Funeka Dlamini has always had an eye for the fashionable and the stylish. She has always worn colourful Xhosa clothes, and when travelling to various parts of the country, she would snap up traditional garments from other cultures and wear them with pride.
“People would admire the outfits and stop me in the street to ask where I had got them,” she says.
Others asked her to source outfits for them and the demand sparked the idea for a business.
A successful businesswoman who runs a catering company, Nhlaka Industries, in Durban, Funeka started buying garments from other provinces – tshiVenda from Limpopo, isiMpondo from Bizana, sePedi from Gauteng, Xhosa from Eastern Cape. She sold them from the boot of her car.
“It was hectic,” says this busy wife and mother of two. “I was running around for functions and my clothing business was growing. I decided I needed to have everything in one place, so I found premises.”
She is now the proud director of a spic-and-span new store, FND Classical Collections, in 2 Brentley House, Bulwer Road, Glenwood. Its gleaming parquet floors and ample light do justice to the colourful stock. There are rails of garments, festooned with buttons, braids, ribbons, appliqués, from various cultures, showcasing the beautiful clothing traditions of South Africans.
She will soon be stocking Shangane and seSotho wear.
It also serves an educational purpose.
“People don’t know what kind of clothing other cultures wear,” says Funeka.
“They see women wearing beautiful garments on TV, but don’t know where they come from.”
Her customers, she says, love arriving at an event in an eye-catching outfit from a culture other than their own. And customers are not only of African cultures.
A white tourist recently bought an isiMpondo skirt in cream and black that would be a head-turner wherever she wore it.
Men are not forgotten – trendy Xhosa shirts and Mblaselwa trousers are available, as well as their offshoot, the Mblaselwa dress.
Funeka takes pride in the fact that original fabrics and trimmings are used and accessories and handbags sold in the store are manufactured in South Africa. This year she would like to involve the Departments of Tourism and Arts and Culture.
The sky’s the limit.