These 16 young designers are sewing their success in Mzansi with their fashion labels



Published Jun 5, 2024


Every year on June 16, South Africa commemorates Youth Day to celebrate the youth of 1976 who started the Soweto Uprising, protesting against the apartheid government that wanted them to be taught at in Afrikaans at township schools.

The protest, which started at Morris Isaacson High School in Jabavu and headed to Orlando, resulted in at least 23 deaths of students, and one of them was Hector Pieterson.

Since then, South Africa marked June 16 as a national holiday to honour those students.

This year, we look at South African designers who are doing exceptionally well in building their brands through innovative designs and creative fashion.

Gugu by Gugu

Owned by Gugu Peteni of the Eastern Cape, Gugu by Gugu is a brand that prides itself on individually crafted designs. The designer who launched the brand in 2020 started her fashion journey when she was eight.

As a twin, she wanted something to help her claim her individuality, and that’s when fashion came into play.

One of our favourite collections from the brand was the “Abantu Ba’kwantu” Spring/Summer 23, which debuted at South African Fashion Week in April 2023.

“This collection pays homage to our ancestors. It brings together two worlds, tradition and global culture. With slow fashion being at the core of our brand, this collection was made using sustainable fibres such as mohair and merino wool yarn and fabrics. All pieces are handmade with thought and intention,” the designer explained.

Abantu Ba’kwantu SS23 by Gugu by Gugu. Picture: Eunice Driver.

Fikile Sokhulu

Owned by Fikile Sokhulu, the namesake brand got into the spotlight in 2018 after being shortlisted as one of the finalists for the New Talent Search.

In 2022, Sokhulu was selected as one of the Fashion Bridges designers who participated in a collaboration between the Italian Embassy in South Africa, Polimoda in Florence, and the Milan Fashion Week facilitated by the SAFW.

Sokhulu is known for creating sustainable fashion for classy individuals.

One of our favourite collections was the “African Daisy” range, which focused on minimalist yet bold fashion.

Fikile Sokhulu latest designs. Picture: Eunice Driver.

The Bam Collective

Founded by Jacques Bam, who has been designing since the age of 9, The Bam Collective is rooted in the deep love for South African liveliness and the exuberance of its people.

Bam rose to prominence in 2018 when he won the SA Fashion Week student competition. Before building a successful brand for himself, he interned for acclaimed South African fashion houses ERRE and Isabel De Villiers.

His Autumn/Winter 23/24 collection titled “Extraterrestrialism” was one of our favourites.

After successfully launching it at SAFW in October last year, the collection was previewed in Milan and Dubai.

The Bam Collective. Picture: Eunice Driver.


Derived from the Sotho word, which means “shack”, Mekhukhu is owned by Botshelo Molete, known for quirky print designs and her love for DIY projects, such as using waste fabrics to create special detailing on her designs.

In 2020, she collaborated with Mr Price as part of the retailer’s “Creative Collab” campaign, where she designed a limited edition collection.

In 2023, she made it to the African Fashion International Fastrack finalists and showcased at the Hollywoodbets Durban July under the “Out of this World” theme.

Pink dress by Mekhukhu. Picture: Instagram.


The brainchild of Xhanti Xabiso Mpu seeks to explore the things he went through in his childhood that many people relate to due to similar experiences.

Through his impeccable designs, Xabiso redefines traditional notions of gender and fashion. One of his best collections was “Is’dyani,” which focused on the transition of Xhosa boys through initiation.

“Is’dyan is a collection I hoped would capture a very significant moment in my life, my return from ulwaluko (amaXhosa initiation) and the journey of de/re-construction that awaited.

“Exploring themes of the abandoning of the old self, assimilating into performative masculinities, navigating a heteronormative society, the intersectionality of identities, and self-acceptance, the collection embraces the metamorphic odyssey of self-discovery,” he explained at the time.

Is’dyan by Xhvnti. Picture: Instagram.

Abantu In Africa

Owned by Thandazani Nofingxana, Abantu is known for highlighting the Xhosa nation through vibrant prints and textiles.

After winning the Mohair Knitting Student competition, Nofingxana has paved the way for himself. In September 2023, he launched his “Abantwana Bomgquba” at the White Show at Milan Fashion Week.

In March this year, he was shortlisted in the Creation Africa early-stage cohort program with 40 other creative cultural businesses, courtesy of the French Institute of South Africa.

Abantu In Africa by Thandazani Nofingxana. Picture: Instagram.


Hailing from Port Elizabeth, Mimangaliso Ndiko has an interesting way of using fashion to describe things that happen in our communities that people are too shy to address like porn.

In his winter 2022 collection, he launched “Px6n," exploring emotionless sexual intercourse through fashion.

