MOABELO Nzimande is like the tyres he works with. He understands that with a bad attitude, he could never get anywhere just as a flat tyre wouldn’t take you far.
He’s the founder of manufacturing company, African Make which specialises in manufacturing furniture, solely using tyres. Sitting in a container big enough to house a fast food outlet, I chat with the energetic young man in his yard, in Tembisa.
“I wanted to communicate to Africans that, we are no longer just consumers of the world, but we’re giving something back,” says Nzimande. He studied Software Engineering and majored in Business Analysis. “I have an eye for spotting marketing opportunities and being a strategist, coming up with ways of creating something out of nothing.”
During his days at Vaal University, as a way of making money he would hire out hookahs at events, while simultaneously doing events management for campus gigs. When he couldn’t afford to hire a table and chair for his hookahs set-up, he turned to his creativity, creating his own using tyres. “I did research on how I could create my own furniture, I saw people using [gasoline] drums and other various material on the internet. Then I came across a simple design where they used tyres and a rope,” Nzimande says.
Seeing that, he bought himself working equipment-mind you, he had never worked with his hands to create anything. “I did my first design I had seen on the internet. The chair came out okay, compared to what I’m doing now. I was so proud, I had an urge to do better” he says.
From there his love affair with tyres grew, his curiosity pushing him to find out what other people in the world are creating with the material. “I looked at what China, Mozambique, Egypt and other places were doing and what level are they own. From there I started coming up with my own ideas by taking a bit of what they’re doing in China and other parts of the world and mixed it with what I want to accomplish.”
The hustler in him has always been art-inclined but was never the artist himself. He is one of the co-founders of a performance movement in the Vaal during his varsity days, called Back of the Kaff, which gave a platform to rappers and poets. “But I had nothing to give back [to the art]. I wished I could rap, be a poet or paint but I can’t. After creating the chairs, I felt like I was giving back to the creative world.”
After graduation in 2014 he joined an IT company as an intern. “During that time while doing training, you have a lot of free time, sometimes you go to work you’re doing nothing. That’s when I started doing research on how to register a company and I started reading books, and attending entrepreneurial seminars” says the lanky Nzimande.
He says the first book he picked up was Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter’s Rich Dad Poor Dad. “I was also inspired by the guy that wrote Goals, Brian Tracy, a friend in fact gave me his book. I met him when he was in South Africa, at one of his seminars. I even cried there when he was speaking because everything he was talking about I read in the book.”
Nzimande’s passion for his business was reaching boiling point, asking for sick days at work just to attend these and other seminars to better understand the mind of an entrepreneur. “Every time I got back home from work, it would be me and tyres. But it got to a point where I had more to do now at work.”
The pressure of striking a balance between the nine-to-five and the side hustle got to him, added to the pressure of not making as much sales as he would’ve hoped. “I couldn’t get clients and I had the feeling of being a failure. I let go of African Make and told myself I would focus on work.”
A few months during his hiatus from business, a colleague of his came running to him after she had seen an all-tyre furniture set at a company next door, during her lunch break. “She was like ‘woza manje’ and I get there and this company is having a braai, everyone sitting on the chairs. I asked who made them [the furniture] and they said some guy from the street. I was like ‘you’re a company and you bought this?'”
It felt like hell on earth for Nzimande, seeing someone being successful with something he thought wasn’t do-able. “That day, I got home put on my overall and started working on my tyres. I started planning and strategizing.”
He formally registered his company and created his website. He’d leave work late, sometimes sleeping there to print flyers when there was no one around. He was in super saiyan mode now, jotting down ideas of potential clients on his notebook en route to work and people would hire them for a day or two. Which brought in the some money and the needed confidence.
In that time, he built a relationship with the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa (REDISA) who are a tyre depot. He managed to get a 100 tyres from REDISA. “With the number of tyres I got there, I took some of my salary and invested it into getting more material.”
In 2015 his application for the South African Innovative Summit was accepted and Nzimande got to display his work there. “I took everything I had and displayed it there. We created a sitting area at the summit, where people could chill and I got the opportunity to talk about the business.”
As they always say, you never know who’s watching so do your best. Lo behold, someone from First National Bank picked one of the flyers at the summit. “Next thing I got a call from FNB, they wanted to buy two double-seater for their rooftop. That’s when I roped in some of the guys from the hood, who painted Ndebele patterns on the tyres. They loved them,” Nzimande says.
Six months later the bank came knocking at his door again, this time they wanted more chairs for their event but asked Nzimande to donate them since they had already built some rapport with the first deal. They needed the 25 chairs and some tables for the weekend and were supposed to bring them back that Monday but whoever that was supposed to deliver them back got sick on the day.
