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Philippa Yorke-Smith got the idea for “Design Phenomenon” four years ago when she spotted block printed, bright coloured cotton dress in British Vogue. She embarked a journey of exploration of South African printed fabrics.
Design Phenomenon was born and the product range, continuously changing due to seasonal trends and colours, has been streamlined to reflect what works in the international market place.
Being a single mother, Philippa discovered real talent amongst crafters, and more specifically, crafters who were either personally affected by HIV/AIDS, or whose families were affected by HIV/AIDS. Many of them were single mothers too, or single grandmothers.
Philippa began working with Hillcrest AIDS Center, and now the accessories range is sourced from this establishment as well as from other talented Natal-based crafters.
Philippa also works extremely closely with the South African embassy in Paris and recently completed a successful trip there where South African sourced beaded accessories formed part of a showcase during Paris Fashion Week, in collaboration with chair designer extraordinaire, Frederic Julien.
I asked Philippa a few questions:
Q- Where does your obsession with Paris and all things French stem from?
Obsession is a good term! I have been fascinated with France and all things French since I was a little girl. Paris is my favourite city and I have always wanted to be involved in fashion- there is no better place than Paris to do this.I love the French culture, style, wine, food, way of life, language – it feeds my soul!
Q- I presume you have studied the language and that you are fairly fluent in French?
I can get by, but I am not fluent in French. I always attempt to speak French first to someone out of respect for that person and their culture, but in France, Paris especially, most people speak English extremely well.
Q- How does the South African palette translate in the international market place?
I have to “trend spot” significantly in terms of what is coming our way in the forthcoming seasons. One of the biggest advantages of this is that South Africa falls 9-12 months behind international trends (Europe), so there is time to prepare adequately for the following seasons’ colours and trends.
Being able to be in Paris and attend the Faires and showroom functions is imperative in terms of collaboration, as it is easier to see what the international market is looking for, and then source accordingly.
There is a huge fascination in Europe with Africa and tasteful African products; there is also a massive shift towards philanthropy and helping others, which makes my projects more rewarding than one would ever imagine.
Q- Tell us about your talented crafters and how you are empowering them.
Most of the crafters are either directly or indirectly affected by HIV/AIDS, as are their families.
Design Phenomenon looks beyond any potential obstacles associated with this. I look for raw talent, and specifically individuals who have an ability to create from their imagination, and express this creativity through their products.
South Africa holds a wealth of talent from far and wide, and I have found this to be the case in KwaZulu Natal. The crafters I work with all have a similar ethos and desire to live, to improve their lives, and those of their families. We are all working towards a common goal.
Q- What was showcased at Paris Fashion week and with whom did you collaborate?
I collaborated with an exceptionally talented designer by the name of Frederic Julien, with whom it was a delight to work.
Frederic’s products, accessorized by Design Phenomenon, were part of a showcase at the most exquisite showroom in Paris, IMONI, led by the inspirational Monika Rab.
This was a life altering experience for me as an individual and for the business going forward, most notably in terms of working relationships that were forged that I know will continue far into the future.
Philippa has many long-term goals and plans to continue to uplift, empower, and bring positivity to all those whom she is fortunate enough to interact with.
Readers heading off to the Boutique Christmas Market @ The Park house of Events on 7 can win 1 of 2 beautiful Design Phenomenon necklaces which reflect the forthcoming black and white trend- timeless and striking.
The Park House of Events on 7 has recently won “Best Venue” the 2017 Best Of Joburg Readers’ Choice Awards. It is situated on the 7th floor of the Hyde Park Corner shopping Centre. http://theparkhouseofeventson7.com
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