Noni Gasa. Picture: Supplied

It has been six years since we last saw media personality Noni Gasa on our screens. Known as one of South Africa’s first “it” girls, the star, who first made a name for herself as a magazine journalist, model, television presenter and stylist, will be returning to the spotlight as a Project Runway South Africa resident judge.

Born in eMpangeni in KwaZulu-Natal, the former Durban Girls College learner says she is excited to be a part of the new show.

“The show’s producers approached me two months ago and there was instant chemistry. It wasn’t a hard sell. I had to say yes to the opportunity to be a part of something with the potential to affect young people’s lives. These 12 aspiring designers come from dynamic backgrounds, yet have a common goal: to be the next big name in fashion,” she said.

Gasa’s last television gig was as presenter of The M-Net Movies Show back in 2012 and although she has kept a low profile, she has been very busy.

“It has been six years, and so much has happened since then. I completed a double master’s in 2013 and 2014, then moved to Cape Town to take up a post as public relations manager for Woolworths. I’m currently a consultant to a global fashion retailer, and to two leading ad agencies. Most people don’t realise that I have a corporate background,” she said.


Over the years she has established herself as an authority in the luxury fashion space, having obtained a master’s in luxury business and an MBA in luxury brand management. She describes her own style as minimalist, maximalist and understated, yet bold.

With her background in fashion, Gasa said she will be looking at the designs through a commercial lens.

“This show is both a test of talent and business savvy. Originality, wearability, commercial appeal and uncompromising quality. Technical skill is important, of course, and so is a sense of identity. The most successful brands have crafted a signature aesthetic that’s instantly recognisable, and this goes a long way in boosting customer loyalty,” she said.

Noni Gasa. Picture: Thobile Mazibuko

The beauty said viewers will enjoy the familiarity of Project Runway.

“This is a global franchise with a set format and a winning formula. The local cast - presenter, judges, contestants - all bring a localised flavour to each version, and that is the reason why they all feel familiar, but different.”

On her love for the South African fashion industry, she said: “By virtue of our rich cultural heritage we can draw from both local and international influences to create something uniquely our own. There is no such thing as South African fashion; I think it’s limiting to define us by our context, rather than content. Young emerging designers understand this and are visibly more inspired and fearless in their approach to simply create clothing they like.”

She also expects contestants to have some knowledge of the fashion industry.

“Fashion brings a visual language to culture. I’m looking for designers who understand that, through their talent, they have the power to make a compelling statement and to reflect the spirit of the times,” Gasa said.

When asked if she felt this was her comeback, she laughed and said: “I wouldn’t call it that, no. Visibility has never been my measure of success; TV, fame or social media. I’m just happy to be doing meaningful work, whether in private or public.”

She also said the local fashion industry needs shows like Project Runway.

“Project Runway alone cannot revolutionise an entire industry that is in critical need of investment and innovation. But it will definitely highlight the abundance of our homegrown talent,” Gasa said.

On the secret to her success, she said: “I am the least accomplished among all of my friends. I greatly believe in surrounding myself with the best minds and talents; I’m rarely the biggest person in the room. They challenge me to be better, to think bigger.”

The show also includes menswear designer Rahim Rawjee as judge, and designer to the stars Gert-Johan Coetzee as a mentor.

Rawjee said he won’t just be looking at the contestants’ choice of fabric. “In Project Runway it’s more about the interpretation, or the use of fabrics in a specific design. I’m more interested in what you choose to do with the cloth rather than the cloth itself. A designer has such an important role: you have the potential to communicate to large masses of people through your clothes.

“Your messaging can influence the way people look at things, the way people feel, the way they react - it’s much deeper than just a dress or a shirt and what the next colour for the season is. You almost have to have a knowledge far deeper than your conventional five senses can reveal to you. And you really have to have your finger on the pulse about everything - music, art, film, architecture and pop culture - absolutely everything,” according to Rawjee.