As Julius Cesar said-" I came, I saw and I conquered-"
Don't know about the conquering ,but I felt I got as far as I could- and wanted to go in Italy.
Street Café in Rome near the Pantheon.
I enjoyed my work at Lancetti but also realized that as a foreigner with limited experience, the company was not going to sponsor me to work in Italy. It would have been rather difficult to justify me taking a job that an Italian could have. After completing the two internships- one with Mila Schon and the other with Lancetti -it was time to go home to South Africa and start working on a career.
Man and beast from South Africa.
My father suggested that I return to South Africa and he would help me to start on my own.
I was born a Afrikaner in South Africa-The white tribe of Africa.
Our ancestor immigrated to South Africa from Germany in 1773 and the family name is recognized as one of the old Cape Families. My mother was from Dutch background.
I was the eldest of five sons and one daughter .
South African farm house.
My father was the eldest of 4 brothers and he was the only one that left the farm for Johannesburg to go into business.He was a very successful business man and by this time and had 12 retail stores -selling the Swiss made Bernina Sewing Machines .
The game of Rugby
I don't think it could have been very easy for my father to have a son -also the eldest of the grandchildren-that was into fashion and music.
I was not interested in rugby and sports- but studied the piano and organ and I was a boy soprano on top of it all. I won the gold diploma for 5 years running at the Johannesburg Eisteddfod .I also recorded some children's song for the South African Broadcasting Corporation with my friend Famke Boersma . I think that is where my love for opera and the human voice comes from.
I wanted to be a designer of women's clothing since I remember. Where this came from I had no idea My mother did love sewing, but I was not into sewing the garment- just drawing it.
Luckily my father had four other sons and he was wise enough to let me do my thing. He found in his other sons a connection that he could not have with me.He was always very supportive of our career choices and was behind me all the way .He did insist that I complete a Commercial Art Diploma before I could go to Fashion School. After Fashion School he promised me that after two years working he would help me to go to Europe.
The career choice was hard to explain to my family on the farm.
Years later my grandfather -who was in his 90's then, admitted to me that he admired me for my success ,when he saw me on television being interviewed after I dressed the President of South Africa's wife. I don't think he understood what a designer really did or how I could make a living doing that.
Once I overheard my father explaining me by saying
"Henry thinks a woman is a something you put a dress on."
I thought that was very funny!
My mother who was a teacher -like both my grandmothers- had a easier time with me.
As I was older than my other siblings they accepted me for who I was.
If one goes against yourself- and try and pretend you are somebody else- you can never be happy.
One can not live your life by pleasing others. To yourself be true- was always my motto.
My father felt one did not need to be a lawyer or a doctor to be a success in life. He admired somebody that could work with his hands as well .Come as it may one of my brothers did become a lawyer and the other a doctor- although not a medical one. The rest of the sons found success in working with our hands. My sister is a very successful Executive Assistant .
A South African fashion company contacted me in Rome and asked if I could meet them in Munich for the Mode Woche there and then go with them to Dusseldorf, Paris and London to cover the fashion fairs.They would pay me very well for this so I decided to leave Rome, and meet them in Germany.
Munich Mode Woche.
Pret a Porter -Paris
London Fashion Week.
Manufacturers all over the world go to these fairs twice a year to buy ready made garments, fabrics and to get ideas and fashion trends for the next season-the colors and the styles. It was fun to do these trips but it was a lot of work .At night when the rest of the party would go out on the town- I had to stay and do sketches of what we saw that day. Sometime up to 100 a day.
I use to look around on my own and then go to the bathroom and makes notes of styles I found to be interesting. As these fairs were for buyers of clothing and not manufacturers but everybody were there to steal ideas. We also use to buy some styles to copy if they were to complicated.
I found that the Dusseldorf show was great .German women had a lot of money and were very well kept. The were tall and very good looking and I saw some of the chicest women in the world there-until I came to New York.
Most French woman wore beautiful clothes but did not take care of their hair that well.
I did not find them that inspiring. I always preferred Italian fashion to French -in any case.
Italian women were mostly very elegant and wore beautiful clothes and their bags and shoes were exquisite.They took better care of their make up and hair.
As they were worried about what the neighbors would say- they were forced to look good......!
After that I went to Amsterdam and spent three weeks with Elsa before I flew back to South Africa.
I was away from Africa for more than four years, and it was time to go home.