Marianne Fassler is one of South Africa’s preeminent fashion designers. Based in Johannesburg, Marianne has spent almost four decades in the fashion business. Her creative workshop, Leopard Frock is situated in Saxonwold and from here she sells garments and separates off the peg and consults with individual clients by appointment. Her work is diverse and includes garments to suit a busy lifestyle, custom made special occasion wear and highly crafted wedding dresses. To date, she has won a string of awards, she has presented numerous collections at the AFI Fashion Week events and, most importantly, maintains full control of all her brand’s creations by being intimately involved in its day-to-day operation.
My Definition Of Success | Success was initially defined as getting noticed, being able to pay the bills and the wages and of course having a vehicle to express your creativity. Nothing has really changed because in the fashion world one has to stay ahead of the curve, in the press. You also have to be able to pay the ever-increasing and much larger bills and wages, and of course it is essential to remain inspired and creative. But for me personally I find great joy in mentorship and being able to ignite a spark in my assistants who come to me from Design institutions. It is also so rewarding to have real depth in your client base. I have many clients who have come with me from the very beginning but now I am also designing for their daughters and even their grand daughters. That shows that the legacy of the brand is still relevant.
My Highlights | I guess it is the fact that I have been able to find balance. I am lucky enough to have a wonderful extended family, children, a very happy and fulfilled marriage, the luxury of getting up every day really looking forward to my working day, and many loyal clients who actually pay me for doing what I love.
The Difference Between good And Great | I think one has to always strive for greatness. If you think you are great, you definitely are not! Ego is probably the greatest detriment to true greatness…the biggest downfall. When people start believing their PR, they will stop growing.
The Power Of Passion | I have a real passion for what I do and reaffirm this passion every single day. The nature of my work is such that I cannot work alone. I have to work with a team, and the secret is to ignite that same love and passion in my team. Passion is infectious. It ignites energy and the aura carries over to everybody that enters the space where this passion manifests. My clothes are pretty powerful, but they are also unique and complex…much like the many layers of energy, knowledge, skill, communication, service and compassion, that make up a successful business. The product is irrelevant…it’s the conviction that really sells the product.
Lessons I Have Learnt | I learn something every day! On a technical level, it’s all about problem solving and finding innovative ways of doing the same thing over and over. I love experimenting with different finishes, unconventional ways of doing regular things, and I have learnt that there are no generic solutions…one has to weigh up many options and even invent new solutions, to achieve the freshness and quirkiness of our product. On a bigger scale, I have learnt that your best advertisement is a happy client. I make sure that I never transfer my stress and deadlines on to my client, and that the client experience is a happy one. There is nothing more debilitating to a business than a disappointed customer, because they are always a symptom of a business in trouble. Ps. Don’t ever lie about anything…it will catch up with you.
Dealing With Doubt | This is a topic very close to my heart. Self-doubt is at the heart of every creative person. I need feedback, I need to work in a team. I never claim a design as ‘mine’. I always talk about ‘our work’, ‘our studio’. When I have a bit of a creative block leading to self-doubt, I always keep working on the safe and trusted styles until I get another creative breakthrough. Picasso said that he believed in inspiration, but when it comes, it must find him working
Fear and negativity are very destructive emotions. I deal with them when they arise. Fear usually engulfs you when you are in a negative space, so I cultivate a positive outlook, I don’t spread bad news, I make an effort to communicate with people less fortunate and I make sure that I am secure financially…even if it means that I have to forgo luxuries . Lack of money is very debilitating and often self inflicted. Make sure you have resources, don’t spend more than you earn and watch your balance every single day. Be financially aware. It will set you free from fear.
Performing At My Peak | I value my physical fitness, work hard at my mental fitness and keep up with my interests outside of Fashion. I love contemporary art, I read a lot, I engage in current affairs and politics, I surround myself with interesting people and things. I make sure that my life is culturally enriched and it all adds up to a rich and varied source of inspiration for my work. I am, if the truth be told, not really interested in Fashion per se or in the airheads that promote it. I am far more interested in why people wear what they wear and what influences fashion….but that is another whole story.
The Best Advice I Have Received |I can still remember the day when a good friend/mentor told me not to give up. I now know what he meant because success doesn’t come easy and one is often met with closed doors and creative blocks, but once you learn to reclaim the joy and ease of a child at play, you will really start living.
The Legacy I Would Like To Leave | I want to be remembered as a true African who celebrated her country and her continent in her work. I also want to be known as somebody who was active and aware, compassionate and gracious, but most of all I want people to remember me with a smile.