The 21 Steps programme is an intensive, three-month immersion into all aspects of fashion design from creative inception and technical craft development to final garment production. It is offered by a group of fashion industry experts that combine top guest lecturers such as Jacques van der Watt and Gert-Johan Coetzee with a core team of permanent tutors, all hand-picked by SA Fashion Week CEO Lucila Booyzen for their respective experience and unique skill sets. It is a key component of a year-long internship for qualifying graduate designers that the Edcon Group has initiated as part of its transformation strategy aimed at developing a body of retail-savvy suppliers.

Since going live at ten stores country-wide in the first week of December 2017, the Edgars Design Edit capsule featuring signature collections by eight young designers completed 21 Steps Coaching Programme. These designers have achieved sell-through rates of fifty to sixty percent within six weeks. In doing so they have outperformed the stores’ traditional brands as well as offerings from established icons such as David Tlale.

The star Gavu, whose feminine, pretty signature under her Redemption label, has both introduced a very different product to the store’s usual mix and is perceived by customers as offering real value for money, says Sandy Rodgers, former Edgars general manager of Design and Trend. Rogers’ recently launched independent retail consultancy, Ko-Op has been tasked with steering and directing the project in collaboration with Lucila Booyzen on behalf of the chain’s transformation unit.

“To be financially supported and then have one’s products manufactured and put into a store is very unique. There are many, many designers graduating from a number of different schools every year, but starting your own brand is extremely hard and working as a designer for a manufacturer or in a big retail environment is very limiting.  This programme gives young designers an enormous stepping stone which they would not have had if they had just left college and started looking for a job or started their own business.”

According to Booyzen the truly distinguishing success feature of the 21 Steps programme, is that the young designers are given the real inside track “secret to success” from a body of seasoned stalwarts.
“Our vision is to find, and then truly, nurture, the design talent that will redefine the local fashion industry into the future,” she says.