The fashion design reality show that kick started many a career, including that of Christian Siriano, is coming to South Africa! Mzansi Magic and Ndalo Pictures in association with 4th STREET Wines and production partners Rapid Blue, are proud to announce that a local version of Project Runway is about to grace South African television screens.
I recently attended the reveal event, where it was announced that the gorgeous, sassy and vibrant Lerato Kganyago will step into the role of the host for Project Runway South Africa.
In the weeks building up to this annoucement, like the layers of a Gert-Johan Coetzee couture gown, first the judges, then the mentor and now the host has finally been revealed.
Fearlessly high on trend, Kganyago is the go-getting former beauty queen, television talk show host, presenter, DJ, entrepreneur and actress who scooped this year’s SAFTA for Best TV Presenter and stole the hearts of everyone at Project Runway SA.
From walking the catwalk to covering fashion and entertainment, Kganyago looks back at her career and says Project Runway SA has arrived at the perfect time for her.
Kganyago says: “It feels as though it’s the perfect time for me to percolate my previous experience and expertise into a brand new vehicle. I’m looking forward to instilling that knowledge in the contestants as they embark on this exciting journey and to being part of the trailblazing production that’s giving emerging design talent the time to shine. There is something gratifying about helping uncover the new fashion stars of tomorrow, and giving them the platform to show South Africa what they’re made of!”
As Project Runway SA’s host, Kganyago will be leading South African audiences through the adventures, dramas and stories as they unfold onscreen. She’s the one who will be heading Noni Gasa and Rahim Rawjee as the panel of expert judges and while she’s the one who will be eliminating contestants at the end of each episode, she’s also the one who will be nurturing their talent alongside Project Runway SA’s mentor Gert-Johan Coetzee.
“I am going to be encouraging the designers to cut out the noise and to follow their inner voice”, says Kganyago.
The focus of the hit US reality television series is to give aspiring fashion designers a chance to compete for a big break into the industry. And right now, there’s a heady flurry of preproduction activity at Ndalo Pictures and their production partners Rapid Blue, as they gear up to bring the first local version of the series to Mzansi Magic on DStv in July this year, in association with 4th STREET Wines, Edgars, TRESemmé, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre and Lexus.
“South Africa has impressive design talent that is absolutely ready for an international show like this,” says Ndalo Pictures Founder and CEO Khanyi Dhlomo. “It’s engaging, informative, enlightening and entertaining. It’s about talent, about mentorship, opportunity, and pushing creativity past all boundaries … we’re incredibly proud to be able to bring this show to our shores.”
Already renewed for Season 17 in the United States, Lifetime’s Project Runway has become an international sensation. The fashion design contestants compete with each other to create garments restricted by time, materials, and theme. Designs are judged by a panel, and designers are eliminated until the few left standing prepare a complete fashion collection for New York Fashion Week, which determines the winner.
In the South African version, the finalists will find themselves preparing for the 2019 Paris Fashion Week in February 2019. With 4th STREET Wines as the headline sponsor, Edgars will be sponsoring apparel and beauty, TRESemmé is the official hair care sponsor for Project Runway South Africa, Menlyn Park Shopping Centre the venue, and Lexus will be the exclusive luxury auto marketing partner.
“Project Runway has done well internationally. We are excited to have the local version on Mzansi Magic. As a channel we have successfully introduced scripted content and reality formats into the market. Project Runway SA will add value and variety to our content proposition.” says Reneilwe Sema, Director of Local Entertainment Channels at M-Net.
The judges are Noni Gasa and Rahim Rawjee. Noni Gasa comes with a wealth of TV experience from co-hosting a string of television productions like, Big Brother Africa, Media Matters, The M-Net Movies Show, and starring as a judge on Mzansi Magic’s reality model search, Diamond In The Ruff.
More than an inimitable style icon, Noni’s a top fashion PR specialist with a dynamic background in media and marketing. She cut her teeth as a features editor for women’s magazines over thirteen years ago and has since carved out an illustrious career working for leading retailers and consulting to global brands and advertising agencies. A proud Durbanite, she holds an undergrad in Journalism, a Masters in Luxury Business and an MBA in Luxury Brand Management.
