JOHANNESBURG - A love for African fabrics and designs has led to a young entrepreneur starting his own clothing line to celebrate and share his culture and continent with the world.
Siphumelelo “Phat Sii” Kwinana, who lives in the multicultural and vibrant Rosebank suburb in Johannesburg, started his clothing brand Styles by Phat Sii in 2015.
This was at a time when he was still studying towards his qualification in electrical (heavy current) engineering at the Central Johannesburg College.
Kwinana, 24, whose 9am - 5pm job at rail transport company Bombardier Transportation includes designing and manufacturing locomotives, says he has found his true passion in clothing.
“The aim of the brand is to link urban culture wear with our own African street style,” he says.
“We can’t run away from the fact that we love urban lifestyle and culture, so the idea was to merge that with African culture because what I’ve observed is that us Africans don’t celebrate our own fabrics and styles, we are obsessed with European culture.”
Kwinana says because he has a day job he focuses on his business from 6pm until late. “I have no time to go out, even on weekends.”
Styles by Phat Sii has a pop up store in the gentrified Maboneng Precinct in Johannesburg. Their range, which include t-shirts, hoodies, jackets and pants, are also sold online.
“We are working on opening another branch in the Newtown Junction Mall by June this year.”
Kwinana maintains that the business has grown exponentially as customers have taken a liking to his brand and the message he wants to convey through it.
“Business has grown so much such that I’m contemplating leaving my day job so that I can focus on my business on a full time basis. Look, I’m not bragging but my sales grew by 40 percent from the previous month alone. That’s really inspiring stuff,” he says.
He says the impact his clothing label has made is huge. “We are celebrating Africa through this brand. The demand is very high for our jackets and hoodies because they speak directly to our clients.”
Kwinana says another positive for him was that 10 percent of each item sold goes towards his community uplift programmes.
“We have initiatives such as the Back to School drive where we collect stationery and distribute it to local schools especially those in the township areas,” he says.
“We don’t just want to make some profit and go home. But we want to motivate and inspire other young people out there to follow their dreams.”
Kwinana, who is originally from Aliwal North in Eastern Cape, says: “I’ve got clients throughout South Africa. The long term plan now is to grow the company and establish it throughout the world. Globally. In the near future. We will start by penetrating the African market first. On the side, I’m also busy building a brand marketing company called Phat Sii Holdings.”
He says knitwear designer and MaXhosa by Laduma founder, Laduma Ngxokolo, is the biggest inspiration behind his creations.
“He is one of the guys that’s been inspiring me a lot. He really bridged the gap for me to actually see that it really is possible to do achieve your dreams. I mean, if Zara can steal his ideas it means he has a big influence.”
Kwinana stresses that the core message his brand is propagating pertains to the image of Africa and its inhabitants.
“How do we want to be viewed? What are our intentions as Africans?” he says.
The entrepreneur notes that people like to “bitch and moan” about what government owes them while close to nothing to change their lot in life.
He advises those wanting to start on their own entrepreneurial journeys to seek mentorship.
“It’s through constant guidance that you can really understand what you are doing and where you are heading to,” he says.
“You have to always be true to yourself. Nothing is really impossible, I believe. It all starts with your attitude and how you present yourself to people.”
- BUSINESS REPORT