Loice-Dube-s-AFI-Fastrack-Prize-Journey African Fashion International

Loice Dube's AFI Fastrack Prize Journey

Buhle Mbonambi

Loice Dube, the designer and founder behind Lo'Ice, knew the AFI Fastrack Prize was more than just a competition. It was a design odyssey. Sure, there'd be sketching and stitching, but the real challenge lay in confronting the realities of the fashion world.

Mastering the industry's intricacies, managing finances, and finding the elusive balance between passion and practicality were key to the designer’s time with AFI Fastrack.

But with each challenge, she emerged stronger.

We caught up with Loice to hear about her experience ahead of the AFI Fastrack Prize winner announcement on June 21, 2024.

Before entering the AFI Fastrack Prize, what were your biggest challenges as a designer?

I had faced several challenges as a designer. One major hurdle was building a strong foundation in industry knowledge. Understanding fashion history, trends, fabrics, and the business side takes a lot of research and study – it's not just about sketching clothes!

Financial management was another struggle. Learning to budget effectively and turn a profit for my business was a whole new skillset. On top of that, there was the constant battle with time management. Juggling the demands of Fastrack with work and family responsibilities was a real balancing act.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle, though, was networking. Without prior industry experience, it was tough to make those crucial connections. Thankfully, Fastrack not only helped me overcome these challenges, but also gave me the confidence to express my unique design perspective and handle constructive criticism – a skill that's essential for any aspiring designer.

Lo'Ice Joburg Fashion Week

Can you share a specific instance where the guidance and mentorship provided during the AFI Fastrack programme, pushed your creative boundaries and resulted in a design breakthrough?

The Comfort Challenge during Joburg Fashion Week comes to mind. Our mentor, Khwaza (AFI Fastrack coordinator) explained that we need to broaden our approach to design. She emphasised the importance of exploring all aspects of design to add more depth to our garments. This motivated me to delve into textiles and fabric manipulation for my upcoming final collection.

How have you incorporated the rich heritage and cultural influence that shapes African fashion into your final collection for the AFI Fastrack Prize?

The Lo’Ice brand is deeply rooted in African history and philosophy. Our logo is inspired by an illustration from the book Indaba, My Children by the late great Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa.

This image, representing God in the African context, was traditionally found only in the holiest places in Africa. By incorporating a stylised rendering of this figure, Lo’Ice is committed to practicing cultural sustainability through our prints and techniques.

Lo'Ice Garment at the Durban July 2023

Sustainability and ethical practices are becoming increasingly important in fashion. How have you considered these aspects in your collections, and how do you envision them influencing your future design philosophy?

Since the inception of Lo’Ice, we have always practiced the concept of cultural sustainability. This concept refers to the preservation, promotion, and transmission of cultural heritage and practices in a way that ensures their continuity for future generations. This encompasses the importance of identity, tradition, archaeology, and artistic experiences while adapting to modern contexts.

I have always done this through the prints that are in the fabrics. These prints always tell an African story. Inspired by heritage, Lo’Ice is contributing to the preservation of cultural diversity and maintaining our traditions. We also practice sustainability through community engagement. Our fabrics are printed by local printers who are based in Soweto, a few kilometres away from my workplace.

The AFI Fastrack Prize has a reputation for launching the careers of future stars. How do you envision this program shaping your path as a designer in the African fashion landscape?

Fastrack has brought me further with designers, industry professionals, and influencers from all over South Africa. Building connections with these individuals could lead to future collaborations, mentorship, and access to different markets within the continent.

I also had access to fabrics, artisans, and production facilities, enhancing my ability to create authentic and sustainable collections. Fastrack has brought me a great deal of attention, that has exposed me to future clientele and greater recognition as well as opportunities to showcase my work at major fashion events. I foresee the brand growing and expanding into the retail space where clients have access to the product.

Lo'Ice at AFI Fastrack Prize 2023 at CTFW

What message do you want to convey to the industry with your final collection and what can your audience expect from you as a designer after the competition?

With this final collection, I want to celebrate my journey through AFI Fastrack as well as to celebrate self-expression through the eyes of hip hop and music. The collection is powered by my growth as a designer and the audience can expect to see an elevation in my design process and concepts.


The winner of the AFI Fastrack Prize 2023/24 will be announced on Friday, 21 June 2024 in Johannesburg, South Africa. 

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