David West teams up with Superbalist

In a move that’s likely to please South African fashionistas Superbalist has just announced a partnership with fashion designer David West for him to begin working on a series of limited edition ranges of clothing for the brand. West has been in and around retail store fashion for years. Way back in 2003 West joined Truworth to work on the LTD and Ginger Mary brands after what had been a scintillating start to his fashion career in 1998.

He had become one of the high-fashion designers to watch, but, in a move that was to define his career, suddenly did an about turn to join the retail company  saying he was “burnt out, frustrated and wanted a normal life.” By 2009 he was back in fashion proper opening a boutique store in what was then still the unpopular suburb of Woodstock.

“So I didn’t ever really quit fashion,” he says speaking of that time. “I went to work for 2 of SA’s biggest retailers- Truworths and then spent 8 years at Woolworths working on Edition, Studio.W and Re. In between, I ran my own label and had 2 stores, but as any local designer will tell you, running a small clothing business selling high fashion in this country is really tough!”

West explains that working for the two retail giants gave him the opportunity to learn about running a business and he says he was privileged to be able to share that learning through a mentoring role with incredibly talented designers like Thebe Magugu and Rich Mnisi.

“That gave me immense satisfaction because these guys are the voice of SA design now,” he says.

His new role though may be the best fit of the lot as the brief at Superbalist is a lot more open to what West has to offer.

“I think the key difference at Superbalist is the license my team and I have been given to do what we feel is right for a fashion-forward but locally relevant label …We have a team of designers who are given the freedom and are trusted to do what will resonate will our customer,” he says.

The first range, which launched on the 4th of June has two principle focuses, “a slick 70s influence and then the more sartorial-meets-sport influence”.

West explains that the aim is to give people a chance to be fashionable, without making them appear to be slaves of fashion.

As is the style, the collection includes a range of prints from Florals, to geometrics, and animal print. With a stated aim of remaining fresh for two seasons at least, West insists it will be up to the individual consumer to make the fashions their own.

“Obviously this is not about my taste or design sensibility – this is about further building an already thriving business and guiding the design direction based on what’s right for the Superbalist customer. I don’t feel that one can walk into any business and impose your own aesthetic on it, it’s not about that. My design work was very personal and closer to art” he explains, adding that he has become very good at retail now, and appreciates the challenge to keep within the parameters of the brand.

Part of the appeal of the range is that 80% is made locally in SA, with West saying he would love to play a role revitalising the local clothing and textile industry.

“We have a small team of local, largely female designers and buyers and I’m very proud of that because so many other retailers are obsessed with importing talent into their businesses. We are South Africans designing ranges for South Africans!” he insists. “The filtering of trends through our eyes is so important because this is our market and we have to be comfortable and proud of the fact that we see things differently from the rest of the world- that’s not to say we don’t look all over the globe for inspiration, but our lens is what sets us apart.”

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