Claire Mackenzie recently won the Lufthansa 1st Best Collections at SA Fashion Week. She is originally from Pietermaritzburg, KZN where she also studied garment construction and fashion design. After two years of being self-employed, she worked for almost a year in London. There she worked in film and theatre outfits at Angel’s Costumiers. After returning to South Africa she worked for two years under renowned designer Terrence Bray. She now co-owns a vintage store, runs a studio, takes private orders and has a retail line. She’ll hopefully be showing again at SA Fashion Week later this year.
Why did you choose to become a fashion designer?
When I was little I worked in my Mom’s haberdashery, playing with the wool, buttons and ribbons. She taught me to sew dresses for my dolls too. After completing high school I was confused about what I wanted to be, either a geneticist or an artist. I decided to take a gap year when my Mom saw an ad for a sewing course. She encouraged me to attend and the rest is history.
What keeps you inspired?
I’m always watching old movies and reading old vintage magazines. I’m always looking back and I’m inspired by art deco and art nouveau. Events like war and the industrial revolution had a great influence on fashion at the time. It’s amazing how even the length of a skirt is determined by the economy. Mini-skirts are predominant when the economy is lower.
How did it feel when you won the Lufthansa 1st Best Collections at SA Fashion Week?
I was absolutely flabbergasted and confused at first. Then I was happy and ecstatic. Fashion and travel are my passions.
If you could dress absolutely anyone in your designs, who would it be?
Grace Kelly. Just the way she carried herself. She’s perfect and beautiful. She’s the perfect fit.
How do you feel about the South African fashion industry?
It’s young and growing and is making headway. There’s a lot of help for young designers in terms of uplifting and the process of building a sustainable business. Consumers are spoilt because designers are friendly and helpful and they can meet and talk with designers. There has been a recent boom and a lot of interest in the local fashion industry.
What has showcasing at the Lufthansa 1st Best Collections taught you?
It taught me to always go with your beliefs, no matter what anyone says. You will always know what’s best for you. Perform your best, keep working hard and never give up.
Where can one get their hands of your designs?
You would have to phone the studio and place an order.
What advice do you have for the many aspiring designers out there?
Find what you love, an aesthetic you believe in. Establish your fashion fingerprint and stay true to it without letting it go stale. Becoming a fashion designer is hard work. There’s a lot of attention to detail and there’s something in every stitch and dart. Put your best foot forward, love what you do and never give up!
Finally, we know Claire Mackenzie the designer, who is Claire Mackenzie the person?
<Laughs> I’m naturally shy. I enjoy the simple things like spending time with friends and family. I also have an interest in news and politics.