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Describing fashion design as ‘sculpting with fabric’, Terese Potgieter says that “a design qualification should incorporate a user based approach to solve real-life problems and must consider good aesthetics. A greater focus on entrepreneurial thinking will reposition the way in which we approach fashion degrees”. This will be Potgieter’s focus as the Design School of Southern Africa’s (DSSA) newly appointed programme manager of fashion.

“Fashion is a reflection of identity and culture, and communicates the value system of an era. Furthermore, to be a successful designer requires not only an understanding of the social aspect of fashion but also the creative, the technical and practical components of design. Fortunately, The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE) fashion degree available at DSSA, an educational brand of The IIE, exemplifies these values perfectly. While it’s both challenging and interesting to construct fabrics into a garment, it is also important to consider the entrepreneurial side, such as issues of branding and merchandising,” explains Potgieter.

DSSA believes that Potgieter’s appointment embodies The IIE’s values of moulding forward thinking students. Nicky Stanley, DSSA’s National Marketing Manager says, “Appointing Terese reflects the need for education to instil in students technical and creative fashion design skills while simultaneously fostering entrepreneurial and critical thinking expertise.”“By doing this we will be providing future fashion designers with the necessary skills to succeed and adapt within the competitive South African economy. Terese is currently sitting a master’s degree in fashion, with her thesis being one of the first studies undertaken to look at the professional practice of well-known South African designers. Her experience will in turn ensure The IIE fashion degree available at DSSA meets the future needs of the industry,” continues Stanley.

Potgieter launched her own clothing line Nooi in 2010 after she was chosen as one of three national graduates to showcase her final-year collection at the Audi Joburg Fashion Week. This has given her valuable trade experience and insight into fashion trends.

“It is an exciting time in the local fashion industry. We are seeing the rise of a strong, uniquely South African aesthetic, together with a growing youth interest in fashion design. There are a lot more opportunities for young designers to start their own labels. The increased competition amongst emerging designers pushes them to stand out by being more innovative and creative. The South African fashion industry is still relatively young in comparison to the European and American markets. However, a lot of our locally-designed luxury garments are more affordable than international luxury brands, opening the door for our fashion entrepreneurs to establish export markets,” adds Potgieter.

She believes that local production techniques of independent designer labels are generally more ethical than other regions such as the Asian market, as most local designers practice slow fashion. This taps into increasing international demand for ethical production practices and affordable pricing. Furthermore, the international fashion market is placing a bigger emphasis on sustainability. Potgieter believes that sustainability speaks to consumers becoming more conscious of the amount of garments they purchase. “Sustainability is becoming more important, so I think in future, garments will start becoming multi-functional, allowing us to buy less.”

Further encouragement of the local industry comes from emerging fashion trends which favour strong aesthetics, fabrics and prints that are uniquely South African. With all these advantages, Potgieter believes the South African fashion industry should in the future; begin moving more into the retail sector. “Local brands have every possibility of becoming preferred to international fashion brands,” continues Potgieter.

Along with her industry experience, Potgieter has strong teaching credentials, having been a full time lecturer at DSSA since 2011. In addition to DSSA she has been lecturing part time at the University of Johannesburg and at the Spero Villioti Design Academy since 2015. She also won the 2014 Charles Freysen award for teaching excellence at DSSA, and describes education as her true passion.

“The knowledge and experience I gained from running a clothing label bettered my teaching methods when I started lecturing. I have always had a love for intellectual and creative problem solving. As an educator it is important to stay up to date with industry trends and continuously expand your knowledge. Therefore, in 2014 I started working towards a master’s degree to gain in-depth understanding of the complex nature of fashion design,” concludes Potgieter.

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