Thursday, March 11, 2010

Encouraging South Africa's chicest women

I asked Francois Rall from Carducci Woman to help me out with an outfit for the Glamour magazine Oscars at the Table Bay last weekend because I have always liked his style and sense of chic, ever since he had a shop in Hyde Park and told me about his French grandmother. Francois has been employed by the House of Monatic since July 2008 and supplies Stuttafords and independent boutiques with his tailored ranges for the woman who has to juggle her work, family and lifestyle and look super-good in the process.

I was impressed by his outfits at the J&B Met this year, especially Leanne Manas's burgundy chiffon dress, with its long train and elegant hat. He amazed me for the Oscar party with a sheer printed blouse teamed with a 40s high waisted black velvet equestrian skirt printed with a gold bamboo pattern. It even had a train. I was in love at first sight. "It's print on print," he explained simply, and told me just how to do my hair.

SMSs flew back and forth while a gorgeous 25 year old stylist was blowdrying my sadly straggly locks. "Straight messy or curly messy?" I inquired, and the answer flew back, "Straight messy, like they did it at London Fashion Week this year." After turning my head upside down and tossing it about madly a couple of times I was dizzy, but messy enough. (Sorry about all the me, me, me but Francois's outfit did made me feel like a million dollars. So let me have one little Cinderella moment!)

I met up again with Francois at Stuttafords this week, having joined his Facebook site The Face of Carducci Woman. The site is getting around 100 fans per day - the power of Facebook - even though it was started up only two weeks ago. The closing date is April 17, and 20 finalists will be chosen from each region: Joburg, Cape Town and Durban.

So who is this fabulous Carducci Woman who can project a new ad campaign? Not a professional model who are all over-exposed, he believes. One week they are with this brand, the next week with another. Last year he sat down with creative guy and producer/designer Dirk de Waal who is also a scout, and discussed it. "Let me call you back in ten minutes, said Dirk. He did, and suggested: "Why don't you have a competition?"

Francois's designs from Carducci Woman are aimed at the career girl, from 24 upwards to an elegant, beautiful older woman. In fact, that's one of the criteria for entering the competition: you have to be 24 and upwards, and you HAVE to have a career (circus acrobat, dog walker, personal shopper, CEO of your own company - you're all eligible). He and a panel of media will be looking for someone with the right proportions, ("I am not sensitive about size. They don't have to be a size 32, size 36 can photograph just as well," he told me), plus intelligence and inner beauty ("anyone can look like a movie star with the right make-up, but we want the overall package") and sophistication ("the clothes in my range are sophisticated. My genre is clothes for the modern working career woman, with evening and day lifestyle pieces. I know women like that, they are my friends and I relate to them"). When the finalists have been chosen they will be given a makeover, photographed by a professional photographer and interviewed. The overall winner will be the first face out on the catwalk at his Carducci show at Joburg Winter Fashion Week. She will also do the next Carducci Woman campaign.

Francois is very excited. "I'm going to choose the Face of Carducci Woman, but every woman could be the winner," he told me flourishing his Blackberry which contains an amazing amount of photographs ("someone should publish a book").

Each entrant has had to submit not only her Facebook pic on the electronic competition form ( and must post pictures of herself on the site.

I'm a bit of an Elle fan and was happy to hear that they had come on board as a media sponsor. Also on board is Iman Cosmetics (I'm meeting her at a Destiny breakfast in a few weeks), Clinique and Redken to do the hair.

The Face of Carducci Woman competition and the catwalk show are all very good news for South African women who are being encouraged to become more chic every day by great designers like Francois.

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