[su_quote]I would like people to think of my brand as not just a fashion label, but as a brand that stands firm against the inferiority complex that plagues the African continent. I want my brand to be one that says ʻsuperiority can be born as well as prosper in Africa’…[/su_quote]
[su_frame]Keneilwe Mampuru is the Founder and Head Designer at Kente by Keneilwe, a bespoke fashion design company which she founded in 2008. Keneilwe studied Fashion Design for 2 years, but stuggling to find a job within the fashion industry, she applied for jobs in other fields, and worked for a well known bank for almost 4 years, before leaving to set up Kente by Keneilwe.[/su_frame]
ON GENDER AND CAREER
I struggled with finding a relevant job within the fashion industry after studying fashion design for 2 years. I decided to branch out and apply for jobs in other fields, which is how I ended up working for a well-known bank as a call centre consultant, and later in the small business department. The lack of employment and money to sustain myself and my family influenced my choice then.
ON FOLLOWING YOUR DREAMS
I have always had an artistic streak in me. My passion in fashion began in high school when I would sketch matric dance dresses (Prom Dresses) for my fellow classmates, I would look at their body shapes/sizes and design something that I thought would be suitable for them. At the bank, I was fortunate enough to see how other businesses were run and knew I could also do it too. I also had a handful of clients already and found it strenuous to manage a full time job and the sewing on part-time. And while I was in the small business department, I think this was where I had the greatest urge to leave. I knew that I was not cut out for the financial sector.
ON ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND ITS CHALLENGES
My biggest challenges were thinking that the business I was getting from people was enough; I didn’t know the importance of pricing, financials, time management and I found it hard to motivate myself at first. I sank into a depressed mode as I realised I didn’t have the luxury of a monthly income anymore and that I eventually had to sell my car because I needed to sustain my lifestyle. I would like to encourage young African entrepreneurs in the fashion industry to never be afraid to ask, to seek opportunities, and to look out for educational centres with like-minded people, for example; the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. I also would advise them to have a mentor as starting and sustaining a business of any sort is challenging.
ON INSPIRING YOUNG PEOPLE
The thing that brings me joy is the fact that I get to work with my God-given talents and my passion. I get to manage the times I work and the time I can do other things. I also love that I get to share my story with younger women and make them see that it is possible to be a success even when you work for yourself. South Africa has unemployment issues, so I like that I teach the youth to be entrepreneurial and not wallow in the negative. I would like people to think of my brand as not just a fashion label, but as a brand that stands firm against the inferiority complex that plagues the African continent. I want my brand to be one that says “superiority can be born as well as prosper in Africa”.
ON GENDER AND THE FASHION INDUSTRY
I strongly believe that as women from different sectors, we can motivate and mentor one another so that the leadership of women in the fashion sector can thrive. We also need to be educated in business management too and not only be placed in the production chain. If more and more women stood together, this field could be taken more seriously than being mistaken as a glorified hobby.
ON THE FUTURE FASHION IN AFRICA
The fashion industry in Africa has grown tremendously; I definitely see it becoming mainstream. We already have African designers that have made a mark in the New York and Paris fashion weeks. There are also a lot of designers abroad that are using African print fabrics in their designs. The plans I have for my label include a big fashion show so that my brand can be well known. I also plan on branching out and selling abroad.