Lox­ion Kulca is gear­ing up to take back the streets

Sowetan - - BUSINESS NEWS - Lindile Si­file

PIRACY and the death of a busi­ness part­ner al­most squeezed the life out of Lox­ion Kulca – the once-thriv­ing em­pire and fash­ion au­thor­ity of South Africa’s street wear.

The Kwaito chic street gear, which is the brain­child of Jo­han­nes­burg en­trepreneurs Wandi Nz­i­mande and Sech­aba Mo­gale, used to be the talk of the town in the early 2000s.

It was syn­ony­mous with ur­ban street cul­ture. It spon­sored more than 20 lo­cal movies and more than 100 mu­sic videos in its prime while net­ting an an­nual turnover of R80-mil­lion – a rare feat for a South African cloth­ing brand at the time.

“At some stage this brand be­came big­ger than us. It had a dif­fer­ent mean­ing to dif­fer­ent peo­ple. To us it was a means to an end while to some peo­ple it gave them be­lief and oth­ers cre­ated mu­sic with it. Some peo­ple even thought we were a po­lit­i­cal party,” Nz­i­mande said.

How­ever, the hype sur­round­ing Lox­ion Kulcha soon faded and its mer­chan­dise is hard to find on shelves.

Nz­i­mande would not say how much it is mak­ing now.

“We cut back on me­dia ex­po­sure. We re­alised that we had cre­ated so much de­mand,” he said.

“With great de­mand comes great sup­ply and if you can’t sup­ply, other peo­ple will sup­ply for you. In this case we had a lot of fake mer­chan­dise that went [onto] the streets. We then took a de­ci­sion to spon­sor less artists, spend less on events and ad­ver­tis­ing. I also stopped do­ing in­ter­views. I felt like there was no story to tell; we were just glo­ri­fied tai­lors.”

Nz­i­mande said piracy also led to the col­lapse of their head­wear divi­sion, the main prof­it­mak­ing unit, which sold more than 200 000 hats an­nu­ally.

“It was not be­cause peo­ple didn’t like us. We al­ways saw peo­ple wear­ing fake hats in the streets. At one stage there was R10-mil­lion worth of fake Lox­ion Kulca goods at any given time be­ing sold in the streets. That re­ally killed our busi­ness; the honeymoon phase was over.”

In 1999 Nz­i­mande and Mo­gale part­nered with cloth­ing fran­chiser Brian Abra­hams, who also loaned them R2 000 as start-up cap­i­tal.

Abra­hams died in a mo­tor­bike ac­ci­dent in 2003 and this was fol­lowed by Mo­gale’s sud­den res­ig­na­tion from the com­pany. This was a big set­back for the brand.

“I lost in­spi­ra­tion. Brian wasn’t just a part­ner, he was a men­tor... Sech­aba wanted to grow else­where and to fo­cus on his fam­ily. I took it badly.”

Nz­i­mande is now re­vamp­ing the brand, mov­ing away from the mass mar­ket and sup­ply­ing in­de­pen­dent stores. He will also launch an on­line store soon.

“If you can’t sup­ply, other peo­ple will sup­ply for you

PHOTO: AN­TO­NIO MUCHAVE

NEW BE­GIN­NINGS: Wandi Nz­i­mande, co-founder of Lox­ion Kulca

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