How to build your fashion brand

How do you build your Fashion Brand?  “The world of fashion should not be entered into lightly: becoming a fashion designer is a career that chooses you – rather than you choosing it. You’re born with a creative soul, an eye for aesthetic manipulation, and the spirit to pull it all together into a series of garments that turn heads, raise eyebrows, and grab the attention of the people who count,”

Four graduates share what they had learnt during their time under the guidance of experienced designers and their labels, to give other new young designers an insight into how to build their fashion brands.  Meet Khothatso Tsotetsi, Tuelo Nguyuza, Jenevieve Lyons, Rich Mnisi.

Fashion Brand

What was the best business advice you were given during the AFI Fastrack™ and Next Generation programmes?

Khothatso Tsotetsi (KT): Emphasis was placed on the importance of quality, precision and practicality. This shifted my mindset from being over the top avant-garde to creating garments that would sell. This reminded me that I’m running a business at the end of the day.

Tuelo Nguyuza (TN): The best advice I was given was to create a strong brand DNA that is unique to my designs.

Jenevieve Lyons (JL): Never question your design aesthetic, and that it takes time for the industry to grasp a new brand. Keep your relevance and your aesthetic sharply in line.

Jenevieve Lyons (JL): To never hesitate or question your design aesthetic; and that it takes time for the industry to grasp a new brand; keep your relevance and aesthetic sharply inline.

Rich Mnisi (RM): Penetrate the market slowly, so that they get to know you and love you. Don’t focus too much on the ‘now’.

Fashion Brand

What was the best advice about your designs that you were given during the programme?

KT: You have to account for everything you have and every single thing you do – whether it’s your creativity or your finances. Every single cent counts.

TN: Constantly learn more about the business of fashion, and that I am accountable for every decision, and every cent spent and earned, in my business.

JL: You are leader in your business, and you need to eat and survive for the business to exist. If there is no leader, there is no business – therefore you need to price your labour costs strategically to match the industry, in order to build a sustainable business.

RM: Keep doing what you’re doing – your market exists.

Fashion Brand

What advice would you give to young designers?

KT: The quality of your work is the most important part of this craft. Focus on your craft and refine it, and you’re more likely to enjoy success. It’s always wiser to be confident enough in your work that you don’t have to defend it – rather let it speak for itself.

TN: Stay true to your craft, stay original. Never lose the hunger to absorb and learn as much as possible about the business of fashion and the industry at large.

JL: Perseverance and courage are your most important tools – and believing that success is possible wins you half the battle. The fashion industry is cut-throat, you need to stand strong by your brand and design aesthetic. Always remember to stay relevant.

RM: Take your inspiration and transform it into a tangible product that feeds into a sustainable business.

Fashion Brand

Any other words of wisdom?

KT: I strongly believe that your work has to speak for itself. You just provide the moral support to enable its success.

JL: Fashion is a form of expression, so be sure to express who you are from the beginning, and stay true to that. Grow steadily on your aesthetic without hampering your design style.

RM: Marianne Fassler’s wise words come to mind: Don’t live the hype! It’s very easy to get comfortable and cocky, but you have to maintain humility so that you’re always open to knowledge. Everything can constantly be refined.

About the young designers

Khotatso Thotetsi Fashion Brand

Khothatso Tsotetsi is the force behind fashion house Tsotetsi KL Designs and graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology.



Tuela Nguyuza Fashion BrandTuelo Nguyuza is the designer behind Tuelo Nguyuza Collectvz, and is based in Pretoria. He showed his collection created through the programme at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa 2014.




Jenevieve Lyons Fashion BrandJenevieve Lyons’ eponymous brand was first created in 2012, and showed her collection at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Johannesburg 2014.




Rich Mnisi Fashion Brand

Rich Mnisi is the designer behind OATH, a contemporary women’s and men’s fashion brand, and was named AFI Young Designer of the Year at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa 2014.



Article by AFI

African Fashion International (AFI) presents African fashion and creative talent in a manner that makes fashion from the continent globally relevant and ensures that the world has market access to African product and design. Through the organisation’s promotion, curation and support services, AFI ensures that the international community responds positively and commercially to African-designed products that are readily available, unique and on-trend.
Through Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Joburg, Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Cape Town and Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Africa, AFI opens up the continent to commercial projects, both locally and internationally, increasing the geographic spread and market access to the continent’s design equity, fashion apparel, accessories and craft
AFI showcase the best designers from the continent, offering them access to the domestic and international market share, while also growing a platform meant to support the sustainability of the African fashion industry through job creation. AFI also remains committed to growing a new legion of designers through the AFI Fastrack™ and Next Generation programmes. For more information please visit

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