Designer Gavin Rajah has shrugged off copycat accusations. Picture: Ayanda ndamane
Cape Town - Since his 2014 copycat scandal, designer Gavin Rajah has not showcased at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town.

However, it was recently announced that not only would the controversial designer’s creations be on the ramp this year, he will also be opening the annual clothing showcase on March 23.

Rajah stirred controversy in 2013 when one of his designs was called into question for resembling a dress by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad. There were other similar incidents in the years that followed.

Rajah said in an interview with the Cape Times in 2014 that he was so disappointed by the experience that he would “never do fashion week again”.

In an interview with Weekend Argus at his Cape Town studio on Friday, Rajah spoke about the “career tarnishing” experience.

He backtracked from his original comment, saying: “I said, ‘I will not do fashion week, if they have people who continue to bring down designers and people who are not supportive of the designers and if it’s badly curated from a guest list point of view’.”

According to Rajah, the copycat scandal emerged at Durban Fashion Fair in 2014. He said he had been wearing a T-shirt bearing the text “Why isn’t Gideon showing?” in reference to a designer he felt had been excluded from the show.

This apparently angered Durban Fashion Fair organiser Sim Tshabalala and, Rajah believes, this sparked his “takedown”.

“Sim was organising the show and he was excluding designers,” Rajah alleged. “So he (Sim) comes to my show, sees a dress and says ‘Oh, this is a Zuhair Murad dress’.”

Tshabalala posted an image of the dresses on social media. He said he had seen the dress before and was able to find an image of the “original”.

“I am not saying Zuhair copied the dress, but it’s not an original dress. Fashion works on trend,” Rajah said.

Speaking about another incident, Rajah said: “We were doing a collaboration for wedding dresses. Some woman gets friendly with Simphiwe (Tshabalala) and says we have taken her wedding dress. I didn’t take anybody’s s**t.”

He said it was difficult for his designs to not look similar to other designers, because of trends and owing to shopping for fabric at the same stores.

“It’s okay to be inspired by something, you just have to reference it, that is important.”

Rajah, who is celebrating his 18th year in the fashion industry, said he would launch a mentorship programme called The New Imagineers during his presentation.

“They (the designers) are paid here I don’t attach my name to whatever work they do,” he said, taking a jab at David Tlale’s collection, The Intern.

“This collection is about people loving each other and being kind and nicer to one another. It’s about a new sense of beautiful romance.”

Weekend Argus

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