The Fashion Years

South African born Michèle Keffen moved to the UK in 1999 having firmly established herself in the world of fashion, pushing her interests in art to the side lines for a while.

Soon after qualifying as a classically trained fashion designer she was awarded ‘Young Fashion Designer of the Year’. She had a weekly fashion trends feature on East Coast Radio in Durban, was regularly featured on Highway Radio and wrote a bi-weekly article on fashion for a local radio station’s magazine “Up the Hill”.

Her Durban-based evening wear and high class bridal wear business attracted clients from thousands of miles across the continent of Africa.

Michele KeffenWith over 40 seamstresses and designers in her couture team, she had time to not only run her her successful design business, but also to judge design contests, organize conferences and run a number of smaller companies. In her spare time she worked for the Durban Natural Science Museum as a volunteer, which included assisting with genetic bat research across the continent of Southern Africa.

Just after moving to the UK, she was offered a position on the Versace design team. Michèle turned this down as she had recently met British Fashion Photographer and Designer David Keffen. They married in 2000 and decided to open Society Brides (one of the UK’s largest designer wedding dress stores) in Christchurch on the South Coast.

They formed and led a skilled team of designers, seamstresses and fashion undergraduates; and were always keen to encourage those seeking work experience in the fashion industry to improve their practical skills.

Michèle…has styled, designed, and sewn for the royalty of five different nations across three continents…

In 2003 Michèle and her team received two national awards from the bridalwear industry. ‘Best Shop Design’ and perhaps, more importantly ‘Best New Bridal Retailer’.

Michèle has been asked to speak at a number of industry events, including guest speaker at the Drapers ‘Global Fashion Sourcing Conference’,  judge both adult and student design competitions and is generally accepted to be an expert in her field. Her work has featured in many of the national glossies.

Michèle has, like her husband, also been involved in fashion photography as an artistic director and studio photographer and was, for a time, editor of the magazine ‘Fashion Today’.

In 2009 Michèle was taken severely ill and so it was decided that Society Brides would close and she would work from her home studio. After a gradual return to health she began a dancewear label that included outfits for World Class Latin and Ballroom specialists as well as top-ranked Ballet dancers.

Michèle and her couture design teams have produced many thousands of garments. She has styled, designed and sewn for the royalty of five different nations across three continents as well as politicians, ‘Miss Great Britain’ and well known celebrities. Her bespoke evening dresses and flamboyant ball gowns are now highly sought after.

Of special importance to her is drawing attention to current issues such as indentured servitude, social pressure to conform and the recent increase of incest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Return to Art

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More recently she has returned to one of her chief passions in life – Art. She is an accomplished painter and sculptor. Having spent many years engaged in representational art and fashion illustration, Michèle has now begun painting more freely and from the heart. Drawing inspiration from time living and working in Paris France, the UK and Italy, plus her home continent of Africa, has enabled her to utilize her considerable knowledge of Art history in combination with her understanding of colour theory and deep love of colour in many and various abstract forms, often dealing with issues that are of deep concern to her.

Many of Michèle’s pieces are interlaced with concepts formed from the patchwork of her colourful and varied life (and near death on more than one occasion) experiences in multiple, and diverse locations around the globe such as time spent working in refugee camps, through to dressing Queens in their Royal bedchambers.

Of special importance to her is drawing attention to current issues such as indentured servitude, social pressure to conform and the recent increase of incest during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michele’s Study Interests

Recent Studies
  • Intercultural Communication- Shanghai International Studies University (SISU)
  • Ending Slavery: Stategies for Contemporary Global Abolition – University of Nottingham
  • Why We Post: The Anthropology of Social Media – University College London (UCL)
  • The Power of Social Media – University of Southampton
  • Disaster Management: Introduction to Humanitarian Aid – Deakin University
  • Caring for Older People: a Partnership Model – Deakin University
Current Studies
  • Foundation of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in China – City University of Hong Kong
  • Health in Humanitarian Crises- London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • Discovering Socially Engaged Art in Contemporary China – City University of Hong Kong
  • Multilingual Practices: Tackling Challenges and Creating Opportunities. – University of Groningen
  • An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures – Keio University
  • Improving Children’s Lives: Reducing Child Poverty and Inequality Around the World. – University of York
Planned Future Studies
  • The Digital Economy: Effective Supply Chain Management – Open University
  • Supply Chains in Practice – University of Warwick
  • Sino- Japanese Interactions Through Rare Books- Keio University
  • Environmental Challenges: Justice in Natural Resource Management – University of Leeds