Standing tall at Gasa’s side on the judging panel is Rahim Rawjee – a man who cuts a very dashing and powerful figure, both onscreen and off. Rawjee is the creative mastermind who launched Row-G, a bespoke luxury menswear brand of superior craftsmanship. The brand is the very embodiment of Rawjee’s highly refined aesthetic, his uncompromising dedication to quality, and his timeless yet undeniably progressive style.
A man of many talents, Rawjee also runs highly sought after master classes, where he shares his secrets and teaches about the finer aspects of creating impeccably crafted garments.
While Project Runway SA contestants might be lulled by his soft Canadian accent (he attended the International Academy of Merchandising and Design) and his warm persona, they’ll quickly realise that there’s a reason why Obama chooses to wear his designer’s suits.
Ndalo Pictures Founder and CEO Khanyi Dhlomo says, “Noni and Rahim are the ultimate dream team for Project Runway SA. They are both highly accomplished, incredibly engaging, and their chemistry absolutely sizzles.”
The judges will be casting their sharp eyes over every aspect of every design leading up to their ultimate decision of who will make the cut.
“I’m looking for originality, wear ability, commercial appeal and uncompromising quality. Technical skill is important, of course, and so is having a sense of identity – knowing what you stand for and
having a point of view. The most successful brands are firmly positioned in their purpose and craft a signature aesthetic that’s instantly recognised by the customer.” says Gasa.
As for Rawjee, he says he won’t just be looking at the contestant’s choice of fabric per se.
“In Project Runway, it’s more about the interpretation, or the use of fabrics in a specific design. I’m more interested in what you choose to do with the cloth rather than the cloth itself. A designer has such an important role – you have the potential to communicate to large masses of people through your clothes. Your messaging can influence the way people look at things, the way people feel, the way they react – it’s much deeper than just a dress or a shirt and what the next colour for the season is. You almost have to have a knowledge far deeper than your conventional five senses can reveal to you. And you really have to have your finger on the pulse about everything – music, art, film, architecture, and pop-culture – absolutely everything.” says Rawjee.
The mentor for Project Runway SA will be none other than South Africa’s beloved, darling-to-the-stars, award-winning fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee.
The mentor will be playing a substantial role in Project Runway SA as the show’s golden key to unlocking greater depths of creativity within each contestant, as they compete for their big break into the fashion industry.
Amidst the inevitable drama and panic that comes with intense challenges, Coetzee will be the calm eye of the storm for the contestants, keeping them on deadline, guiding them on their designs and fabric choices, steering them towards the finishing line, greatness and the ultimate expression of their own voices.
‘I am utterly thrilled and honoured to be part of South Africa’s first version of Project Runway. This means I will be at the forefront, helping to nurture the incredible talent we have in this country.’ says, Gert-Johan Coetzee.
For Coetzee, fashion has always been his life. He was already in sewing classes by the age of 6, by the age of 8 he was already creating dresses, and by 19 he was winning awards (SA’s Most Promising Young Designer in 2006). He was just 23 when he launched his own label at SA Fashion Week in 2010.
Today his exquisite couture creations are worn by A- list celebrities on red carpets around the world. Coetzee also designs a chic ready-to-wear range, “which is carried in selected boutiques and his online store.
Ndalo Pictures Founder and CEO Khanyi Dhlomo says, “Mentorship is not only at the very heart of Project Runway, but at the heart of Ndalo Pictures too, so it was of utmost importance that we found the perfect mentor with all the right nuances.” She goes on to say, “There’s such an alluring sincerity about Gert. He’s engaging, inspiring, passionate, boldly creative and wise beyond his years. He’s the perfect fit.”
Mentorship is not new to Coetzee. The flourishing designer launched his own bursary programme, which has already been running for 7 years. The Gert-Johan Coetzee Bursary Programme covers students for 3 years and includes personal mentorships by Coetzee himself, as well as internships at his studio.
“Mentorships are invaluable” says Coetzee. “The design schools may give you the knowledge and the skills, but the personal attention that comes with internships and Project Runway South Africa gives you the polish. And that’s when the true stars shine.”
With Noni Gasa and Rahim Rawjee in the judges’ seats, Gert-Johan Coetzee fully engaged in the mentoring, and the captivating Lerato Kganyago leading it all … the Project Runway SA stage is almost set.
Gear up for Project Runway SA, Season 1, coming to Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161 in July.