Gerhardt Shebe rings wedding bells
Originally from Bethulie in the Free State, Shebe believes every girl is born to be a bride someday. He always feels special when he designs a gown for a bride-to-be. The best part of Shebe’s job is making the bride’s dream come true and he gets overwhelmed when a bride comes for her first fitting and the dress fits perfectly. This young fashion trendsetter believes a wedding gown should be heavy, added with lots of layers of material.
“There must be a big fuss about you on your special day. You shouldn’t look like you’re one of the guests. I once made a gown of which the bottom was given volume with layers and layers of 40 metres of fabric. I think that’s what makes a bride special on her wedding day. She needs to be assisted to walk cautiously and she should feel like a queen for the entire day. Her bridesmaids and maid-of-honour should make sure that the gown is always clean and no one steps on her dress.”
It is important for a wedding gown to be sparkling, says Shebe. He has made over 25 wedding gowns and emphasises that the gown’s significance is to make the bride feel and look stunning, yet comfortable. It must be a perfect length and not too revealing. He urges other designers to be honest with their clients and tell them what would and what wouldn’t suit them, including their choice of colour.
“I like shopping for fabric first, before I visualise the dress. I also like adding a bit of Shebe magic to every dress I make, even if not requested by the client. I usually add more ‘beautifications’ by using crystals as my trademark. I want to create that one memorable moment, not the everyday look of a person. I want to be part of that special moment and hour,” says Shebe.
He already has six wedding gown orders – four for this year and two for 2017. Maintaining a good relationship with clients is crucial to Shebe and he feels blessed when he acquires more clients. His client base is not strictly based in the Free State; he has clients coming from all over South Africa and regards that as God’s favour.
Before Shebe ventured into fashion designing, he persuaded his other passion of cooking. This didn’t work out, because fashion had always been his first love. He quit his chef course practicals and enrolled at the Fashion Academy in Bloemfontein, which he joined after the first semester. He was crowned Best Designer of the Year (of the whole school), which was his best achievement.
“Some of my best clients are people who come to me and simply say I should dress them, without pointing out their preferences. That gives me the platform to perform to the best of my ability. I’m free to do whatever I want, and I give it my all. All my creative juices flow easily and without boundaries. I always feel like an artist and every dress is a work of art. “I feel with every dress I give something of myself.”
Shebe adds, “I love beautiful things and I love a confident woman. Beautiful clothes give a woman confidence. It is, however, not about what you wear, but how you wear it. I’m lucky that I work with all kinds of people, people from different racial and economic backgrounds,” he explains.
Shebe is the official fashion designer for Miss Free State beauty pageant. He aims to dress contestants of beauty pageants such as Miss South Africa and Miss World. His favourite design is a dress he designed for Miss Windmill, Melissa Nel. He describes the garment as being plain, though elegant. He usually sends his portfolio to high profile personalities to request dressing and styling them for an event they will be attending. Some of the celebrities he recalls dressing are Tatum Keshwar, Miss SA 2008, and TV personality, Jeannie D.
He is inspired by his late grandmother. She recently passed away at 73 years of age and Shebe is now planning to make a fashion line in her honour. “I want to leave a legacy behind some day. I regard myself as a sponge – always trying to learn new things. I have sacrificed so much to be where I am. I can’t say I have made it; there is so much more I still want to do,” he says.
“I have given so much and will not give up on my dreams. We were previously disadvantaged and as a designer who wants to make it nationally and internationally, I have to work extra hard and make big sacrifices. But that shouldn’t put anyone down or make them stop pursuing their dreams. You don’t have to stand back for anyone. It’s important not to make any excuses – we are all equal. Some of us just have to work harder but we will deliver what is expected of us and pursue our dreams.”