“The kind of people who should go into fashion design are ‘M.A.D.’, motivated, ambitious and driven. Ultimately, qualification and attitude are important”
– Shana Rosenthal, LISOF Founder
It’s true. It is with Shana’s strong vision and the commitment of quality lecturers that LISOF has cutting edge institution, which reaches new heights with each passing year.This wasn’t without initial struggle though.
Shana’s entrance into the fashion industry was far from conventional. During her travels abroad, she ran out of clothes and decided to start creating her own designs. According to her, she chose fashion over fine arts as, “fashion design presents a challenge in the combination of art, fabric and figure. It’s an analysis of figure and a decision on the most suitable lines for that figure.” At the age of 35, Rosenthal got her big break and was offered 35% share in a new business venture – LISOF . This turned out to be the best move for the young creative as she could finally pay it forward and give South African youths a place to cultivate their creativity. This unique opportunity came with a price as she turned down the chance to study at the acclaimed St Martin’s School of Art in London. So, instead of going to a design school, she opened up her own where her vision was “to see an art college established with links to the correct cultural sources in Europe”, yet with a proudly South African spirit to “develop our own ethnic culture in clothing”.
Today LISOF holds a very prestigious name in the industry ; having produced some of the countries most talented individuals such as Don Simelane , debuting with his revolutionary x-ray inspired garment at the Smirnoff Fashion Awards. Others include Thula Sindi, Nadia Osman and Suzaan Heyns, just to name a few. LISOF’s success can be judged on the calibre of student that graduate from business lecture rooms or the pattern making studios. This was clear from the beginning, as early as 1995 LISOF students started cropping up, winning the Smirnoff International Fashion Awards. More recently Jenevieve Lyons and Elli-Nicole Sazeides were finalists in the Elle Rising Star Competition.
LISOF prides itself on the raw talent of the students. The Fast Track programme enables the top ingénue’s from LISOF to showcase at Mercedes Fashion week in Johannesburg. The aim is to give the newcomers a chance in this very competitive industry. This initial boost in the industry is vital and LISOF uses the power of collaboration to help budding designers. In 2011 LISOF Trend Analysis students were given the chance to write reports about the trends spotted on the runways of SAFW. Companies such as Blackberry have served as real-life clients for students, as they faced the project of creating a clothing line for the international brand. LISOF also partners with Elle Magazine, offering bursaries for the winners of the annual Elle Fashion Bursary Competition.
“people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”
One of the many design briefs which have been successfully accomplished was the SHIRTS into SKIRTS. Students such as the renowned Roman Handt used paper products to create skirts. Students were encouraged to experiment with different materials. Experimentation is one of LISOF’s key mottos in pushing students to think outside the box. This approach has also given birth to another well executed concept – where students used old pantyhose as fabric to create gypsy-styled garments.. Different techniques such as silk-screening, embroidery and dyeing were used to create the final finish to this ‘rags to lace’ collection. The collection found its footing when it debuted at SA Fashion week.
Through the years LISOF has given back to the community, partnering with the Tomorrow Trust. This organisation enables disadvantaged and orphaned youth the opportunity to succeed in secondary and tertiary education. LISOF has accepted several of the Tomorrow Trust students, leading to the LISOF Bursary Fund. In 2012 the Tomorrow Trust Bikes-4-Bursary initiative, used cycling jerseys designed by LISOF students, as a fundraising challenge, getting the public to raise money themselves. In 2005 LISOF took on the task to get the first year students involved in the LISOF charitable spirit. A line of designer rag dolls was produced, and were auctioned off at their end of year fashion show, to industry professionals. They raised R50 000 total for the Red Cross Children’s Hospital, the Teddy Bear Clinics and the Children’s Disability Centre. LISOF never separates itself from its community, as fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but rather uses our environment as inspiration. Being part of such an exclusive industry doesn’t mean LISOF turns up their noses to our home reality ,but rather the progressive institution, looks at bettering the lives of other less fortunate.
Students at LISOF are not indulged with the fantasy of fashion. The reality is that the industry is tough. Therefore LISOF develops realistic scenarios where students learn how the industry works, whether it’s dealing with a strict brief, a corporate client or creative challenges. Fashion is not merely about cutting a pattern, but more emphasis is being carried on the business of fashion. This approach prepares the students, as well as adding to LISOF’s first-rate reputation. Besides experimentation, LISOF teaches its students interpersonal skills.
If you want to become the best, LISOF will challenge the boundaries of your creative mind. No design is a failure as long as students look beyond the mistakes and aim to resolve their fashion dilemmas through innovative solutions. Shana Rosenthal leads with the philosophy that, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”, and with that type of holistic thinking applied to life and one’s work, LISOF is sure to soar to newer heights but never forgetting it’s humble beginnings.
By Danielle Kushlick
Images by Siviwe James
Model: Clara Kruger