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5 minutes with FSFW founder Candy Smith

Candy Smith, Picture by Pierce van Heerden
Candy Smith, Picture by Pierce van Heerden

The woman behind the glamorous Free State Fashion Week, Candy Smith, says 2020 has been a challenging year for her as she and the team behind one of South Africa’s biggest emerging designer events had big plans for the year as they would have been celebrating 5 years.

She says they wanted to put emphasis on how they’ve grown as a fashion platform celebrating emerging and trailblazing designers.

The renowned fashion designer in her own right launched the Free State Fashion Week in 2016, through the Free State Fashion Hub, a fashion design school aimed at giving back to the community by providing mentorship programmes for the youth.

Smith said that the event is not going to take place this year due to restrictions which were implemented across the country early this year because of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Smith said, “We are probably the only platform of this statue that offers formal education through Free State Fashion Hub, which is an accredited fashion design school. Our designers get to experience the full value chain from school – Fashion Week to Retail with our launched Free State Fashion Week store in Mimosa Mall, Bloemfontein. This year, the pandemic has forced us to postpone this year’s FSFW and find alternative ways to create opportunities for sustainability.”

GLAMOUR’s Luthando Vikilahle caught up with Smith this week to chat about the developments in the Free State Fashion and more.

You have been very instrumental in a number of developments in the Free State, now briefly tell us what are you busy with right now, and how has Covid-19 affected you and your project especially your flagship one the Free State Fashion Week?

At the moment we are sharing FSFW 19 content digitally through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. This is part of our digital strategy to diversify content and promote our work and that of designers.

Candy Smith, Picture by Pierce van Heerden

The Free State Fashion Hub students are continuing with fashion design classes at the moment and during lockdown we manufactured bulk masks for corporate and public institutions to make up for loss of income during the lockdown.

Is there going to be a Fashion Week this year, if yes, how is it going to be different from the previous years?

Unfortunately, FSFW will not take place this year but early next year, in the meantime we are planning a wonderful execution for 2021. For our fashion design students, we have established an exchange programme with an international school for our designers and theirs to exchange knowledge.

What are the pros and cons of this step you'll be taking!?

This year we’ve maximised our digital existence and profiling designers. More than anything, we thought it’s important for emerging designers to exist on the internet for when potential retail buyers, brands, collaborators and potential clients have new opportunities they can easily access them through various platforms.

I think, more than anything, this pandemic has moved us digitally, especially being from small towns. We’re definitely pushing the online access for people in South Africa and globally to reach us when they use search engines for style, clothing and design. They will be able to access our offerings through our websites and social media platforms.

We look forward to showcasing new collections for 2021 and give fashion designers the opportunity to market for next year. We still believe in the value of gathering and exchanging ideas, network and opportunities. We will find more safe ways to conduct the show should we still face the COVID19 Pandemic.

A number of young people who have been through your development projects how are they, how are they being assisted especially during these difficult times?

We have been actively involved in outsourcing mask manufacturing and protective gear opportunities. We then used designers in our databased for mass production and this has been successfully driven.

What are the key Five things you have learnt from what we've all gone through, both professionally and personally?

Professionally, I’ve learned that really to make it one has to think outside of the box and find other ways to sustain the business.

Personally, I've learned to stay positive throughout and that it’s important to take care of yourself and your health and to share ideas of your wins with others

3 things you would have done differently if you were able to forecast the future?

In future as a small business I would make sure to save more and have more reserves should something similar happen. I would also make sure to find more means of diversifying my income streams in order to create sustainable revenue streams

Who are your top 3 local fashion designers?

Definitely Refiloe Mocwa she's a Free State designer that understands my style of sophisticated looks and timeless designs.

I also love to wear South African fashion designer Palesa Mokubung, her designs represents our beautiful heritage mixed with modern flavour and timeless style.

I also love my own designs as I am a professional fashion designer who still makes my own garments.

In the teen fashion world, what is "Hard Candy"?


If you were to choose between Laduma Ngxokolo and Rich Mnisi, who would it be?

Definitely Laduma Ngxokolo, his style and exquisite designs represents what we as Africans stand for. He is young ,highly talented and definitely going far.

Beyonce Knowles or Rihanna?

Off course Beyonce without a doubt

Candy Smith, Picture by Pierce van Heerden

Holiday destination you'd like to go to after Covid-19 is?

I would just want to go to Cape Town and enjoy and appreciate our beautiful country. Then i want to travel internationally to New York and Washington DC

Which 4 books did you read during lockdown?

- Never split the difference, by Chris Voss

- The one thing - Gary Keller

- 10X rule by Grant Cardone

-The subtle art of not giving a fuck - Mark Manson

What are your 3 favorite movies right now?

I’m into series actually, but Black Panther stands out.

- How to get away with murder

- Suits

And lastly, what's your message to people of Free State and South Africa?

To my Free State peeps and fellow South Africans, I want to encourage you to keep pushing your dreams and hustle, always remember that whatever you set your mind to you can achieve.

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