Taai Ludidi creating elegance the alternative way
Taai Ludidi creating elegance the alternative way
Hessian, a ready source of inspiration
Hessian, a ready source of inspiration
A red dinner mat fashioned into a trendy ba
A red dinner mat fashioned into a trendy ba
Taai Ludidi creating elegance the alternative way
Taai Ludidi creating elegance the alternative way
DURBAN -  If you’re not happy in your chosen career, it might be time to change direction, writes Liz Clarke

You might start off thinking your career should go a particular way, only to find you have made the wrong choice.

Speak to Taxi Lucida she will tell all about it. Leaving her traditional home in Umtata in the Eastern Cape she settled in KZN studying hotel management at the Durban University of Technology.

"I really thought that working in the hotel sector was going to be my career. I was a good people person and a good learner."

However, there was always that niggling feeling inside her that she might not be entirely suited to a corporate environment.

"I think I was too much of a free spirit," she says. "There was always this creative voice ticking in my head saying that I should be doing something much more creative, making things, putting my artistic ideas into practice."

Today this tall willowy entrepreneur with a model's high cheek-boned face is doing just that, creating fashion and accessories, with a distinctive alternative touch.

"Deciding on this path gave me many sleepless nights" she recalls mid setting up her display stall at one of Durban's busy markets.

"I thought what on earth am I doing turning my back on a steady well paid job to make clothes - when I couldn't thread a needle and had never touched a sewing machine. I think even my family thought I should have continued with my hotel career."

But her creative instincts won the day. With her few savings Ludidi enrolled in a sewing and fashion design course in Durban learning the basics.

"Once I had that knowledge, I bought myself a second hand sewing machine and said to myself 'right girl’ now it's up to you to prove that you have made the right decision."

The first thing she had to do was to think out of box for ideas that would be different, not too expensive, and would attract a wide market.

"I did loads of research on starting your own business and realised that if I was going to be successful I would need to source my fabrics locally and to find the simplest way possible to create my own individual range."

The answer she says was Indian saris.

"The designs are distinctive and beautiful. The saris also come in set lengths and widths and they are made of the finest silks and soft cottons . What I had to do was to convert them to garments that would have a wide appeal, would turn an ordinary outfit into something special, and would be affordable."

A tall order you might say, but when you see the interest from the public, it's obvious she is on the right path. Jewelled coloured light weight cotton ponchos, slip on shrugs that cover the shoulders and arms and convert within seconds to an elegant scarf, light as air tops that can be worn at the beach or over jeans, are all part of her repertoire.
"I love making them. There's no complicated pattern cutting or embroidery additions as the saris are art pieces in themselves. I just need to give them a professional touch, a little twist if you like, seams in the right place and good quality buttons. In a way they make themselves."

Affordable accessories, she says, are a big seller.

"Designer bags, though are hugely expensive and most people haven't got that sort of money."  With that in mind, it was time for the creative juices to get going.
"One of my first bags was one made from some locally sourced grass matting, which was lined with a pale cream silk. Another was made from a red table mat, which was also lined, with the clasp and handles to match."

Ludidi believes that the growing market culture is the way to go for any entrepreneur. 

"Your overheads are not too high and if you have a low selling day it's not such a train smash."  She also believes that entrepreneurs must choose their markets carefully.
"It's no good selling your stuff at a market that doesn't suit the sort of people living in the area. That's why the big out of town markets, which attract a wide spectrum of visitors, are your best bet."

But above all she says, listening to what customers want is key. 

“If someone says I really like that design but not the fabric, you make jolly sure that the next time you make the same garment in a range of fabrics. It works.” 
Ludidi says that her she has plenty of fashion and accessory ideas for the future.   "I am going places that's all I know - so watch out for me!". 

BUSINESS REPORT