The one skill this top SA fashion designer used to stay busy during COVID-19 lockdown

It's survival of the fittest as the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown continues to wreck havoc on various industries. NOWinSA chats to South African wedding gown designer, Diaan Daniels, as he lets us in on how innovative thinking kept his business alive during this trying times.

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South African wedding gown designer Diaan Daniels poses in front of a flower decoration
South African Wedding gown designer Diaan Daniels

Lockdown has brought the world of fashion to a complete halt. Orders were cancelled as events and weddings had to be postponed. Some clients lost deposits while designers lost out of the rest of their payment balances.

A series of events planned by SA Fashion Week for April as well as Africa Kids Fashion Week planned for this month, had to be postponed. 

While a few countries around the world have opened industries, with South Africa moving to level 3, things are looking positive. But it seems for South African fashion designer Diaan Daniels (pictured), it was [almost] business as usual during lockdown. He used one skill to keep his business alive – innovative thinking.

Q: Have you experienced significant decreases in sales at your fashion boutique during lockdown?

A: In the weeks leading up to lockdown level 5, we put the necessary preparations in place for lockdown. We applied for UIF at the department of labour for our staff. But because we had quite a few active clients during lockdown, we could pay our staff a bit more than just their UIF. Sales were not bad but certainly less than usual.

Q: Apart from the few clients you had during lockdown, what was the real effect of the lockdown for your business?

A: Several clients who planned weddings before lockdown, had to postpone for months to a year. These clients paid their deposits upon accepting their wedding dress quote, but we would have gotten their balance of the outstanding amount of their wedding dresses during this time as well, which in some cases we did not received.

However, there’s an understanding between me and the clients that we have that we will produce their outfits after lockdown for their big day.

Q: What did you do to engage your clients during lockdown?

A: We did virtual calls as I consulted with clients. We did not charge a consultation fee like we usually do when clients book an appointment at the boutique. This was a great drawing card for clients. We made a few custom-made wedding dress sales.

Q: What marketing tools did you use to invite your clients?

A: We offer discounts of between 20%-50% for our sample/stock wedding dresses instore. This was done as we were expecting a new brand to come into the shop and needed to make space for our new gowns collection 2021.

I also started an online wedding shop that delivers ready-to-wear wedding gowns to your doorstep. The feedback is remarkable, and this might become the new future for online wedding gown shopping.

Acclaimed wedding gown designer Diaan Daniels is renowned for his striking designs and flawless silhouettes 

Q: You recorded your new TV reality show, “Die Bruid Boetiek” (The Bride Boutique) on DStv Channel 147 during lockdown that started to air last week.

A: Yes. The contracts with channel was signed months ago. So, as soon as we could, we started recording at my shop. New and current custom-made clients came onto the show. Through the hype on social media, we made a few sales here to new brides that could fit from our ready-to-wear range during the show, as a bride needs to order a gown 4-8 months in advance.

Q: We are now in lockdown level 3. Has there been an increase in sales?

A: Oh absolutely. Now that certain people can move around, we have quite a few upcoming appointments made. Things are looking good so far. 

Q: Do you think lockdown there will be changes in the way you did your business after lockdown?

A: Definitely. Some Clients still want to come in and feel the material. But I still prefer to meet them face-to-face to get a good sense of their personality that will enable us to design the perfect dress or suit. We just make sure our client and my staff are safe with the necessary precautions in place.

The reality is that we need to adjust to the new normal, but with my online bridal shop it’s something new for South African brides than overseas brides that’s use to online shopping. We will also continue to offer constant new promotions to help our clients to fulfill their dreams. At Diaan Daniels Couture our clients and our staff come first. It’s my passion and dream for 22 years and does not feel like a job. 

To find out more about Diaan Daniels Couture’s ready-to-wear bridal collection, visit www.diaandaniels.com.

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