Free State Fashion Week ignites the runway

Founder and CEO of Free State Fashion Week, Candy Smith, started her own clothing manufacturing business at 16. PHOTO: NOMAQHAWE MTEBELE

Designers from across the Free State have made their way to Bloemfontein to show off their creative talent on the runway. Free State Fashion Week (FSFW) officially kicks off at the Windmill Casino today and will feature the first African designer, Palesa Mokubung, to collaborate with international retail chain, H&M.

According to FSFW founder and CEO, Candy Smith, talent from all districts in the province are in shows from 19 – 21 September 2019 at the Sun Windmill Conference Centre. This after a call to both emerging as well as established designers was made ahead of the show.
“We have designers from Bloemfontein, Welkom, Qwaqwa and actually everywhere in the Free State. There are at least two or three from each district,” said Smith. FSFW has been going from strength to strength since it began in 2016. There are plans to expand the show to two shows a year.

Palesa Mokubung, the first African designer to collaborate with international retailer H&M, will be featured in this year’s Free State Fashion Week.PHOTO:

Smith has had a passion for fashion from a young age. She started her first fashion business at 16 years old, manufacturing a school uniform for her own high school in Welkom. However, her love of helping other creatives reach their dreams inspired her to start FSFW.

“What is most important, is to believe in yourself and push boundaries because there is no reason why we cannot succeed in clothing manufacturing and design. The clothing industry pushes up the GDP of countries around the world,” she explained.
“I never had the passion to become the next star designer but I always wanted to help people. It is important for me that people learn how to succeed in their craft,” added Smith. The organiser also runs the Free State Fashion Hub, a design institute in Bloemfontein where students learn every step involved in creating clothes from sketch to final product.

Palesa Mokubung, a fellow Free Stater, is also the founder of widely acclaimed fashion brand, Mantsho. She will present a free master class on fashion design and entrepreneurship on 20 September 2019. “This has been a highly anticipated workshop since she presented it last year. She has so much to share with designers and business people alike,” said Smith. To register for the class, send an email to

Exhibitions of designs have been held at Mimosa Mall since earlier this week. Tickets to various runway shows are sold at R250 at www.webtickets and Pick n Pay.

Nomaqhawe Mtebele