Hanrie Lues


The strength of Boer War women and respect for hard work.

How did you become involved in fashion?

It’s always been a part of me I suppose. I started drawing dresses from the day I could first hold a crayon! My parents bought me a little, purple, toy sewing machine that actually worked when I was about six years old. I started making clothes for my Barbie dolls. My entrepreneurial side also came out at an early age when I tried to sell these outfits to my friends. It obviously didn’t start out being a very lucrative business. My biggest lesson has been the realisation that fashion is hard work. Too many people focus on the glamour side of fashion and don’t understand that it’s mostly unglamorous. I think I might have shattered a few teenage dreams a few weeks ago when I was asked to speak at a high school careers evening!

What inspired your last collection and how is it different from your upcoming show at SA Fashion Week?

My winter collection was inspired by my memories of my grandmother and her stories of the Anglo Boer War. This might seem like a depressing topic, but I wanted to capture the essence of how strong and resilient the Boer people are, especially the women. To illustrate just one aspect:  have you ever seen a vintage photograph of anyone slouching? I also wanted to inspire today’s woman to dress well and not be scared of their South African identity. I love vintage elements and I’m inspired by people’s stories. My mothers watercolour paintings have even been the basis for one of my summer collections.

 What individual has inspired you?

 My dad has inspired me with his work ethic. Growing up, I watched him take on jobs that he sometimes hated, but he got up every morning and went to work to put me through school and support our family. I truly admire his courage and his determination and try and keep a small part of his work ethic alive in my daily work.

 How would you like to see your brand grow over the next five years?

I want to focus more on developing my daywear collection. In the past I did a lot of custom-made garments for one-on-one clients. I would like to market my brand to boutiques as a ready-to-wear collection. Maybe in a few years time I will look at exporting and I’m also very keen to start a skills development program for younger kids or adults who want to learn sewing, craft and design.

What are the biggest obstacles to becoming an established designer in SA?

For me it’s purely financial. My parents didn’t have the means to give me a large amount of cash to startup overnight. They helped where they could, and I’m forever grateful for that, but I had to work very hard to sustain my love for design. At one stage I worked as a graphic designer during the day and a club DJ at night, just so that I could fund my design label. No bank would give me a loan and no government institution would give me a grant. I’ve had to endure the worst clients because I was desperate for work. But everything happens for a reason and I believe that when you work hard for something, even though it takes a while to materialise, you will appreciate it more. I know of very few designers that wake up one day to find themselves famous. Aspiring designers also need to realise that putting in the hours is important. Drawing pictures, fashion shows, models and parties are about 10% of being a fashion designer. Pride in your work and an understanding of how garments are put together will get you respect with your seamstress or production staff and ultimately result in better garments. The success of fashion is not instant and many young designers need to understand the commitment needed to becoming successful.

How influenced are you by global trends?

I spend time researching them and try to keep my designs current and fresh, but try and avoid them dictating to me. I like to add my own essence to a collection and find that saturating a collection with trends dates it badly. The typical South African woman doesn’t always have the luxury of buying designer garments every two months to keep up with trends, so a few key, staple pieces combined with other, easily-rotated trendy items, works well.

What unique features set SA clothing apart?

Our rich culture and how we incorporate this into our garments. It’s part of our national signature, whether intentional or not.

What part of your designs do you give the most attention to and why?

I focus a lot on strong themes, I’m obsessed with the perfect fit (especially the bust) and obviously the quality of construction. I find this the most challenging, because no seamstress has ever  done it  perfectly for me, resulting in me doing it myself. This is obviously very bad for production in terms of the numbers!

Do creative types suffer for their art?

We’ll we certainly suffer financially. Do you know of any South African designers who drive Ferrari’s?

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