In this first article in our series of Technopark Success Stories, we would like to take the opportunity to celebrate the life of Elizabeth Galloway as visionary, innovator and integral part of the Technopark Stellenbosch story.

In the heart of Technopark Stellenbosch, where innovation and business thrive, one name stands out — a name woven into the fabric of the community, both literally and metaphorically. Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion, a pioneering institution, has not only weathered the storms of the fashion industry but has also emerged as a beacon of empowerment. The Academy bridges the gap between creativity and business acumen as one of the top accredited fashion design schools in South Africa.

The school’s journey is the story of its visionary founder, Elizabeth Galloway, who came from humble beginnings to build a renowned South African educational institution in Technopark Stellenbosch, with the focus on empowering individuals in the field of fashion.

Elizabeth Galloway tragically passed away in 2023 after a battle with cancer, but her legacy lives on through the work of her daughter Inez, her energetic team at the school and the many students passing through its work rooms. In this first article in our series of Technopark Success Stories, we would like to take the opportunity to celebrate the life of Elizabeth as visionary, innovator and integral part of the Technopark Stellenbosch story.

Inception and Inspiration

Elizabeth Galloway was a woman whose passion for fashion was ignited by her grandmother, a dressmaker and teacher. From an early age, she learned the art of garment-making, a skill that would later blossom into a lifelong mission of empowering others. With a vision rooted in self-expression, independence, and empowerment, Elizabeth set out to share her knowledge and skills with other women in her community in Pretoria, laying the foundation for what would eventually become the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion.

In the 1990s, Elizabeth made the move from Pretoria to Cape Town. As a single mother, she was driven by the desire to provide financial and emotional independence for herself and other women in her situation. She extended her then informal teaching initiatives to historically disadvantaged areas in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, nurturing a community of women eager to learn and establish themselves as skilled artisans.

Gradually, a new generation of younger learners started to show an interest in the skills she was imparting. As younger learners started to fill the ranks of her classes, Elizabeth saw the need to formalise her fledgling school through acquiring land and establishing a permanent space of education.

Youn Elizabeth Galloway with her Grandmother

Breaking Ground in Technopark Stellenbosch

Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion was born in 1996, in a small 100m2  block in Technopark Stellenbosch, overlooking then open fields and the majestic Helderberg Mountains.

In the 1980s, Technopark was a small science park, housing an incubator as well as an innovation lab. The park was managed by a committee and the local municipality. Uptake of firms into the park was very slow due to the strict criteria of acceptance. An economic slowdown forced the management to allow it to become market-oriented in the 1990s. Elizabeth saw value in acquiring a piece of land in Technopark where she aimed to establish a permanent home for her up-to-then informal initiatives.

The move to Technopark marked a significant new chapter. According to the academy, the then science park was “just a vast open field”, and Elizabeth was one of the first to build on what is today a thriving business hub for Stellenbosch. At the time, building in Technopark did not come without its challenges. Funds did not allow Elizabeth to meet the requirements of a minimum size build of 200m2. Eventually, a small square block of 100m2 was built with the promise of expansion. In two years, the school built a second floor, and over time, as more students came through the doors, an adjoining building next door followed.

Early building of Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion in Technopark Stellenbosch

Formalising Fashion Design

As noted by Elizabeth,

 The story of the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion is a personal story of survival – when I started the school it was about working towards having bread on the table, and about helping other women gain some financial independence. I didn’t have a grand vision.

In 1998, the demand for “a qualification that they could take to potential employers” saw Elizabeth travel to London where she secured accreditation for a qualification in Fashion Design from the City & Guilds of London. Since then, in order to comply with national regulations, the school has become a fully accredited private institution for higher education with the Department of Higher Education, Council of Higher Education and South African Qualifications Authority. It provides a full-time Diploma in Fashion Design, BA Degree in Fashion Design, and Advanced Diploma in Fashion.

Nurturing Talent and Industry Impact

According to co-director of the school, Fiona Abdo, Elizabeth’s visionary approach extended beyond the classroom. She recognised the need for continuous growth, emphasising the professional development of her teaching staff, and fostering a culture of expertise and mentorship. The academy’s success was built on the belief that investing in individuals—both staff and students—would lead to a positive impact on the industry. This has led to the school having established its reputation for thorough training whilst providing individual attention to students. As Galloway confidently notes on the school’s website:

Our courses require three or four years of working hard and consistently – a small price to pay when you consider that our training will stand you in good stead to achieve success in any fashion-related career you embark on.

When looking at the achievements of its alumni, it is clear the school has become a breeding ground for talent, consistently producing some of the country’s top students. The founding ethos of providing tools of economic empowerment to individuals has however lived on through the practical approach of  “from concept to consumer”. This has ensured that graduates are well-rounded, employable professionals, sought after by the industry.

A Family Legacy

In 2009, Elizabeth’s daughter, Inez, joined the academy, bringing her unique blend of fashion and business expertise. Over the years, Inez played a pivotal role in the academy’s management and was made a director in 2011. As the baton passed from mother to daughter, the academy continued to evolve, staying true to its commitment to individual growth and empowerment.

Looking towards the future, Inez envisions a legacy that continues to impact the industry, grow individual talent, and empower communities. Sustainability and innovation remain at the core of the curriculum, reflecting a global trend towards responsible practices in the fashion and textile industry.

An Indelible Mark

The success story of Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion is not just about creating garments; it’s about weaving threads of empowerment, independence, and innovation. Elizabeth’s journey, from learning at her grandmother’s side to founding an institution that transformed lives, is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and vision. As Technopark Stellenbosch continues to thrive, the legacy of Elizabeth Galloway stands as a shining example of how one woman’s dedication can leave an indelible mark on an entire community and industry.

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