My dress has been a topic of discussion between me and my friends at work since June 2011 when I started envisioning what I wanted it to look like. I really wanted to stand out as the bride and not look like anyone else at my event so shweshwe was immediately dismissed from any of my ideas and then the inspiration of leopard print came about and it took a while for everyone to warm up to it, people are afraid of change but I was dead set on it. I started gathering designs and Jeany & Ayanda were instrumental in sharing their archives of traditional designs and this where I also discovered Bongiwe Walaza. I attended a fashion show she had done back in 2007 but obviously at the time I had no interest in traditional attire so I didn’t pay a lot of attention and this time around I immediately fell in love with her work.
My parents have always said that I am very demanding, when I want something, I will not back down until I get it and I wanted Bongiwe Walaza to make me my leopard print dress for my ngqibamasondo full stop. Finding Bongiwe Walaza was quite a mission because she has no online presence, she is not on Facebook, twitter, she doesn’t have a website and when I googled her, her contact details were nowhere to be found. I was heartbroken at the thought of having to find another designer because I didn’t trust that they would be able to pull it off. All my friends at this point knew that I was looking for Bongiwe and luckily Siphe’s cousin was also getting married and she had found her studio in Johannesburg CBD on Pritchard Street. She gave me their contact details and I called them to make an appointment for the coming Saturday. I was there bright and early only to find that their outlet was closed, I stood outside their shop window with such disappointment, I even called the landline number that I had and it rang and rang. I went home so disappointed and called them on Monday morning and they were adamant that they were opened on Saturday much to my dismay. Anyways I told them that I would come again the following Saturday and luckily they were opened and the lady directed me to their studio’s across the road.
I shared my ideas with them and I could see that they were taken aback because they had never done leopard print before and I was surprised because designers are usually so forward thinking. They had so many of their dresses on display so it was easy to sell my design idea and I even volunteered to buy the fabric myself (a decision I regretted later). I didn’t know where to go and buy fabric but luckily I had watched an episode of Top Shayela featuring David Tlale and he had gone shopping for fabric at the Oriental Plaza so I decided to go and look there. I walked around for an hour at the plaza and saw some the most hideous leopard print designs and I finally found ”the one” just before I gave up (my life should be documented as a reality tv show) and I went and dropped it off at their studio’s. A week later I paid the deposit and waited to be called for consultation and nothing… I kept smsing and calling throughout October and was told it was under construction because they had struggled to find fabric that would match my leopard print one for other parts of the dress. So I waited and they called me in for my first fitting on the 5th of November, 3 weeks before my function, 2 weeks for them though coz I told them it was on the 19th of November instead of the 26th of November.
I hated the dress, they had totally missed the plot, the complimentary fabric was linen and made the dress very dull. I went home thinking maybe it will warm up on me and I realised that no, I just hated it. So I called the designer and told her I didn’t like the fabric and they have to change it, she said I would have to pay extra to which I refused because she had never consulted me on the fabric she had chosen. I also told her that the dress they made does nt match Bongiwe Walaza’s expertise and reputation in the fashion industry, it was a far cry from her admirable work. She buckled after my mini, reverse psychology, flattering speech and agreed to redo my dress for free. Now after my tantrums I could not go back to their studio for my next fitting on my own, so I took Ayanda with me as my wing woman, briefed her on what I wanted and we managed to overpower any of their opinions and drove home my ideas.
After a few more fittings, I finally went to pick up my dress last Friday and I am very happy with the final result despite all the drama and issues I faced, they came through for me in the end and did exactly what I wanted. I am not a confrontational person by nature but in the last 2 years I have learnt that keeping quiet doesn’t do you any favours, you need to tell people how you feel (with tact of course) in order to get what you deserve and in this instance I definitely got what I deserved.
PS – I will share pictures of my dress after my function this Saturday. I will share with you some of Bongiwe’s amazing work.