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Young seamtress turns into CEO
Candy Smith, Free State Fashion Week Founder and chief executive officer.Photo: Pierce van Heerden

Welkom born and bred Candy Smith is the woman behind multiple platforms aimed at empowering young creatives in design arts in the Free State.

Founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of the Free State Fashion Week, an annual prestigious fashion and life­style event, managing director of the Free State Fashion Hub, a fashion design school, and chair­woman of the Free State Fashion Council, a non-profit agency aimed at giving back to the community, Candy Smith (41) is definitely stitching development in the Free State.

Born and raised in Bronville, Smith discovered her passion for fashion at a young age when she picked up a needle and a thread to sew clothing for her dolls behind her parents’ back – a skill she later enhanced by designing for her church sisters, friends and family.

As an active teenager, Smith became a professional model under Elsie’s model management and won numerous titles.

In Gr. 11 she discovered her entrepreneurial skills. A seamstress opportunity became available to supply school skirts.

Smith took full advantage of the opportunity and started sewing skirts, employing two unemployed women in her community to assist with production during school holidays.

After completing her matric, Smith enrolled to study fashion design at the National Academy of Fashion in Pretoria.

She has since established her own fashion line called Candy’s Collection and Candy’s Bridal Paradise, with boutiques in Bloemfontein.

Smith is a big dreamer, and she has won numerous awards as a businesswoman.

In 2008 she took part in the Mrs South Africa competition and won the business woman award within the pageant.

In 2011 Smith received an award for emerging Business woman from the Business Women Association for Free State and Lesotho, and in 2017 she received an award from the Free State Heroins in the community building category.

In 2016, Smith established the Free State Fashion Week which offers a platform for emerging designers from overlooked small towns in Free State.

The event has seen enormous growth since its inception creating around 400 jobs (permanent and seasonal) in the past four years.


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