If you can get past being entranced by the beautiful silver hair, piercing eyes and porcelain skin, you’ll find a determined entrepreneur with an enviable career in the fashion industry. Anna Freemantle- Zee is the Scottish-born model and entrepreneur who lives a dual life between Scotland and South Africa, while carving out a niche of her own in the international fashion scene.

The Insider talks to Anna about South African fashion and her work as the founder and director of the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival.

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Image courtesy of Anna Freemantle-Zee

Your career has had many highlights over the years. What has been your most memorable experience?

I’d say starting the Edinburgh International Fashion festival – the freedom of creativity and seeing it all come together.

You started modelling in the 1990s. What would you say has been the biggest change in the modelling industry over the years?

The money isn’t the same any longer, the career isn’t as long-lived any longer….it seems to now also be taken over entirely by social media in terms of longevity and impact which has created an interesting shift in terms of the role of a creative director and so on.

How would you describe your sense of style and how has it evolved?

Plain, classic, elegant. It has always been that way.

How do you manage your time between being a model, a director and a mother?

No idea really, each day is a new day full of opportunity and I work around the timetable that is there.

You’ve lived and travelled to many places around the world. What to you makes South

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Africa unique in the context of fashion?

South Africa has its history as a uniqueness – the mix up of cultures is interesting to watch. The ability to make do with whatever is available also stretches the innovativeness within South African fashion.

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Image courtesy of Anna Freemantle-Zee

Are there any parallels that you have drawn between your life in Edinburgh and your life in

Cape Town?

The main parallel is that in both places people seem to have very little confidence in their excellence.

Early this year you had your fifth Edinburgh International Fashion Festival. What was the

highlight of this year’s event?

Each event is a highlight – each event takes a very serious curation process and so each one of the events feels very special and dear to me.

What inspired you to start the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival?

The lack of finding great events to attend. That kept you intrigued for the duration and quizzed oneself to find out more.

What are the challenges of curating something of this scale?

Numerous challenges such as last minute drop outs due to a very busy calendar, last minute enormous costs that can’t be covered, fundraising, staffing, and etc.

Would you ever bring something similar to South Africa?

I would love to if they let me.

Image courtesy of Anna Freemantle-Zee
Image courtesy of Anna Freemantle-Zee

Why do you think it’s important for people to engage in symposiums, exhibitions and

workshops in the fashion industry?

Only then do people get the full understanding of the vastness of the industry and in how much of a state the industry currently is. By actively engaging the audience we can look at solutions if any available.

What do you think is the most pressing issue today in the fashion industry?

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The pressure on quick run around and yet the pressure of a sustainable and circular economy business model.

Fashion and Art are realms that tend to overlap. In what way do you think this overlap is

more profound?

Fashion is an expression of Art so they are entirely intertwined.

Considering that you are a woman with many roles, what is the one thing you are most

proud of?

Mother first and foremost – second founding and running the festival.

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Image courtesy of Anna Freemantle-Zee

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Find out more about the Edinburgh International Fashion Festival.