Growing up in the northern KwaZulu-Natal village of Ulundi, the idea of creating bags and accessories came from inspiration driven by his love for art.
Coming from a poor background and community, not even his civil engineering qualification from Mangosuthu University of Technology could turn him from his dream and purpose to find something that would create job opportunities for disadvantaged communities.
Founder of Njomstyle, Philani Mhlongo. Picture: supplied.
His long-term vision was to establish the business closer to rural communities, especially where he comes from, to create employment, through sewing projects and hand work, and with Njomstyle Accessories, Mhlongo is starting to live the dream.
Emerging at the local fashion scenes in 2015, Njomstyle Accessories is a brand that manufactures custom-made male accessories needed to crown any outfit with a touch of dapperness.
Wrist band by Njomstyle Accessories. Picture: Supplied.
Since inception over 20 months ago, the accessories brand has seen steady growth, responding to the positive attitude of consumers who have embraced local start-ups who offer personalised twists.
The brand has since then expanded its range - launching bespoke casual and business leather bags for a range of applications to suit the modern gent.
Mhlongo believes the past two years since the launch of the brand has been a test of his character and a big learning curve for him while growing the brand.
Leather bag by Njomstyle. Picture: supplied.
“What started as a hobby and making my outfits stand out turned into making passive income. I attribute the success of the brand to those who believed in my creativity way before the brand was commercialised.
“Many people were looking for opportunities to co-create with us because of our agile nature and ability to interpret their vision, and allowing us to apply creative licence in making the products come to life,” says Mhlongo.
The business employs four people and plans to get more on board in the future as the brand continues to add more products that cater to the personalised needs of its customers.
“All our items are designed to perfection and to clients’ requests. We pride ourselves on this kind of commitment and craftsmanship that goes into each piece we co-create with most of our clients.
“It’s a novel model, which sees clients get involved in the creative journey of their bag or accessories. It arouses a sense of pride in them too,” Mhlongo says.
The rise of social media platforms has also played an important role.