Kat van Duinen
Being Polish and a constant immigrant in the many countries Kat has lived – Belgium, Holland, Australia, Germany and now South Africa – gave her first-hand experience of what it feels like to live on the outside. Outside of native languages; outside of familiar cultures; outside of family comforts; outside of friends and historic relationships; outside of a support network.
Yet time and time again Kat has chosen to see being an ‘outsider’ as an advantage – it demands that you do more, work harder, push further. Your own success depends entirely on you.
Then, in 2010, still grieving the loss of her husband, Kat found herself on the verge of death in ICU with liver failure and septicaemia. It was then that Kat promised herself she would follow her dream and found her own fashion label if she survived. But, against the odds, when Kat did later that year, she unexpectantly ventured deeper into the world of being an outsider: friends laughed at her crazy idea; many, though perhaps well-meaning, made cruel remarks about her lack of formal training, her inexperienced understanding of the local industry, and her underestimation of what it would take to run a business and a family.
Today, Kat remains firmly on the outside of many of the worlds she is supposed to be a part of. Kat has not followed traditional paths in founding and running her eponymous fashion company, and continues to do the things she is told are impossible: “It’s impossible to manufacture a European level of quality locally”; “It’s impossible to make profit producing in South Africa”; “It’s impossible to create a start-up when you’re a foreigner”; “It’s impossible to succeed in South African fashion without first being well connected in it”. The list goes on… and the fashion house Kat van Duinen, with all of its pieces proudly made in South Africa, continues to grow.