Ricochet News

Celebrated South African fashion designer Jenni Button hosts workshop at Mohair SA

By Jesica Slabbert - Oct 1, 2018
Celebrated South African fashion designer Jenni Button hosts workshop at Mohair SA

After successfully showcasing a collection of new designs at a Gala event on the 27th of September, which aimed to bring local fashion designers together to help raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, Port Elizabeth-born designer Jenni Button, hosted a workshop at Mohair South Africa.

The workshop, which was hosted in Port Elizabeth, aimed to showcase how a partnership can make or break a business, and that finding a way to utilise your environment to the best of your ability and being in the right place at the right time can make your business soar to new heights.

Jenni Button, was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, she attended Lawson Brown High School after which she attended and graduated from the then University of Port Elizabeth, now known as Nelson Mandela University.

Lessons in the design business

Besides a long and successful career in fashion design, Jenni has also made her mark in interior design.

“My intention when I started was never to create this massive label, I wanted to keep it very small, which is what I have started doing again,” said Jenni.

“I started my career 35 years ago, and it’s changed so much that if I had to start again today, I definitely wouldn’t do it the way I did back then,” Jenni explained.

Jenni started her studies in Fine Art before deciding to change over to fashion, she explained that she had always had a love for fashion and designing and had an interest in the way clothing was made.

“When I went to college I realised that I loved fashion so much, but I didn’t study it, I went into fine art. I then went into advertising, which was a very important part of my world because advertising makes you see the bigger picture,” said Jenni.

At that time, Jenni realised that when it came to fashion, there was hardly any competition. There were very few stores around, and Armani had only just started to come out with suits for women.

With these names out there to give her inspiration, Jenni knew that she wanted to become a fashion designer.

Striking out

So, after asking for a loan from her father and selecting a shop location, she created an entire range of 40 garments, to start the store with.

“I was just in the right place at the right time. Minimalism was the key word, I had 20 black suits, 20 pairs of white Bata takkies, and 20 white t-shirts,” said Jenni.

“From the minute I opened things were crazy. People just wanted the clothing, and then you have to create even more, which we did. We sewed every night and we came up with new things and it was terribly exciting,” Jenni explained.

Jenni’s success allowed her to open more shops in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. She became a fashion phenomenon and started travelling to fashion shows around the globe.

Legal battle over the Jenni Button brand name

After two years of success, Jenni came to the realisation that she wanted to work on her own, and decided to end her business partnership and resigned from the group to start another business by the name of Philosophy.

This decision led to a four-year court battle for the rights to the name of her company, Jenni Button (Pty) Limited, which she eventually lost.

“I started building my Philosophy brand, which was phenomenal and then opened stores all over. But then the brands such as Zara and H&M arrived, which really started pushing out the younger designers,” said Jenni.

“It’s just become a whole different world and landscape. With modern technology and the internet life has just become so much faster and easier.

“I think my advice to all of you would be to keep it small and niche, because you cannot compete with H&M and Zara today,” explained Jenni.

She added that the fashion industry is a lot of hard work and requires an organised mind-set.

“I want to say good luck to all of you entering the world of fashion design.”