HE has planned mammoth multimillion-dollar extravaganzas for sheiks, heiresses, hoteliers and celebrities, but former East London schoolboy Colin Cowie still calls the Eastern Cape home.
The US-based lifestyle guru and party planner to the stars yesterday took time out from visiting family to address delegates at the second International Mohair Summit held in the Karoo town of Jansenville.
Mohair, he said, could go "from drab to fab" and, with the right interventions and guidance, become a globally sought-after ultra- luxury product – a new "it" product for the rich and famous.
Addressing a packed Jansenville Town Hall, Cowie – who has made regular appearances on the Today Show, Oprah and The Ellen DeGeneres Show – said: "It was only after doing research into the product [mohair] that I decided to come here and talk to you today, because I believe in the industry.
"We must aim to get global manufacturers, fashion designers and product developers to start using mohair. I don't just see it as a scarf, but even being used for things like exclusive motor accessories, like carpeting for a Ferrari.
"We should be able to combine mohair with more fibres so it becomes something we can't live without. That's where I see the biggest opportunity – taking it from drab to fab and putting it in front of the right manufacturers and designers to make the product mainstream."
Speaking after his presentation, Cowie, who left for the US with just $400 (R4000) in the mid-1980s, said he continued to be "deeply ensconced in Africa" and had several philanthropic projects he was heavily involved with.
These included the Phelophepa Train of Hope which delivers basic healthcare to rural areas in South Africa; an internet-orientated mentoring programme for children orphaned by HIV/Aids called Infinite Family, which he presented to the UN General Assembly for Literacy Day last year; a project started by hotelier Sol Kerzner's daughter, Andrea Kerzner, called Lalela, which uses art projects and art-based curricula to help children from impoverished areas in Africa; the Nelson Mandela Bay-based Ubuntu Foundation, for which he recently raised R1.1-million by holding a lavish function in New York; and the Turning Point Foundation for young adult offenders, helping them to reintegrate into society.
So what's next for one of the Eastern Cape's most famous exports?
"I leave for New York on Sunday [his plush apartment is along the city's sought-after Fifth Avenue], but I'll be back for Christmas with my family and we'll head out to Cape St Francis," Cowie said.
There was also the matter of organising a party for Oprah Winfrey's 60th birthday in February.
But he was uncharacteristically coy about his plans to bowl over the most powerful woman in the entertainment industry. "It will be held on a private residence in Santa Barbara. You're going to hear a lot about it," is all he would reveal.