Submitted by: William de Beer

What started out as a small-town boy from Nigel dreaming about the back pages of the latest issue of Huisgenoot ended with him standing on the edge of a New York runway after showcasing 24 bewildering dresses that shaped the iconic collection of Willet Design Couture.

On 7 February 2020, after many years of diligent efforts and indomitable dreams, William de Beer finally had the chance to exhibit his intimate collection. Thanks to his unconditional commitment to his models, they all had the opportunity to strut their stuff on the runway in some of the most gorgeous garments imaginable.

De Beer, together with Carmen Hosten from Geo+U architectural jewelry, collaborated on creating a line inspired by a humanistic approach towards metamorphosis, insect geology, and the transformation of oneself.  Each dress was complemented by a dramatic accessory piece, worn either on the face or neck,  that created a surreal representation of the emotion depicted by the garment. The Willet collection for New York Fashion Week 2020 was predominantly made from rich silks, brocade and sequin embroiled fabrics, designed with the intention to tell a story of beauty, confidence, and self-love. On 01 February 2020 William De Beer, Marius Bartmann ( Make-Up artist ), Carmen Hosten ( Designer from Geo+U), Kayla Bartmann (Face of Willet), Anriette van Wyk (Photographer @Kiefkreativ) together with more than 20 of his models and some parents, met at the OR Tambo International Airport to set off on the trip of a lifetime.

Little did they know the impact this journey would have on their careers and life ahead.

Firstly, spending 24 hours of flying together, first to Dubai, then on to Milan and, finally, reaching their end destination at JFK Airport in New York City in the USA.  Overwhelmed, the group walked along the icy cold streets of Manhattan from one train station to another, carrying at least 50 pieces of luggage including all the dresses and accessories.

As they arrived at their beautiful accommodation in Jersey City, they soon settled in and began preparing for the exciting week ahead with William himself working throughout the night to get things done. By day 3 the models were up and amped to show up at the model casting held by @artheartfashion and their amazing team.

Tyler Moolman, one of the top models from the ICE Model agency was cast by more than 6 designers and had the privilege of walking the runway prior to the Willet showcase. She made the Willet team exceptionally proud and continued to walk the runway on numerous occasions during NYFW. This opportunity certainly changed her life and modeling career ahead as she became an instant international success. Another model from the team, Hannes Odendaal also walked for another designer after the Willet Showcase and rocked the runway proudly!

The afternoon of 7 February arrived and the team traveled to the NYFW venue, the Angel Orensanz Foundation, and started prepping for the big show. The backstage team was phenomenal and had the models ready in no time. The show started and the crowd went still, soon to be amazed by each garment that came down the runway.  The crowd’s reaction exceeded all expectations with all the models representing to the best of their ability. The dresses looked amazing, filling the runway with grace and confidence. The first look, worn by 16-year-old Leanka Barnard walking on the points of her ballet shoes, absolutely blew the crowd away.  This was followed by 23 other breath-taking garments and face pieces. Our show stopper worn by Kayla took the audience breath away as she transformed her outfit in full view of everyone.  She left her headpiece on the floor to allow her 5 meter-long silk train flow along the runway.

The models also had the amazing privilege to accompany Madeleine Stuart in one of William’s dresses during the showcase. Photographers couldn’t get enough of the models and the garments and took photo after photo of them. At one stage they even had a few of them pose on top of a taxi in the streets of Manhattan.

Willet Designs absolutely stole the show and created a hype bigger than expected. A few days later, the team decided to dress their models in the Willet collection and use the subway, making their way to an icy-cold Times Square. Here the group managed to attract the attention of many fashion bloggers, tourists, and other photographers.  Anriette did a mind-blowing photoshoot of all the models dressed in their dramatic attire and face pieces with the lights and screens of Times Square in the background.

It was a bitter-sweet moment when the journey came to an end but the team was reminded that this was only the start of many great things to come.  All the hard work was finally paying off with Willet Designs already securing invites to both the LA and Paris fashion weeks!