“So the chairs were chilling there at bank city in Joburg. The employees sat on them during lunch and they were enjoying them. Management was like, ‘everyone’s liking these chairs, can’t we buy them?’ from just giving them for free, I sent them a quote of about 18K and they were like, ‘okay’ ” with his raspy voice, he says in laughter.
This made things simple for African Make to communicate better with corporates this while Nzimande was still holding down his job, but it was different. He became a sponge absorbing the knowledge of running a business from his boss as though he knew, in the back of his mind that he would leave the company at some point. “I made so many mistakes at work. I ended up feeling verbally abused by colleagues and work just became a toxic environment.”
Then a year ago, he did a mistake on a software they were doing for a big client. “When my bosses saw that, I was just tired. Tired of being wrong and just tired of being victimized. I just broke into tears in front of everyone in the office, I said to them ‘If it’s me, this is my exit’ I just took my stuff and left the office.”
Immediately after leaving the building, he felt liberated and at peace. “I remember I got home, I looked at the tyres and said ‘I’m home baby. I worked the whole night. Woke up the next morning and continued working-because I wasn’t going to work anymore.”
It took him a week to make his first chair, five years later and more skilled in the craft of making these, it only takes him just three hours to assemble one. “If we as entrepreneurs masinga qala ama business wethu ekasi, so our employees don’t have to climb taxies and trains to go to work-without the frustration of traffic, trains and waking up too early, we would go far. That’s why abo ngamla ba performa ka ngaka espanin.”
There’s nothing worse than planning an outfit in your head and realizing that the key component of your outfit looks like you just came from digging graves.
Call them what you will, whether it’s iBathu, Kicks, iSpova or whether it’s the classic Takkies. We all love our shoes and let’s admit it, keeping them clean isn’t the easiest thing to do.
It’s a matter of how time consuming the effort of washing them is. But with the new age aesthetic that come with shoes there’s techniques and products that comes with keeping your kicks fresh.
Enter Drop Shoe, the future of premium footwear hygiene. Founded in 2017 by Lethabo Komane in Tembisa, after having washed his older brother’s sneakers over the years and developing a clientele with his brother’s friends Komane saw a gap in an already existing market. Thus Drop Shoes was born and has since grown from strength to strength with only under 2 years in existence.
With limited resources, his passion for business and together with his homies Smash, Banele and Tebza footwear hygiene in Tembisa found a home in Drop Shoe. The guys have really changed the narrative of self employment in the township by not only employing guys from their community but also having young interns during school holidays to teach entrepreneurship to teens.
Drop Shoe has since grown from just a sneaker cleaning outlet to a premium clientele service provider at an affordable price. With the most beautiful and friendly service that makes you feel at home and at ease with leaving your kicks. They also offer shoe repair, backpack and cap washing. With their impeccable work ethic and professionalism Drop Shoe‘s growth potential is exponential. So show your support to the homies and enter them at parties with fresh clean kicks.
As the country’s youth month comes to a close, Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg, will host young people as they celebrate their freedom of expression at three day festival, Basha Uhuru.
In its fifth year running, the festival is guided by the theme, Join the Movement. This is symbolic of what the youth, not only in Soweto but different parts of the country, did in June 1976 through protests against the enforcement of Afrikaans, alongside English, as a compulsory medium of instruction for key subjects in all black schools through the Bantu Education Act of 1953.
Last year’s theme was We the People. These themes, says Exhibition and Events coordinator Gaisang Sathekge, are decided on by a committee that shares ideas on these. “As a constitutional precinct, we have to ensure that these brainstorming sessions are inspired by the objectives that we stand for which are constitutionalism, human rights and democracy.”
The word ‘Basha’ means youth and ‘Uhuru’ translates to freedom. “So the festival is about providing young people with the freedom of artistic expression,” says Sathekge.
Basha Uhuru kicks off on Thursday and runs until Saturday, but Sathekge tells me planning takes place a year in advance. “…to engage stakeholders, forming partnerships and fundraising. The content curation of the festival is the most important element – ensuring that each year we offer an exciting and unique line-up of activities.”
For a second year running, DJ Kenhero will be the Artistic Director of the festival.
True to their style, this year’s line-up is made up of both established and emerging eccentric artists blazing trails in their respective art forms-from poetry, visual art and music. “South Africa has immense artistic talent; most of it is yet to be explored. We believe in developing local talent and contributing the creative economy of South Africa,” Sathekge says. The festival also celebrates food, film as well as design and fashion.
Music generally has the biggest pull at the festival with its two stages. The main one located on Constitutional Square with the nation’s highest court as the backdrop, with the second at the historical Old Fort Parade Ground. Sounds of Freedom, which has in the past drawn over 8 000 youth, will sure do the same this year with a line-up that includes PRO (Kid), Samthing Soweto, spiritual ensemble Sun Xa Experience, Empangeni singer and producer Muzi as well as Skwatta Kamp just to mention a few.
