The business of fash­ion

En­trepreneurs and de­sign­ers share their stylish business ad­vice

Destiny Man - - BOLD AND DISTINGUISHED -

RAPHAËL MUKENDI & ALEXAN­DER RAWHÁNI, CO-OWN­ERS OF RAPHAËL MUKENDI AFRICAN BE­SPOKE

If you could go back and tell your­selves one thing be­fore be­gin­ning your ca­reer, what would it be? There’ll be dif­fi­cult times and chal­lenges to face on a daily ba­sis, but these will help you grow and progress, so don’t give up. Trust in God and per­se­vere.

How has the fash­ion in­dus­try changed since you en­tered it? Peo­ple have re­alised that dress­ing in a unique way is far bet­ter than fit­ting in, so the de­mand for be­spoke, tailor-made fash­ion is a big con­trast to the past. An­other dif­fer­ence is that peo­ple now have a lot more con­fi­dence in African prints and styles.

What was your big­gest fear when start­ing your store? Whether we’d be able to es­tab­lish our­selves well enough to sup­port our em­ploy­ees fi­nan­cially.

What ad­vice would you give to young de­sign­ers just start­ing out in the in­dus­try? Hon­esty and hard work are of paramount im­por­tance to their suc­cess. They also need to find a unique sell­ing point, and strengthen that.

What role does so­cial me­dia play in business?

Its in­flu­ence is a huge life­line to any fash­ion business. We’ve re­alised that our pres­ence on so­cial me­dia plat­forms and the In­ter­net is vi­tal to our growth. How­ever, it’s not a sub­sti­tute for word of mouth and face-to-face in­ter­ac­tion with our clients, es­pe­cially in the be­spoke suit business.

Where do you see your business in the next five years? We’re ex­cited about turn­ing our small stu­dio into our first flag­ship Raphaël Mukendi African Be­spoke store. We also hope to grow it with re­gard to the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket so that we can in­crease our em­ployee base and help de­velop SA’s econ­omy.

RI­CARDO DA MATTA, CO-FOUNDER AND DI­REC­TOR: TAILOR ME

If you could go back and tell your­self one thing be­fore be­gin­ning your ca­reer, what would it be? Start sooner! It’s al­ways daunt­ing to step out of your com­fort zone and start some­thing new and ex­cit­ing. Tailor Me started from a per­sonal need to find suits that ac­tu­ally fit­ted us. Com­ing from a cor­po­rate back­ground, I re­alised that the off-the-rack suits we were buy­ing couldn’t pro­vide the per­son­alised fit we were af­ter. This need cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity.

How has the fash­ion in­dus­try changed since you en­tered it? The space in which we op­er­ate is vastly dif­fer­ent from when we started five years ago, as now more of the pub­lic are ed­u­cated in made-to-mea­sure suits. They’re no longer re­stricted to high-end tai­lors.

What was your big­gest fear when start­ing your store? Fail­ure. No-one likes to see some­thing they’ve started nose-dive a few months or years later. The big­gest les­son we’ve learnt is that if you’re not pas­sion­ate about what you’re do­ing, don’t bother. Ev­ery­one sees the growth and suc­cess of a com­pany from the out­side; it looks so glam­orous and easy. What they don’t see are the hard toil and speed bumps that have been en­coun­tered along the way.

What ad­vice would you give to young de­sign­ers just start­ing out in the in­dus­try? Make sure that what­ever you put out to the pub­lic is a true rep­re­sen­ta­tion of your brand. Your best learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties come from your big­gest chal­lenges, not your suc­cesses (although those are nice, too!). If you make a bad de­ci­sion, take it on the chin and keep mov­ing for­ward. Also, fo­cus on achiev­ing suc­cess, not wealth.

What role does so­cial me­dia play in business?

A mas­sive one! So­cial me­dia is the most im­por­tant means we have of show­cas­ing our suits. We spend a lot of time and ef­fort on en­sur­ing that what­ever we post is en­gag­ing.

Where do you see your business in the next five years? If all goes to plan, we’ll have fi­nalised our branches in Pre­to­ria, Cape Town and Dur­ban and ex­panded into Africa.

ANDILE “SCOTCHISDOPE” CELE, FOUNDER & CRE­ATIVE DI­REC­TOR: DE­SIGNER ORIG­I­NAL PROD­UCT ENTERPRISE (DOPE)

If you could go back and tell your­self one thing be­fore be­gin­ning your ca­reer, what would it be? Work hard and don’t panic – ev­ery­thing will be al­right.

