Growing up in a family of creatives planted a seed to turn discarded leather material into ear and neck pieces in a young Nondwe Nyathi 20 years ago - and she has not looked back.
The founder of Indwe Designs, based in Khayelitsha, says when she was a child her brother had a recycling business which created storage boxes from leather and other material.
She saw use for the small cut-out pieces her brother threw away from his creations.
“I would look at the leather cut-outs and think what can I do with this?” she said.
“I grew up in a family where we were taught that there are many ways of making money.
“As long as you can create, you will not lack,” said Nyathi.
Her brother and mother died in 2010, forcing her to navigate life on her own.
She took Mosaic studies in 2014 to enhance her talent and expand her knowledge about art.
While she had been creating her jewellery line since 1998, it was only in 2016 that she decided to expand her craft as a business.
Her colourful and bold character reflects in the pieces she creates.
From earrings to neck pieces and shirt accessories, Nyathi’s designs stand out from ordinary beadwork.
With precision, she stitches each bugle bead onto a piece of leather until a full item of jewellery begins to emerge.
“Each piece I create is a once-off. No two pieces are exactly the same,” she said.
“I create for the woman who is not afraid to stand out. My customer is a unique and vibrant woman,” she says.
Nyathi works as a salesperson during office hours and returns home to work on her business and look after her 12-year-old daughter.
She says it is her passion and respect for her art that enables her to push through long days no matter how tired she might be.
“I am fortunate to have a strong support system, she says of her life partner; her daughter Hlumelo; and her mentor, Nguni-inspired home decor artist Mathokoza Nhlapo.
“She has taught me so much about business and how to build my brand by ensuring consistency in quality and delivery,” Nyathi says, adding women could benefit from supporting one another and sharing knowledge.
Her words are echoed by Angelique Goliath, founder of Fashion by Angi.
For Goliath, a career in finance provided a comfortable life but “did not feed the soul”.
“I have always loved fashion and making something out of nothing,” she said.
She thought she would look for work as a fashion buyer to get her foot in the fashion world door but when that did not work out, she found a way of starting her line.
Cape Town born fashion designer #AngeliqueGoliath talks about following her heart and starting her own fashion label #FashionByAngi in @WeekendArgus on Saturday. The journey has not been easy but creating something out of nothing feeds her soul. Picture by @jongilangaNdama pic.twitter.com/UrRmmXpv8k
She took a sewing course and started by making a maxi skirt.
“I was surprised when a lot of people loved it and asked me to make them skirts as well,” she said.
Today, Fashion by Angi is a growing brand with an expanding footprint.
“I make clothing for the modern African woman. All my designs are African-inspired,” Goliath said.
She said starting a business is not easy because of the many facets that need attention.
“There’s the books, marketing, the actual design work and meeting with clients. But when a client receives their clothing item and they are happy, that is priceless,” she said.
Goliath’s designs speak to her lively and joyful character.
She carefully selects colourful fabric to match the needs of the client for each item she makes.
“I am a woman of faith. I believe that you should do what feeds your soul and everything will be fine,” she said.
One of her long-term goals is to expand her brand and to open a training centre where she will teach women how to make a living in fashion.
“Right now I am doing everything myself but I will soon find someone to assist me and I will teach them what I know,” said Goliath, adding it was her sewing teacher, Liezel Vukasovic, who taught her and inspired her to stay the course.
“When you know, you know.
“Believe in yourself and take the plunge,” she says to anyone with a dream worth pursuing.