Gert-Johan Coetzee’s rise to fame is the stuff that fairy-tales are made of. Growing up in one of the most conservative farming communities in the North West province of South Africa could not have been easy for someone who was probably not born with one rural bone in his body. Gert was still a toddler when his parents knew that he wasn’t going to follow in his father’s footsteps of being a commercial farmer.
His mom also knew that the traditional schooling system wouldn’t work for him, so she home-schooled him. At the age of 16 he was studying fashion design and by the time he was 19 years old he had started his own business. The rest, as they say, is history. He dresses some of the most gorgeous women in the world and his designs can be seen on red carpets both locally and internationally.
His international clientele includes celebrities like Kelly Rowland, Kristen Cavallari and Kourtney Kardashian. Miss Universe Roelene Strauss, Minnie Dlamini, Lira and Bonang Matheba are some of the South African names who have worn his creations.
He is always a perfect gentleman. During the final fittings at his studio in Linden, Gert treated each and every model like a queen. They could have been wearing black plastic bags and they still would have left feeling like the most important women in the world. I asked his mom about this gentle genius. She said that he is unconditionally loved and adored by his whole family and nonchalantly added that growing up with this kind of support must have influenced the person he has become.
Other than his family and husband, he has surrounded himself with a formidable team of talented experts, whom he trusts and who believe in him. Though they say that he is a tough taskmaster, he treats them with respect and allows them the space to raise their opinions.
We were with him during the run-up to the opening night of SA Fashion Week, one of the most important events on the fashion calendar. Throughout the day, he always had a smile to share with the crew and models and they all seemed prepared to climb the highest mountain for him; a testament to the kind of guy he is.
In all the time we spent with him, he never once lost his cool. That might be attributed to the flow of Veuve Clicquot French Champagne throughout the day or simply the fact that he was completely in control; 100% certain of the fact that he had put everything into this collection.
Gert has built a solid reputation as a designer who consistently delivers sleek, bespoke, opulent designs of the highest international quality. This consistency has allowed him to align himself with some of the most luxurious brands in the world. The Ferrari showroom in Sandton was host to this opening event, Sony Xperia was a media partner and served in the unmistakable yellow champagne glasses, Veuve Clicquot added the bubble to the already lavish affair.
We usually see his name in lights or on the pages of all the glossy celebrity magazines, but he also caters for the everyday, larger than a supermodel size 4 or 6 woman. His ready-to-wear range was available on South Africa’s premier online store www.spree.co.za straight off the runway on the same night and trust me he knows how to flatter a woman’s curves.
My plan however is more extravagant than the online route. I am going to find a way to escape my mundane jeans and t-shirt life and am making it my mission this year to find a reason to buy a Gert-Johan Coetzee work of art.
I want a glamorous, glitzy, spectacular gown like only he is able to conceive and execute and if I can’t find an occasion to wear it to, my last resort will be to frame it and hang it on a wall next to my William Kentridge and Willem Boshoff.
Gert has expressed his desire to build the local fashion industry in a tangible way by offering an annual scholarship to study fashion design. He has created excitement and buzz around fashion and has taken it to the general public again and for this we admire him. If you want to know more or would like to own a Gert-Johan Coetzee, please go to www.gertjohancoetzee.com