Tourism: South African firm hope to kick start sapped tourism and hospitality with ‘Proudly African fashion show’

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South African charitable organisation, Bush Whisper Foundation, has hosted its first ever fashion show which reflected the proudly South African ideals the nation has become synonymous with.

The fashion show was part of measure to get the tourism and hospitality industry back to its feet after the severe impact of the pandemic on the sector.

According to iol.co.za, while almost every single industry has been affected by the deadly outbreak of the pandemic, the travel and hospitality industry have been some of the biggest sufferers.

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The nature of Covid-19, as well as the restrictions imposed to curb its spread, has meant that since around March last year, these businesses had to completely revamp their operations, while many remained closed in their entirety during some stage of the pandemic.

The financial implications of this has been dire, particularly in a nation like South Africa which is rich in natural beauty and an acclaimed tourism destination for travellers from around the globe.

But as the Covid-19 infection rate continues to drop and the country is under Level 1 lockdown restrictions, the Bush Whisper Foundation decided to think outside the box in order to get the industry back on their feet.

But the main intention of the stylish showcase was aimed at helping South Africans who had lost their jobs and income because of the global pandemic.

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“We knew there was a need to assist South Africans directly affected by what has transpired over the past two years and we wanted to create an environment whereby we could assist as many people as possible, from sourcing locally sourced material, to working with local seamstresses, while raising funds for the tourism and hospitality sectors,” the foundation’s patron and fashion show co-designer Talitha Oosthuizen told The Saturday Star this week.

“It is from this need that the idea to host a fashion show, with individually designed items, was born, and this new fashion label is an exciting direction for the foundation, with much more to come soon,” she said.

The ‘Elements of Africa’ fashion show was fittingly exhibited at the scenic five-star Nkanga Lodge in Johannesburg where models took to the catwalk in uniquely designed handmade garments, created from locally sourced shweshwe material.

“Myself and Jodie Berry, an intern student who is currently pursuing her honours degree, started planning and designing the range in May 2021.

“It was hard work and there were many obstacles along the way, from the shweshwe material arriving late from East London to the custom material being delivered with the incorrect designs, but this is part of life and business, and we were just relieved that in the end it all came together,” Oosthuizen said.

She said that the event was a hit, as they already managed to raise thousands of rands from the ticket sales and a live auction which was held at the fashion show.

The proceeds from the show will be donated to Urban Ruins Foundation, the Solidarity Tourism Fund as well as the K9 anti-poaching unit, Greentrax.

Oosthuizen added that since women had been severely affected by the global health crisis, the Bush Whisper Foundation will also employ local women seamstresses to assist with the workload of this collection.

Apart from the vital fundraising aspect of the fashion show, Oosthuizen was also proud of the design of the garments, which she believes reflects the energy and diversity of the African continent as well as its abundance of fauna and flora.

“The theme of the show was ‘Elements of Africa’ and the range of the garments was created based on Earth – Water – Wind – Fire, which are elements of our natural environment.

“Being in the tourism industry, with a big focus on bush experiences, it naturally and ideally formed part of the greater picture,” she explained.

While Oosthuizen said that the entire collection was a raving hit, their Fire range, as well as their accessories such as the handbags as well as the kids range received the most positive feedback.

This collection might be the Bush Whisper Foundation’s first fashion show; its patron insists that many more are on the way.

“We see a future for this fashion label, utilising the fashion show as the launch for future foundation endeavours and we were also able to use the fashion show as an opportunity to showcase a variety of businesses and groups in the sector, as they try and survive in an extremely difficult time.”

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