Moscow Fashion Week: South African Fashion Flourishes in Eurasian and Russian Markets

By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
Organized by the Fashion Foundation with the support of the Moscow
Government, the second Moscow Fashion Week was held from March 2nd to 7th.
As part of the bilateral cooperation agreements signed at the BRICS+ Fashion
Summit, directors of fashion weeks and councils from Brazil, Russia, India, China
and South Africa, and new members including Ethopia, Egypt and UAE were
represented. Generally, most the designers are keen on creating routes for new
business and focusing on cultural exchanges a step forward in exporting brands
beyond the United States and Europe.

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The Moscow Fashion Week attracted designers from Brazil, China, India,
Indonesia, Turkey, Serbia, South Africa and other foreign countries, who had an
excellent opportunity to showcase world-class brands with premium quality and
long history to a wide audience and attract new buyers and customers. Designers
and brands specialists used the chance to gain exposure and network with industry

The South African designers participated and presented their unique collections at
the Manege Central Exhibition Hall. Stephen Manzini, the organizer of the South
African group’s participation in this spectacular grandest business event, is the
founder and CEO of Soweto Fashion Week. In this interview, Stephen Manzini
offers his assessment, the importance of the Moscow Fashion Week, and further
emphasizes diverse fashion trends in the global markets. Here are the interview

As the founder of Soweto Fashion Week, is it interesting to know the
common sentiments among fellow Russian participants and other
foreign designers during the recently held Moscow Fashion Week?
The current Moscow Fashion Week as it has been rebranded due to cities
becoming global trendsetters, for instance, if you look at all big fashion weeks
around the world are named after cities or towns(Soweto Fashion Week) hence the
rebranding from Russian fashion week to Moscow Fashion Week.

It is my understanding that the sentiments are similar, and these include:
production challenges, costs of production, understanding and cracking foreign

markets, differentiating between cultural and propriety in materials. Then also
meeting business overheads at the end of each month.

What are your corporate views about potentials in South Africa for
Russia, and in Russia for the South African designer industry?
Russia and South Africa have an excellent relations. Based on that existing cordial
relations, I truly believe there’s great potential for both countries. Potentials for
South Africa in Russia include access to an open and curious market. We bring our
rich cultural background to the table, cultural materials, design, print and overall
make which is very colorful based on tribal colors and inspiration. It’s something
different for the curious fashions in Russia. It may be a niche market today B2C
until with time it is tapped into the B2B economy.

Russia for the South African designer industry. I truly view it as a much easier
transition. Our mainstream wear in retail stores is very much inspired by
European apparel, if they can match the final price tags in the market, they should
be able to make way in a short space of time B2B.

Have you anything to say about setbacks, challenges and policy blocs in
penetrating the Russian and Eurasian markets? What are the popular
complaints in the fashion industry?
One of the most popular setbacks, challenges and policy blocs include financial
backing for South African design houses to expand into Eurasian and Russian
markets not only that if you pay attention to import-export index, it is mostly
import to South Africa than it is export. Sometimes, little or too much which leads
to product dumping and fast fashion. The BRICS bilateral political agreements
have made it easier and simpler for the removal or reduction of policy blocs to
Russia and Eurasia.

Do you consider market competition, the changing corporate realities,
as challenges?
Of course, every business has to consider these factors. There’s always bigger and
international brands with advanced access to information or sometimes absorbing
a traditional South African designer in order to get inside trade secrets on cultural
propriety, this squeezes the emerging designers niche marking and forcing them to
closure or better yet adapt and reinvent themselves. I reckon it is the same in
Russia and Eurasian markets.

Do you think the media as part of a decisive factor in building effective
cultural ties, including fashion business, with Russia and South Africa?
Media is definitely one of the decisive factors in my point of view. The media drives
the narrative and paints a picture that makes ties desirable, it carries a message
that will attract newer ties and build stronger current ones. Even more so in
fashion business which is driven by visuals that the media projects across the globe
giving evidence and a track record of the ties.

From the above narratives, what measures or steps South African
designers together with Russian counterparts suggest for unlocking
and tapping for cooperation?
The necessity to establish continual exchange until tangible results are realized.
The goals we seek to achieve will not happen after a once-off attempt continual
media coverage, exchange, learning and adapting to each countries and consumer
needs. South African designers are all emerging in Russia and Russian designers
are emerging in South Africa, this narrative alone suggests that there is a lot of
work to be done and we look to achieve solid cooperation.

What other areas have you already identified, besides fashion, to
engage in as part of fostering the scope of people-to-people gathering
(public outreach) between Russia and South Africa?
I have identified unique water purification process that caters for self-service or an
intimate community which could work well in South Africa. The business of
purified water is the future gold business in my viewpoint as we already have a
shortage of healthy clean water in certain parts of South Africa. That’s another
industry that needs to engage as a matter of urgent necessity.

Any wider possibilities such as BRICS platform, both Russia and South
Africa are members of this association?
As you may be aware BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)
platform in expanding hence that is the main focus at the moment, and emerging
global markets are coming together to build for each other industries outside of
Western Europe and the United States. It doesn’t really get wider than that, in my
point of view, as that is the future of the world.

* Kestér Kenn Klomegâh researches Eurasia, Russia, Africa and BRICS. His
focused interest includes geopolitical changes, foreign relations and economic
development related questions in Africa with external countries. As a recipient of
awards and honors, he features regularly in foreign and African media outlets with
commentary, articles and insights on Africa’s business landscape.

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