Award-winning fashion designer Gert-Johan Coetzee has built an exceptional reputation as one of South Africa’s foremost creatives by designing red-carpet couture for local and international A-listers such as Bonang Matheba, Minnie Dlamini, Kelly Rowland and Kourtney Kardashian.
The Joburg-based celebrity designer was born in a small farming town called Koster in the North West, studied fashion design at the North West School of Design at 16 years old and, after receiving multiple notable awards and accolades, debuted his first fashion collection at SA Fashion Week in 2010 at the age of 22.
‘It feels as if I have loved fashion since I was born,’ says Coetzee. ‘I remember growing up playing with pencils and dressing them up in tissue paper, then my sisters’ dolls became the victims of Gert-Johan Coetzee fashion. It’s been in my blood for as long as I can remember. I just wanted to be a fashion designer and there has never been a plan B.’
His dedication to South African fashion extends beyond designing dazzling red-carpet gowns and exclusive ready-to-wear garments, and saw the launch of the Gert-Johan Coetzee Fashion Bursary seven years ago, which aims to grow the budding careers of young, aspiring fashion designers.
As Project Runway South Africa’s first mentor, Coetzee will guide and encourage contestants through the entire creative process. ‘My plan is to be uplifting, teach them some of my skills, show them what it takes to be a fashion designer and support them,’ says Coetzee. ‘This will be quite an emotional and technical journey, so I’m bringing my whole career of knowledge to this experience.’