Gert-Johan Coetzee: South African Fashion Designer To The Stars

Dress shopping is a little like the Hollywood version of finding ‘The one’. You’ll be scanning the room – which today’s world could also mean a social media platform – and then it happens. Your eyes land upon the most gorgeous thing you’ve ever seen. It may be for the exterior façade or perhaps you’ve noticed something about it that the rest of the room appears to be oblivious to. And even if you never get the chance to go over and meet them, you’ll still think of them now and then. That’s the best way we can describe a Gert-Johan Coetzee creation.

[Image: Nicole Laxton Photography]

Gert-Johan Coetzee has always known that he’d be a fashion designer. He made his first dress when he was eight years old and was enrolled at the Northwest School of Design in Klerksdorp by 16 to study the business of fashion. By the time he was 19, he had won SA’s Most Promising Young Designer award and by 22, he launched Gert-Johan Coetzee Pty Ltd. based in Linden, Johannesburg.

Enhle Mbali in an all white bell sleeve gown [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

With such a trajectory, it’s not surprising to see that he has become one of South Africa’s most popular and successful designers. His couture red carpet gowns are worn at all major red-carpet events. Beloved by the stars, his celebrity clientele includes international celebrities such as Kelly Rowland and Kourtney Kardashian, and locally Miss Universe Roelene Strauss, Minnie Dlamini, Ayanda Thabethe, Lira, Bonang Matheba, among many others. While he also dresses prominent members of society, and his bridal collection are well sought-after, he also has a successful ready-to-wear line available.

Thuso Mbedu at the Emmy Awards 2017 [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

His brand identity has also proven to be a magnet to brand partnerships. For example, he shot his SS17 video campaign was shot at the Ferrari showroom to showcase the California T. Making it the second time the two brands have worked together. Additionally, he’s got the exclusivity aspect in the bag. The SS17 show was limited to only 40 hand-picked guests. He then had a second show and a post-show dinner for close family and customers only. Talk about FOMO. But the show was more that just glitz and glamour. Coetzee believes in “fashion with a conscience” and is known to use his platform to bring attention to social issue.

Maya Mia in GJC SS17 image Nick Boulton [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

He dedicated his SS17 collection to ‘Reach for a Dream’ foundation. Coetzee is part of the Foundation’s annual Slipper Day campaign for which he designed a wristband along the theme of “hope”. As he elaborated in the press release, “Reach for A Dream depends on donor funding and public support to make children’s dreams come true, so I hope all fashion fans will support the cause and buy the Slipper Day wristband that I designed and wear it with pride.”

Thando Hopa in a Gert-Johan Coetzee AW2017 [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee / Nick Boulton]

The above partnership is nothing new as Coetzee dedicated all his collections to a social cause. He first launched his Social consciousness initiative in September 2012 when he met Thando Hopa, a prosecutor with the National Prosecuting Authority, and convinced her to appear on the catwalk at SA Fashion Week. Hopa, who has albinism, and Coetzee helped to raise awareness of the plight people with albinism face in Africa. He then dedicated his SS13 collection to women victims of violence through a partnership with Shout, the South African anticrime organisation. The AW14 collection shown as SA Fashion Week was dedicated to breast cancer awareness and through his partnership with The Pink Drive, conveyed the message encouraging women to ‘take charge’ and get checked regularly.

Vanessa Carreira at the SA Style awards [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

Did we mention that he also creates opportunities for young aspirant designers? Coetzee has an annual fashion-industry bursary that invests in young local talent. According to an interview published on Channel24, The bursary tuition fees and study materials at the North West School of Design (NWSD), and includes personal mentorship by Coetzee and internships at his studio. When asked why he set up the bursary, he expounded, ““The fulfilment I have experienced by making a living in the industry that I am passionate about, is what inspired me make the same thing possible for other young aspirant fashion professionals.”

Tiwa Savage [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

It’s no secret that Gert-Johan Coetzee preaches the gospel of glamour and does it well. His designs allow any woman to dream while his brand ethos shows that fashion can be luxe and still give back. There aren’t words to truly describe his work. So, until you can get our hands on one of his designs, visit his social media handles below and let the images speak louder than words could ever voice.

[Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

[Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]

Bonang Matheba Birthday Celebrations 2017 [Image: Courtesy of Gert-Johan Coetzee]




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