“Sex is often associated with adjectives such as love, attraction or connectivity. Porn can be described as a ‘job’ an industry big enough to be synonymous with traditional corporations,” Ndiko explained.

“The concept Px6n is thus translated into clothing from a perspective where sexual desires lack any form of emotional depth and are merely just a ‘hustle,' means to pay the bills.

“Hence the use of sexually appealing corporate silhouettes and a dark colour palette recurring throughout to depict an almost oblivious, emptiness that exists within the concept of sex work where emotional detachment is a norm using an entity ‘sex’ that is perceived to be emotional just as a means to make ends meet.”

Px6n by Sixx6. Picture: Instagram.

Style by Ali

Owned by Alison Versatile, Style by Ali is a streetwear brand that prides itself on sustainable fashion by using recycled materials to make trendy garments.

Versatile recently launched a new collection titled “Echoes of Nature,” which explores the deep emotional resonance of sound.

“This collection was inspired by the earth’s natural hues, where people reconnect with nature and embrace a more natural organic lifestyle with warmth, comfort and steadiness to create a sense of harmony and balance,” he explained.

Style by Ali. Picture: Facebook.

Tshegofatso by Design

Tshegofatso Malefane is a Joburg-based designer whose imagination runs wild, and he interprets that into fashion.

For his latest collection, titled “Frankenstein,” he went for avant-garde. “Frankenstein 24/25 is not just a collection of clothing; it is a declaration of hope and defiance against the forces that seek to silence us.

“It is a beacon of light in the darkness, a reminder that we are not defined by our struggles but by our ability to overcome them," he explained.

Tshegofatso by Design. Picture: Instagram.


Founded by Xolani Magadla and Mawande Mbawuli, the brand is known for creating clothes for everyone, including cool kids. Their A/W 23 collection was robust in colours and exciting prints such as polka dots and zebra prints.

“The collection is inspired by the bold and playful nature of polka dots, which represent the joy and optimism that comes with overcoming adversity.

“Each piece is designed with a mix of bright and bold colours, reflecting the diverse experiences and vibrant personalities of young people who have triumphed over obstacles.

“Throughout the collection, there are nods to the journey of young mothers, with subtle references to motherhood,” explained the designers.

Xolani Mawande. Picture: Vine Imagery.


Loice Dube founded Lo’Ice in 2015 to promote high-street fashion using African culture and heritage. In 2023, she won the first runner-up for best fascinator at the  Hollywoodbets Durban July, where she showcased as one of the AFI Fastrack finalists.

In 2019, she was one of the SA Fashion Week New Talent Search finalists and showcased a collection called “Vuka Bari”.

Some of the details on that collection included handpainted designs to commemorate her late grandmother and Spiritualist Credo Mutwa.

“This piece is called ingcebethu... it honours my late grandmother who made weaved ingcebethu. Ingcebethu is a woven basket also called Ekibo Basket in other African regions.

“We use ingcebethu to plate nuts or dry crop produce. As you can see on the painting, the young lady carrying the ingcebethu / weaved basket on her head,” Dube explained.

Lo’Ice. Picture: Instagram.


Founded by Andiswa Ntombela, Kulcha is a Joburg-based fashion brand that creates outdoor garments with a modern twist.

The designer who graduated from the Stadio School of Fashion recently launched her debut collection, “Kulcha”, inspired by the Safari.

“With inspiration from the WGSN trend Postmodern Safari, we developed this range with a theme that conjures up a new blend of luxury, utility and cultural celebration. With this collection, we aimed to bring a modern twist to outdoor wear, make it look as ‘street’ and edgy as possible,” Ntombela explained.

Kulcha. Picture: Supplied.

R Johannah

The slow fashion brand owned by Rirhandzu Phanga is known for creating trendy garments. Besides making clothes, Phanga is a stylist who has worked on shows like “Young, African and Famous”.

R Johannah. Picture: Instagram.

By Waldo

The brainchild of Rivaldo is popular among celebrities with an eye for trendy fashion. Waldo is known for its distinctive use of recycled denim to make new, stylish garments.

In January this year, Waldo partnered with Levi's to host a workshop centred around denim and upcycling. Linda Mtoba, fond of Waldo, took the brand to LA and wore the gold pants at Rihanna's Fenty Beauty launch last month.

Rivaldo wearing By Waldo. Picture: Instagram.

Enhle Babes Couture

Enhle Gebashe is the founder of Enhle Babes Couture, who launched her brand when she was 11 years old. The multi-award-winning designer is known for creating vibrant clothes for trendy kids with a taste for African fashion.

Enhle Babes Couture. Picture: Instagram.

James Presents

Hailing from Soweto is James Moroeng, the founder of James Presents, who believes that being able to turn a fabric into something wearable is commendable. Moroeng recently launched Back 2 Basics, a collection made from sustainable materials.

James Presents. Picture: Eunice Driver.