But Sathekge says their team stays informed about what’s happening in the creative scene, so as to provide the best experience of the festival in its entirety through all represented art forms. “Remaining relevant in our programming ensures that we provide meaningful content and that is what draws young people – topical issues and relevance,” she says.
The past few decades the world has been looking at major fashion cities such New York, Milan, Tokyo and Paris for fashion and new trends. Many have never imagined that Africa would be considered the fashion inspiration.
African creativity is currently at the forefront of what is happening in the industry worldwide.
We have reached the point where we realize that it is not only about receiving what we see but share with rest of the world how we see ourselves without being influenced by Western platforms. Although with this success, it is hard to ignore that international brands have been appropriating our cultures and excluding us in the process. According to the South African fashion Handbook “the rest of the world continues to take inspiration from across the continent but Africans aren’t benefiting from the popularization of fashion inspired by our cultural garb”.
This is an alarming issue considering that they take what is ours and they protest that it was originally created by them. In all the digital activism, we are seeing many creatives taking the stand, creating platforms that put us in the right directions to be “on demand”. Whether they are fashion designers, photographers, musicians or creative directors, they are seeing the gap created between Africa and the rest of the world. They are seeing the value of being authentically us and in the word of Trevor Stuurman “giving them what they won’t find on Google”.
Siya Beyile of The Threaded Man has been in the lead when it comes to telling the story of young African men who love fashion, and proving that wearing African brands does not make you any less cooler, but sets the tone of how the rest of the world sees our distinctive taste. From designers such as Laduma Ngxokolo, Rich Mnisi and Chuulap, these designers are not shying away from creating sharp edge designs and custom made African patterns inspired by our cultures.
Not forgetting Kwena Baloyi and Sho Madjozi, who have become the African trendsetters and sure have the world looking at them for inspiration. It is comforting to see that Africa is on its way to become respected in the fashion industry. The more people create, the more we are becoming relevant and showing the diverse talent we have. Africa is on its way to become the leading fashion destination and the world is definitely watching.
It is not a bizarre moment when you see street wear on the runway these days. We are probably in the greatest era of fashion, not only locally but globally as well. Gone are the days when the magazines, the internet and the fashion weeks were filled with luxury brands that most people can’t even afford. Not to say big fashion houses are not relevant anymore. However we are seeing street brands rapidly growing, becoming affordable and importantly becoming luxury.
Virgil Abloh is one street influencer most people can think of when talking about street culture. He has been able to interpret what he was influenced by and putting it in one form which is Off-White, his luxury street label.
But what does street culture mean to young people who grew up in the era of highly accessible skate culture and pop culture. Why is it important for them to wear these brands, even stand in long lines to get their hands on capsule collections?
Our experiences are told via clothing
Every designer before creating a fashion line is inspired by something. It may be what they saw on the net, a certain influential figure or may be inspired by a certain object. In the street movement, this is a great opportunity for designers to open new dialogue and interpret how they see street culture. Wanda Lephoto, a South African influencer turned designer has been able to create collections inspired by his township experiences.
According to The Citizen “In the past five years or so, a fashion avalanche led by a global movement of hipsters, has found its way onto South African streets where youngsters began making statements by putting together clothing ensembles in various ways.”
Many creatives are finding new ways to define their own spaces. Queer individuals are creating their own paths and displaying it in the streets. What remains important is that, designers are changing the status quo. What was important then has been intertwined by many to cater for their needs.
Collaborations between street and luxury brands
We are seeing rise of luxury brands that are collaborating with street designers. A great example of this is the collaboration between Supreme and Louis Vuitton. This collaboration had love-hate relationship with many street fashion lovers. But it speaks to the power of influence and that customers are sort of gearing the fashion movement, they are now clued up with what they want to buy, what they want to see and how they want to wear those clothes. According to GQ Style SA Virgil Abloh described the collaboration as “the modern moment in fashion that existed in our current time”.
The Internet is ruling the fashion scenes
Industry leaders such as Anna Wintour, Grace Coddington to name just a few were spearheading the fashion industry. If a certain trend or brand is on Vogue, then it meant it was cool and luxurious enough to be consumed. But in the past few years, the digital space became the “New Vogue“. Youngsters are interested in the DIY style, and they are the ones who decide which brands they want to wear, it is no longer the decision of industry leaders to determine what is trending at the moment. If young people want to wear oversized jackets and ironic slogan tees inspired by Vetements they will wear them. If they want to wear jeans with flowers, bags with butterflies, inspired by Gucci they will wear them.
It may be possible that street culture has been the “norm” all these years. But the industry generation next that is highlighting its existence and it seems street style, fashion and DIY movement is here to stay. Street wear is what is worn on the street and it’s how real people wear clothes. Whatever is happening on these streets, it is definitely setting a new tone for where fashion is heading.