African designers are beginning to go global gradually. In a competitive fashion, design, and clothing market, it’s not easy. But many are making headway. In this encounter with Sheila Garcia, South African designer Ayanda Hans shares her experience.
Cape Town is one of the most multicultural cities on the African continent. Anyone who has been there can tell that despite its bad reputation for having a high rate of crime, it’s an incredible city that reeks of diversity and creativity everywhere.
I met Ayanda Hans, the executive and creative director of Imveli Designs, back in 2016, when I was working as a travel guide, in one of those cool & arty pop-up stores close to the waterfront. There was a fashion exhibition with multiple emerging South African brands. They were selling pretty much everything including African wax fabrics, bio skincare, and jewelry.
Imveli captivated me by the simplicity of the patterns and its colors. Three-quarter sleeve long dresses made of uBhaco, pleated pants, and colorful turbans are among its most popular items.
“The brand started in 2015, but it didn’t officially register until 2016 when I was working at one of the waterfront clothing shops. As I always wanted to be in the fashion industry, I pushed myself to work as a store manager,” said Ayanda.
She continued: “I learned a lot from that experience and I became more interested in designing for myself. As you can imagine, the process wasn’t easy. I started buying original fabrics a bit different from the classic wax. I did the patterns and the tailor worked on the sewing. People started to love what I was doing because they identified very well with the concept of the brand, which is traditional Khosa clothing for everyday wear.”
Apart from collaborating with other fashion designers and attending fashion events, Ayanda has developed a new approach to her brand: sewing workshops for women. According to her, “the idea is to teach women from all ages the art of designing and sewing. Besides, having other inputs from the trainees also helps me with new ideas and with clothing production.”
The former Crawford student believes that the most important thing in her work is the love and the detail she puts into every item.
“It’s important to be different. There are a lot of wax fabric designs that are great, however, some of them are lacking the small details that make clothes unforgettable, such as a beautiful pattern, and the usage of quality materials that generates a feeling of a polished finish. We need to perform excellency to be able to sell abroad,” the designer explains.
Indeed, African fashion designers face huge challenges to enter the International market, one of them being the lack of international exposure by leading fashion magazines such as Vogue, Elle, etc.
Chinese domination of the textile industry and the large minimum order sizes is also an issue, not to mention the lack of business skills that it would require to take a small brand to a profitable company that would be sustainable in the long term.
Nevertheless, Ayanda is very optimistic regarding the future of Imveli
“Being on social media has helped me a lot to develop my business. Having people from all over the world demanding my clothes is awesome. With nearly 900 million potential clients, the worst thing I could do is to complain”