Cape Town - When skinny models begin to waft over the catwalk on Thursday as Cape Town Fashion Week kicks off, top designer Gavin Rajah will be hoping for more than just a halo of haute couture.
As goodwill ambassador for children’s rights body Unicef, Rajah has urged fellow designers and other people with a public profile to play an active role in a campaign against violence against children, and says it is their social responsibility to do so.
Rajah was speaking at the launch on Tuesday of the End Violence against Children Campaign, a joint venture between Unicef and the Department of Social Development. “Many of you know the plight we face regarding violence against children. I try to use every platform we have in fashion to mobilise people for causes. There is no point in being in fashion without having some social responsibility.”
Unicef had done “an incredible job” in raising consciousness about violence against children. He was proud to be part of this “global campaign”, Rajah said.
Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini said that, thinking the world of fashion embodied materialism, she had initially been sceptical about the department’s teaming up with Rajah in a campaign of this nature.
Later, she realised when people use their public profile to draw attention to issues, this carried weight and brought others on board.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to create a safe and secure environment for our children. As Social Development and the government, we want to change the focus of all South Africans to include children. When people think about any issues, they must think about children.
“When they talk about the provision of support, children must be there. When they talk about protection, health, and sanitation, children must be on the radar.”
Turning to the cycle of violence, Dlamini said teachers thought it was correct to chastise children because “that is how we were chastised”.
“(We) have a long way to go.”
Rajah said he was willing to use the hype around fashion to take the country some of the way.
“Fashion is an influential vehicle and captures the attention of many people. It is material and plastic - but for children, there is an element of fantasy. I hope… others with a public profile will come forward.”
In a parting shot to fellow fashionistas before the event starts, Rajah said: “Enjoy your champagne, but can you also remember the cause? It is not always about the hemline of the skirt or the colour of the fabric. You have a voice out there - use it responsibly.”