The Angel Gown® Initiative


The Facebook post that lead to The Angel Gown® Initiative.

On the morning of 21 June 2017 as Eric Elronde, owner and founder of couturiers Erikr House, was going through his pre-work morning rituals, this specific morning being gym and keeping up with his Facebook followers in between reps, he noticed an intriguing post on a friends’ Facebook news feed. This particular post was about a woman that had sent her wedding gown away to be repurposed into Angel Gown® garments.

His friend, Chrismari Elsbury, was looking for someone that would be willing and capable to do this for her with her wedding gown. Immediately this concept sparked interest with Eric and so his research into Angel Gown® garments begun. Upon further research he found there are many organizations abroad that are intimately involved with this cause but it does not appear to have a following in South Africa, where Eric and his company is based.

Chrismari Elsbury on her wedding day.

Eric phoned Chrismari the same morning to tell her that he will, as a favour, extend his personal expertise in the fashion industry to do this for her. They arranged for the collection of her wedding gown, one he personally spent several months meticulously constructing by hand back in 2015, and Eric also offered to donate the services and resources of Erikr House for the repurposing process.

Later that morning as he was catching up with a friend via WhatsApp she immediately donated her wedding gown for this purpose as well. Intrigued by his friends interest, a desire for his company to positively contribute to the community and an apparent lack of such a project in South Africa, at that time, Eric decided to make this Erikr Houses’ official Corporate Social Investment (CSI) and to start The Angel Gown® Initiative, also known as TAGI, in South Africa. And so the journey began…

Dr J van Dyk with Eric Elronde.

On the morning of 23 August 2017 Eric and his husband, Radie Erasmus, departed from Gordon’s Bay to Vredendal. They were heading to Erics’ home town to donate the The Angel Gown® Initiatives’ first ever set of Angel Gown® garments. He was born at Vredendal Hospital in 1985, it was also the workplace of Chrismari during the time when she commissioned Eric for her wedding gown and so it was decided that this should be the first hospital to where our Angel Gown® garments would be donated to. What made this entire occasion so much more touching is that Dr J van Dyk, who runs this hospital, is the same doctor that delivered Eric at birth and 31 years later he was the same person to accept our very first donation of Angel Gown® garments.

The very next day our second handover was done, with Mediclinic Stellenbosch receiving their first set of Angel Gown® garments. From there TAGI grew at a steady and manageable pace, as the donations came in, so did the sponsors, volunteers, drop-off points and multiple organisations joined the TAGI family. Our intention was to eventually expand The Angel Gown® Initiative to neigbouring provinces in later years as TAGI grew, but little did we know how much sooner that dream would become a reality.

Die Burger was the first newspaper to publish TAGI.

On 15 October 2017 Jana Breytenbach published an article on Netwerk 24 covering the story about TAGI’s history up until that point. Although Eric and his friends drove the story about TAGI as best they could through the many social media platforms out there, this was the first unbiased and official publication about TAGI by the media and it was a crucial turning point in our history. Eric was informed that the online article on Netwerk 24 might be picked up for print by Die Burger, which was exciting in its own, but one does not want to be overly optimistic.

After just one article TAGI became a media romance overnight… on the morning of 16 October 2017 Eric was taken aback when a friend in Amsterdam sent him a picture on WhatsApp to show him a copy of the article. It took him roughly 18 minutes to get some form of clothes on, keys to the car and to the closest Pick ‘n Pay to purchase his own copy, and by the time he held his first physical copy in his hands, 3 just to be on the safe side, so many of his friends had sent him photos of the article that he already was able to put the entire article together on his cellphone screen via WhatsApp. TAGI was published that morning by several newspapers nationally, with Die Burger and Die Beeld being two of them.

Danie Hefers and Eric working their skills.

On the morning of 17 October 2017 Eric was out of bed before 6am and heading over the mountain to Grabouw for a live interview on Radio Disa with Reinhard Kotze. This was followed with another radio broadcast on 19 October 2017, this time with Ewan Strydom on the “Guess who is coming for lunch” show of Smile 90.4FM and later that same day Danie Hefers from Fokus SABC2 joined Eric at his studio for a recording which aired on 12 November 2017.

Since then The Angel Gown® Initiative has taken on a life of its own, having multiple ambassadors, sponsors, volunteers and collection points spread over South Africa. We have even received international recognition, twice! TAGI grew at such a rapid rate that during 2018 formal agreements were reached with both Mediclinic and Netcare to systematically distribute our Angel Gown® garments in all of their hospitals of Southern Africa. To date we have left a footprint in 6 provinces, as well as Namibia, thereby crossing international borders.

On the morning of 7 February 2018 at 10:17 am Eric got an SMS from the Department of Social Development to state that The Angel Gown® Initiative was formally registered as a Non Profit Organisation, registration nr 203-283 NPO. On 25 June 2018 we were extremely proud to be informed that we were granted the status of Public Benefit Organisation, along with tax exemption and the privilege to handout Section 18A certificates, registration nr 930061837.

As TAGI grows and gather more attention, we now also have an international following. A charitable organization in America, Angel Gowns of Western New York, has reached out to us with interest to collaborate in South Africa.

While we are eagerly waiting to see what the next chapter holds for The Angel Gown® Initiative, have a look here for a list of our major accomplishments!

Eric posing with a selection of our Angel Gown® garments, alongside Shiro, our resident quality controller.