Cape Town - The fashion dreams of two 19-year-olds came true when they were awarded Gert-Johan Coetzee bursaries at the North West School of Design in Klerksdorp.
Yaaseen Pinetown, from Westonaria in the west of Gauteng, won the Fashion Communication and Buying bursary, while Patrick Ferguson from Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands walked away with the Fashion Design bursary.
The winners of the bursaries were announced by the designer himself at NWSD's annual Platinum Fashion Festival.
The three-year bursaries, which are worth R345 000 in total, include personal mentorships by Coetzee and internships at his studio. Yaaseen and Patrick also received sewing machines from Bernina to the value of R45 000. Both qualifications will allow them to enrol for a fourth-year Licentiateship in Fashion, which is the highest international fashion qualification available in South Africa.
Yaaseen's never-say-die attitude paid off. He applied for a GJC bursary without success in 2016, but did not give up and gave it another shot this year. "Fashion is where I belong. It is an opportunity to change the world with my perspective," he says. "Fashion has been my thing since I was two. My mother tells me stories of how I would suggest shades of lipstick and eyeshadow for her to wear, and which shoes she should pick to suit her outfit for work. When I was eight, I remember sketching out my first Autumn/Winter collection," he explains.
Coetzee says he was impressed with the progress Yaaseen has made since he applied for the bursary the first time. "The improvement in what he was able to deliver was measurable," he explains.
Being part of the fashion industry has been a dream of Yaaseen for as long as he can remember. He started sewing at the age of five and has been designing matric farewell dresses since 2011. "Fashion was a big part of my childhood, and it often made me feel out of place because I did not dress like my peers. I did not have the same interests, but as I grew weary of societal opinions, I cared less, and fashion became an escape for me."
For Patrick, being a fashion designer has been a childhood ambition. He designed his first garment -- a ball gown -- for a school project two years ago. Like Yaaseen, he has also designed several dresses for matric farewell dances. "I believe I have the ability to predict what people will want to wear and have always had an interest in clothing and the making of clothing," he says.
Coetzee is well loved for his glamorous red-carpet creations who are regularly seen on A-lis fashionistas here and internationally, but is just as invested in his contribution to education. The designer has sponsored South Africa's young design talent through his bursary programme for the past seven years, and says that both of this year's winners remind him of his younger self. "They have that hunger to succeed and they consistently work to get better at what they do," he says.
"The fact that they both already make dresses for people show that they have that essential business sense which is so important. I'm confident that they'll make the very most of what my bursaries can offer them to make their mark in the fashion world." That, says Coetzee, is what the bursary programme is really about: "I want to help the next generation of designers to succeed so that the industry can grow and make more work for all of us."
(Photo: Supplied by Shaw Media)