I have been spending some time with Cari Stephenson, the creative force behind South African fashion label Tart and following her successful showing at MBFWJ, things have been quite a whirlwind for this designer, but I managed to get her to answer a few questions to give some of you aspiring fashion designers a bit of perspective.
Q: What did you study to become a Fashion Designer?
I studied photography immediately after school, and later did a diploma in business management, much later a short course in pattern making.
Q: Was this what you always imagined or wanted to do? If not, what did you think you would be doing?
I got my first sewing machine at the age of 8, so I guess it was always in me, but having no drawing ability and no art background I didn’t think it was an avenue open to me. I worked as a croupier for many years and this allowed me to travel extensively. Tired of the lifestyle I found myself in various unsatisfying retail positions.
Q: How did you get into this line of work?
In 2001, a friend and I decided to start a tee shirt business on a whim, rediscovering my love for creating, I started making up other styles on a borrowed sewing machine, which sold well, so tart has developed quite organically into fully fledged label.
Q: What does your job entail? And what does your typical day entail?
As an independent label owner I am hands on with every conceivable aspect of the 2 collections we produce in house per year- including, but not limited to- concept, design, pattern making & grading, graphic design, fabric & trim sourcing, costing, strategising, planning & distribution, coordinating production, staff management, etc.
It really depends when in the season it is. In the months leading up to season launch, which is essentially Fashion Week, it’s all about making sure all the elements come together, like the print for the season, other fabrics & trims, outsourced elements, show concept & music selection.
There after production for the season is the focus, as well as timeous in store launches and order deliveries to be met.
Q: Your favourite thing about your job and what you hate most about it?
I love the experimentation at the beginning of the design process, when you have an idea and have to find ways to realise it given the resources available, I also love developing the limited edition prints we release each season. I really dislike cutting samples and having to chase suppliers up.
Q: Any wise words for anyone looking to get into what you’re doing?
Passion, enthusiasm and the willingness to work very hard have proven more valuable than any certificate. This business is very demanding- physically, mentally and emotionally, so dedication is essential. I’ve also found that it really is all about relationships, sharing resources etc. is always paid forward.