now registered as KDCD. Watson, who saw that Smith had the skill and enthusiasm to make her business grow big, first helped her to buy three industrial sewing machines and has been playing a role ever since.
Most of her employees come from the SAVF’s Deurgangshuis in Carletonville. Many of these women ended up on the street after their former husbands kicked them out.
‘I really wanted to help as I have also been through a difficult separation and could just as well have ended up there myself if it had not been for my excellent support network,’ she says.
From here, things started rolling. Not only did the business cater for women’s and children’s designs in African materials at the international departures area at O.R. Tambo airport, there was other work, too. Manufacturing curtains for Edura’s own sales and wholesale also became a staple of the business. KDCD started operating from premises in Station Street from the beginning of the year and currently employs 15 people.
Another big break came towards the end of last year when she met the owners of the company that had made the silk shirts for Mandela at a trade show. As a result of their excellent manufacturing skills, KDCD got a contract to manufacture some of the shirts in Carletonville.
This achievement was soon overshadowed by an invitation via the Department of Trade and Industry, however. It offered the possibility for KDCD to exhibit some of its clothing at the Torino Fashion Week from 28 June to 1 July.
After being chosen as one of 80 potential businesses participants, KDCD provided more information and convinced the organisers to add her name to the top 20 shortlist.
On Tuesday, Smith heard that she was among the ten South African designers chosen to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to show their designs during the event.
When asked a week ago where she would prefer to see her business, Smith replied ‘at the fashion show in Italy’. This dream has now also come true.

The KDCD staff in front of the business in Station Street.

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