Wearing designer outfits to birthday parties or other celebratory is very popular in South Africa.
According to Dineo Choenyane, fashion designer at Reitu Hand Crafts, she started her business two years ago to service the growing demand for designer outfits for kids and moms. The brand is currently also working on releasing a men’s range.
“It started with a simple headband that I made for my little girl, Reitumetse, hence the name of the business. I shared the picture of my then two-week-old daughter on my WhatsApp status. There was huge interest, and that’s how the business was born in December 2018.”
Choenyane explains that she has two boys, and the birth of her daughter inspired her to become a fashion designer. As the first piece she designed, the headband which looked pretty on Reitumetse.
Reitumetse is a Tswana name loosely translated to ‘we are happy’.
“When the compliments kept coming, followed by, ‘when are you designing more accessories or outfits’ even, I knew it was time to start designing clothes and accessories.”
Another headband soon followed, then she added barefoot sandals to match. Again, she shared this on her WhatsApp status, explaining that the designs were inspired by Reitumetse.
Prior to becoming a fashion designer, Choenyane was a hairdresser, a skill she says fits in well with what she is currently doing.
Although she has always loved trying various hairstyles, she has also always loved fashionable clothes. Yet, far from what she does now, after Matric, she did a Media Course in 2011 at Jeppe College in Johannesburg.
Inspiration and trends
The Pretoria-based fashion designer didn’t have any experience before starting her business. However, she always follows the latest trends.
“I am a naturally creative person, and some of my inspiration comes from my imagination,” Choenyane says.
“My designs are always inspired by the client’s chosen theme for the birthday party or photoshoot. This then informs the fashion design process.”
However, she says, a lot of her time is spent sewing, shopping for fabrics and materials. She also delivers orders to clients who live nearby.
“While doing deliveries, I use this time to market the business. The bulk of my business is really word of mouth, especially mothers, and sometimes fathers too.”
She points out that within the fashion industry, there is huge trend towards sustainability. These include fair and ethical designs, with brands and retailers focusing on personalised experiences to attract and retain customers.
“I personally write notes for my clients’ children when delivering orders. I find that this adds a special touch and helps with building relationships with clients.”
Covid-19 and fashion costs
Like many businesses, Reitu Hand Crafts has not been spared. The lockdown restrictions resulted in clients cancelling big parties. As a result, many celebrations for children are hosted indoors, and often, do not require fashion outfits.
Additionally, she says clients have high fashion design expectations but want to pay less for the finished product. They also tend to place last-minute orders with unrealistic expectations in terms of delivery.
“Funding remains a major challenge. As an entrepreneur, I still don’t have all the necessary equipment, and this is important in growing the business.”
Choenyane points out that most people think that local designers are expensive. “There is a lack of understanding of the design process from start to finish.”
The price of fabrics varies depending on the type, and most of these tend to be pricey. As a result, designer fashion outfits may seem expensive with prices ranging from R400 for kids, and from R800 for adults.
Edited by Gudrun Kaiser