If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It!

From Durban to Ghana, look out for Jump Start Alumni, Martin Steenkamp.
MRP Foundation Jump Start Programme alumni, Martin John Steenkamp, who has been invited for the third consecutive year, to feature at the Durban Fashion Fair

Martin John Steenkamp with model Mathuba (Glam) showcasing one of his designs from the 2019 Vodacom Durban July. Image: Jono Nienaber/ Gameplan Media


MRP Foundation is proud of it’s very own alumni, Martin John Steenkamp, who has been invited for the third consecutive year, to feature at the Durban Fashion Fair from 25 to 28 September 2019 at the ICC.

The Durban Fashion Fair is a platform created to develop talent and bridge the gap between young and established designers. It gives young designers an opportunity to showcase their talent to the fashion industry, the media, fashion lovers and the general public.

Last month, Martin was one of two South African fashion designers selected to showcase their collections at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) from August 2-4 in Accra, Ghana. The award-winning young menswear designer presented his range alongside Durban-based women’s designer, Zama Mathe, of Zarth designs.

The three-day event is an international networking opportunity that showcases fashion creatives from across the African continent, with the potential to feature on international catwalks.

For Martin, who grew up in the rural Eastern Cape near Matatiele, seeing his designs on a global platform has been a dream come true, “Having my work displayed on an international platform has been one of my biggest dreams since I was a teenager, and to see it actualise is an indication that dreams can come true!”

Despite his simple, yet challenging upbringing, Martin proved that hard work and perseverance are the key ingredients for a recipe to success. “You are who you decide you want to be. Growing up, we had no running water and electricity. Every day we would walk a short distance from our house and collect a hundred litres of water. As a child, it was such a drag, but in retrospect it makes me realise how blessed I am,” he recalls. “This daily routine instilled such high levels of discipline and tenacity for what was still to come in life,” he says.

Twenty-eight year old Martin recalls that he was not academically inclined, “Arts and culture made me come alive, because I was passionate about them.”  In 2007, his Matric year, Martin decided he wanted to pursue his studies in Fashion Design.

Martin’s dream to study was delayed, as his family did not have enough money. Equipped with an optimistic attitude, Martin sought employment at a local supermarket and started saving towards his dream, which materialised seven years later.

After completing his studies at the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion, Martin joined MRP Foundation’s Jump Start programme. The ten-month practical and theoretical course built a firm platform for him in the retail fashion industry. After graduating top of his class, Martin worked full time for a local manufacturer and used his spare time for his passion for fashion.

Since 2016, Martin’s career has blossomed astoundingly. He featured on SABC’s Top Billing, and showcased at the Durban Fashion Fair, which provides an opportunity for new talents like Martin to share a platform with established designers in the local and global fashion industries. He also won the 2017 Fashion Innovator Award, premiered at the Vodacom Durban July and most recently the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. He even featured in on DSTV’s fashion reality show, Made in Africa.

John Martin is his personal luxury menswear brand, which he aspires to supply to boutiques and retailers across Africa. “My collection at MBFW was inspired by Afrocamp and it embodies my futuristic alter ego. It was so well-received by the Ghanaian community as they have never seen a collection with such Artisanal perspective. We were a range of diverse designers that came from various countries in Africa. It was such an honour to represent my country in the best light of my ability as a designer.”

Martin is currently a first year Design lecturer at the Pietermaritzburg School of Fashion.

Image supplied by Vodacome Durban July

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