Local Brand of the Week: Wae West January 15, 2018 – Posted in: Brand of the Week – Tags: Brand of the Week, entrepreneur, fashion, Local Design
Local designer Genna-Wae Webster gives us an intimate look into her fashion label, Wae West and the SA fashion industry. Being involved in the clothing industry since a young age, we wanted to know what marked Genna’s “Wae West” journey the most…
Imagine dressing Playboy playmate celebs for parties and sending your range down a catwalk for MBFWJ2012 – all experiences leading to the biggest lesson Genna has learned: “Street cred doesn’t pay the bills but being able to design ranges that buyers will want to buy will.”
The biggest accomplishment however, had to be her retail platform SAM-South African Made. In a time when designers are being completely exploited, she wanted to give them a voice and a retail platform to display their ranges to bring local creatives together as a whole and to be able to keep their dreams alive.
What makes her tick? Unicorns, mermaids, fairies and all things fantastical are very much what inspire her. We’re sure you’re as interested as we are to find out more about this inspirational designer and businesswoman.
Take a look for yourself through our weekly Q&A below:
What makes you a proudly South African?
I have traveled a lot of the major cities for buying trips and have yet to find the soul that is ingrained in the South African spirit. The people here have more heart than they realise. Look past the devastation of what SA has historically, our people in general are able to put their anger and hurt aside and live together. We come together when it matters most and the eclectic fire within the locals of SA has spawned many international creators who have left our soil to go on to do great things for the world. I believe unwaveringly in what SA has to offer and the essence of what she is. I think many South Africans have given up hope or lost faith in our future, but I didn’t grow up in the easiest childhood and have fought my way to recognition from a young age. I am not one to quit easily and I have what some may consider blind faith in the future of South Africa and the greatness that awaits us once we heal a little more or unite again for a cause.
What’s trending this Summer?
Frills, frills, frills…and more frills, bell sleeves, high low is still lingering around as well as knot front details. We still have a strong athletic influence on our styles and something I am seeing peeping through slowly (finally in the commercial sector after being on the catwalk more than 2 yrs ago) are the nightgown kimono coats. Lately, for the past few seasons, fashion trends include everything AND the kitchen sink, so there is plenty to go around no matter what your ideal style is. I have also seen LOADs of the exposed shoulder trend, although I am growing tired of it.
As a designer of lingerie & underwear, what’s your favourite sensual outfit?
I’d have to say either the sexy teddy style (which is like a bodysuit) or a beautiful dramatic sheer gown. I have so many things I want to do, but my days are spent supplying bulk for chain stores to earn bread and butter but I am slowly growing my range again by approaching it from a slow and steady focused perspective.
Where is your favourite local spot to hang and find your inspiration?
Antiques Cafe and Spade Nursery as well as the SPCA in Kloof, their tea garden is so peaceful. Travel wise, one of my most fav towns in SA is Clarens (so far at least) I need to be near nature, away from noisy crowds, I need to be able to Zone out and be left to my own devices.
What other local brands do you follow?
What makes local ‘lekker’?
Knowing that you are giving back to local communities by supporting a labour force that was decimated by the fall of the local manufacturing industry when the market shifted to India and China. 75000+ people lost their jobs locally between textiles and manufacturing. We haven’t even put a dent in that with the rise of the local manufacturing sector.
What was the biggest challenge when starting your own brand and what makes you proud the most?
The biggest challenge is not just finding a manufacturer for you tiny teeny units but also finding outlets that won’t mess you around. A lot of outlets do not pay you on time and they do not promote your stock enough in store. I had a dedicated social media person in charge of my SAM account and even though we were still growing we did it organically without buying likes. I can elaborate on ALL the challenges as a designer, if you wish, let me know, it’s quite a lot and I am used to coaching people who come to me for manufacturing assistance before they start their own collections.
Do you have advice for any upcoming designers?
Ask people for help. Speak to as many people as you can for insight, without giving away too much of your direction of course as not everyone is going to help you without screwing you over. I found by speaking to tons of people I was able to learn a lot from them without having to learn the lessons by living them out myself. People are not going to be reliable in this industry. So watch your expectations. Make sure your business structure, including production management, quality control and marketing plans are consistent as you need to build momentum before you see rewards and you can’t do this if you have no structure or plan. Even with being in the clothing sector for 16 yrs, including in management for over a decade, I still struggled to handle major production management on a solo mission this year. It came with a lot of learning curves, the most important ones being, watch your costings, lots of hidden costs will eat into your profits and make sure you allow for enough lead times to manufacture bulk when getting bigger orders. You don’t want to give your clients any reason to take a discount or cancel your order. Also lose the ego. You may be a designer but remember why you got into fashion. Don’t become a primadonna. We are not here to be glamorous, our industry is not glamorous, it’s tough and takes hard work and dedication to keep your dream alive. There is no need for drama, just focus on the job tasks and keep your creativity and cool in check. You are not more important than somebody else for designing clothing and there seems to be an ego that comes with the title of designer or buyer. Just keep it real, be authentic and don’t allow corporate mentality to change the values you were raised to have.