Playful, feminine and flattering
After an extensive career in retail fashion in Europe and Canada, Michelle returned home to South Africa in 2007 to set up her ready-to-wear collection.
Each of Michelle’s collections reflects her impulsive and playful instincts. Feminine, flattering and affordable – she has created a mainstay brand in South Africa with a dedicated following of customers.
A WORD WITH
What style are you best known for?
Tailored, tribal prints... Drapey knit dresses which can be worn in a multitude of ways.
Favourite fabrics to work with?
Silks and knits - so much fun.
Where do you find daily inspiration?
The sea, mountains and people watching!
What’s the next big thing in fashion?
The best thing about being in fashion is that it changes all the time and cant be predicted! The cycles are becoming faster ....
“They are a great, dependable and reliable team who I know will do what it takes to get the orders out and deadlines met. I couldn’t do my job without them,” says designer Michelle Ludek about her core team; supervisor Jackie, cutter Farieda and machinists, Margaret and Cheryl.
All five of them work from a light infused, high ceilinged factory in Muizenburg, just outside Cape Town. “It’s a great space, so quiet, nobody hassles us,” Michelle says, a stark contrast to the bustling space they outgrew in the city in Observatory two years ago. Michelle began her own factory after the CMT that did most of her production closed down. She took on a few of the CMT’s employees. “It made perfect sense to start my own factory as the team knew my styles so well and I just needed to secure their jobs,” she explains.
Michelle is an incredibly busy woman. As well as doing all the design, most of the pattern making and all the administration for the Michelle Ludek label, on top of fashion shows and travel, she is also a wife and the mother to two children, a nine year old son and six year old daughter. A production team she trusts is essential. Michelle’s label is designed for women like her, women on the go. “It’s very important to feel and look good in whatever I am wearing, Comfort is essential as my day is so demanding. I need to create, design and wear clothes that can be worn on school runs, dinner dates and to work. It can’t be complicated and I believe in owning less but more of the right items,”
Having her own label was always Michelle’s dream, but she only pursued it after coming back to South Africa after leaving Canada, and after the birth of her son.
“Motherhood changed me,” she explains, “priorities changed and shifted.” She knew she couldn’t go back to a corporate work environment. It started humbly, with Michelle working from one sewing machine at her dining room table, making dresses for her sister. She sent some samples through to Colleen Eitzen and Amanda Laird Cherry at The Space, who offered her a rail in the Rosebank store. “On the morning of my son’s first birthday party I had my stock arrive and we had to start preparing the stock for delivery. It was a very exciting day and reason to celebrate all round,” she remembers.
Since then the Michelle Ludek label has expanded steadily throughout The Space stores, as well as to her own boutique store at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. “I remember being so nervous to buy more that 12 metres of fabric at a time,” Michelle says, “but I am pleased with my steady growth and at the pace we have maintained.”