How has the fash­ion in­dus­try changed since you en­tered it? Ev­ery­thing moves very quickly these days, es­pe­cially be­cause of so­cial me­dia’s in­flu­ence on the con­sumer’s pur­chas­ing de­ci­sion. This also re­ally helps me with my own de­ci­sion-mak­ing about which projects to get in­volved with. Work­ing for my own brand puts me in a great po­si­tion to grow and in­flu­ence trends.

What was your big­gest fear when start­ing your store? Not know­ing what the out­come would be and hav­ing to write my own blue­print. I had ex­pe­ri­ence from work­ing over­seas, but that didn’t pre­pare me enough. How­ever, over the years I’ve been very lucky and been on some re­ally great business pro­grammes like JB Hive, which have helped al­lay some of my con­cerns.

What ad­vice would you give to young de­sign­ers just start­ing out in the in­dus­try? Per­se­vere and don’t let any­one tell you it’s im­pos­si­ble.

What role does so­cial me­dia play in business? A very huge one, but there’s more room to grow. We still have to find a way of turn­ing cus­tomer in­ter­ac­tions into ac­tual sales and prop­erly mea­sure how much “likes” in­flu­ence buy­ing pat­terns.

Where do you see your business in the next five years? Global, global, global!

DI­DIER DE VIL­LIERS, DE­SIGN DI­REC­TOR: MAGENTS

If you could go back and tell your­self one thing be­fore be­gin­ning your ca­reer, what would it be? What isn’t in­side can’t come out. Fill your in­ner be­ing with ex­cel­lence, as ev­ery­thing flows out of what’s within you.

How has the fash­ion in­dus­try changed since you en­tered it? There were no African brands, no African Fash­ion Weeks and no African con­fi­dence, but an amaz­ing shift is hap­pen­ing and I feel hon­oured to be a part of it.

What was your big­gest fear when start­ing your store? I just told my­self that if I was go­ing to fail, I’d bet­ter fail big, or it was a com­plete waste of time!

What ad­vice would you give to young de­sign­ers just start­ing out in the in­dus­try? Ask your­self what your most pow­er­ful weapon is as a de­signer. Your in­ner li­brary has to be full and con­stantly chang­ing. Get to know your DNA and don’t be afraid to ap­ply it, or you’ll end up copy­ing oth­ers. And be pa­tient: in this game, it can take 10-15 years to achieve suc­cess.

What role does so­cial me­dia play in business? Per­son­ally, I to­tally suck at it, but we’ve been putting a beau­ti­ful squad to­gether, which is cru­cial in any business.

Where do you see your business in the next five years? We’ll be in three main dis­tri­bu­tion re­gions – Asia, Ger­many and the USA – with a su­per-slick on­line chan­nel that will ig­nite Africa and the rest of the world.

RAPHAEL WEARS A SUIT, R6 000, A SHIRT, R1 500 AND A POCKET SQUARE, R200, ALL RAPHAEL TAI­LORS. SHOES, R3 390, EUROPA ART SHOES. WATCH, RAPHAEL’S OWNALEX WEARS A SUIT, R8 000 AND A SHIRT, R1 500, BOTH RAPHAEL TAI­LORS. TIE, R499, TM LEWIN. SHOES AND WATCH, BOTH ALEX’S OWN

SHIRT, R380, MARKHAM CARDI­GAN, R999, TM LEWIN BLAZER, R2 999, TOP­MAN POCKET SQUARE, R599, TM LEWIN SNEAK­ERS, R1 099, STEVE MAD­DEN

RI­CARDO WEARS A SUIT, R7 500, A WAISTCOAT, R1 800, A SHIRT, R1 550 AND SHOES, R3 500, ALL TAILOR ME

SHIRT, R1 025, KURT GEIGER JACKET, R2 699, TOP­MAN PANTS, R499, TOP­MAN SHOES, R1 599, STEVE MAD­DEN BOW-TIE, R499, TM LEWIN

ANDILE WEARS A JERSEY BY BRENT­WOOD, R1 500, A TUR­TLE-NECK TOP BY BRENT­WOOD, R900, PANTS BY BRENT­WOOD, R1 200 AND SHOES BY SAMSON, R1 400, ALL DOPE

SHIRT, R2 299, CALVIN KLEIN CARDI­GAN, R2 999, CALVIN KLEIN PANTS, R799, CALVIN KLEIN SHOES, R799, CALL IT SPRING

DI­DIER WEARS A JACKET, R3 999, A T-SHIRT, R499, DENIM JEANS, R1 100 AND ACHUZE SNEAK­ERS, R1 699, ALL MAGENTS

SHIRT, R2 299, CALVIN KLEIN JACKET, R1 999, CALVIN KLEIN SHOES, R1 699, DUNE OF LON­DON SCARF, R369, TOP­MANPOCKET SQUARE, R599, TM LEWIN

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