With matric farewell fever in the air, we set out to see exactly what it takes to become a successful designer.
Mariska Pfahl is a 27-year-old designer with her own studio, Mariska Pfahl Couture. She obtained her National Diploma in Fashion in 2013. She has won numerous prestigious awards such as Vaal Designer of the year and has had her work featured in local TV programs like Marry me now and VIA’s My Matriekafskeid. She fearlessly follows her dream of creating stunning couture pieces and breaking stereotypical barriers.
She is actively involved in every aspect of the design and production process of her business and her passion and dedication clearly show.
We went and got the inside scoop on exactly what it takes to create the dress of your dreams.
What is your definition of success?
When you set your heart out to achieve your goal, enjoy the journey (even the hard parts), learn and grow from every moment because it’s the love you put in that makes all the difference. You never achieve complete success in life, there’s always room for growth.
What was your first job?
I started working for myself while I was still at University. I made my first wedding dress and Matric farewell dress in my second year of study. It was a wonderful learning opportunity and it really improved the skills that I used for studies and private work.
Are you in your High School dream job?
Yes, absolutely! I was always the creative one, drawing fashion sketches in off periods and experimenting with my own clothes. I played around with my mom’s sewing machine and started making dolls clothes very early in life. I even took Consumer studies with sewing as a practical subject in High school and that gave me an edge in University.
You studied to become a designer; where did you study?
Yes, I did. I studied 3 years at the Vaal University of Technology whereby I graduated with a National Diploma. After that, I studied for an additional certificate course in Business Management and Administration. I would do it all over again! We had so much fun at University and were involved in various competitions like the Durban July Young Designers Competition and Vaal Designer of the year. Competitions and platforms like these really grew me as an individual and business owner.
What do you love about being a designer?
I love bringing a sketch to life. To be a part of the initial process of it all makes me feel connected to the client/design, to see that perfect fit, the design walk on a stage and the reaction from family & friends makes every minute spent on the design worth while.
Have there been any disappointments in your career?
Yes, there has been. Like most things in life, you grow and learn as a person, business owner and employer when you are faced with disappointments. My biggest disappointment was in myself when I tried to take on too much in a very short time. My business growth was quite overwhelming, but I’ve learned and grown from that experience. Now I know what I can take on and what my and my employees’ abilities are so that we grow as a business at a healthy, steady pace.
Which challenges have you had to overcome in your career?
Time and budget constraints will always be challenging in my career. To make a design as stunning as possible with a limited timeline and budget is a little stressful but it can be done if you work smart. To make sure that this challenge is more manageable, budgets and timelines should be realistic for both the designer and client.
What has been your proudest moment as a designer?
Since I know that I’m still young, I’m looking forward to what is still to come in my career. But for now, it’s the day I was awarded the Vaal designer of the year award for designers with their own established business, as well as the overall winner award in 2013. I was fresh out of university and just started working, it was just the boost I needed to continue with my individual style. The competition was so strong!
What advice do you have for young girls today?
I’d love to tell girls today to never give up on your dreams, no matter how big, absurd or crazy they may seem to others – you can make it work. Stay strong in your faith and abilities, start humble and make a lot of friends along the way. The destination isn’t what matters, it’s the journey.
“I don’t design clothes. I design dreams.” —Ralph Lauren
What is the misconception that people have about designers?
The biggest misconception is that people think a dressmaker and designer are the same thing. Thus, they want an amazing designer ensemble, but they have a dressmaker budget and mindset. As a designer, I’ve learnt to design and draft my own patterns, my knowledge of different fabrics and materials is vast and I learned valuable skills through hard work to create every unique garment. I have my own style and way of creating the perfect couture piece.
What is your 5 year goal?
My 5-year goal is to spesialise in only bridal and evening couture garments. I want to have a stunning online shop, supply bridal boutiques with couture pieces and start my own accessory line that consists of belts, jewelled shoes, custom garters, veils and hairpieces. I’m so excited and I am planning this already!