We are excited to be profiling a brand that has intensely grown into a renowned household empire Fashion Dash Couture. Behind this powerhouse is the buoyant Mbali Nxumalo who hails from the beautiful Kingdom of Eswatini. The founder and owner of this thriving brand has successfully pioneered unconventional ways of trade plugging into the digitized forward moving world. She took us through different paces of what fashion is to her, how she got into this industry as well as picking from her experience to give advice to upcoming designers. Here’s what she had to say:
- Why did you choose fashion designing as a career?
I have always loved fashion. As a little girl, I would make doll figures out of cardboard scraps then design their clothing every day and stick it onto an exercise book so that I could change the doll’s clothing as and when I wanted. That is a memory that returned to me when I felt stuck in my corporate career and now considering other options that I could use to make a living. Fashion for me is a passion business as it is fueled by my love for looking good while being comfortable, so I thought I could share that with the world while building a brand name for myself.
- What’s your favorite part about being a designer?
The freedom that comes with selecting fabric and different designs to go with it and vice versa. The biggest reward is randomly bumping into one of my clients who do not know me personally; seeing someone else confidently wearing something I made, not because they are my friend, but because they actually love it, there’s no greater feeling than that.
3. What is fashion to you?
Classic, timeless and elegant pieces – that is what I want to offer my clients and that is always the thought process behind my work. I want women to look and therefore feel good while all the while being comfortable and rocking a piece that can transcend times and trends.
- What skills are necessary for a successful fashion designer?
Talent and growing your knowledge of fashion and fabrics is key, this is in addition to great customer service and of course knowing the target market that you want to serve. This allows you to focus and not just be influenced by trends that are always changing.
- Tell us the inspiration behind your brand name; Fashion Dash Couture
The name started off as “Dash Couture” then I discovered that at the time the Kardashian sisters had a shop in a similar name and I did not want my brand to disappear in translation so I added the “Fashion” at the beginning to distinguish it. And now it has become an even shorter acronym as now it is popularly known as FDC in conversations.
- Who is your inspiration in the industry; locally and abroad?
I appreciate designers and brands who remain human. I have met a lot of designers (especially those who went to fashion school) and they have a bit of arrogance when they ask about my work because I guess they feel I did not get their qualification so I should not be in this business, which is weird really because the world everywhere is evolving and people are doing all sorts of businesses. With that said, I do love Maxhosa by Laduma pieces (even though they are still above my budget for now, lol). Locally it would be Lubambo designs.
- What sets your brand apart from other existing brands?
The most common review I get from clients is that they love the prints and quality of the fabrics we use, and of course the articulation of our craftsmanship. That, combined with great and consistent customer service plus a vigorous online presence has really helped take my brand to where it is today.
- What has been the most challenging experience since you started your work?
Finding a team with skills better than just knowing how to sew. And also having those people stay on in the business – tailors and seamstresses tend to leave their work place without saying goodbye to try somewhere else, only to be disappointed by the new boss not paying them and then return to my studio. I have had a few of those and it can be so frustrating because when they leave, they leave you with a backlog of work which you had scheduled specifically for them. It can be a mess I tell you, but we live and we learn as we go along.
- You make lovely outfits for people in different styles, what is your typical day-to-day style?
When I do the work run around, I rock gym tights (or jeans) and a t-shirt. Then when I am out and about, I rock my FDC garments which can range from anything between a pants and top set, a short dress, a jumpsuit or a dress for Sunday market days. My primary need is to be comfortable while looking cute, and I think I nail it because each time I am out in an FDC garment I come back home with a new customer list from people who were really blown away by the outfit. So, I often refer to myself as a walkie-talkie advert.
- Your brand has dressed various influential people which is laudable. Who do you aspire to dress locally and beyond the kingdom?
Wow, this is a tricky one. When I think of people I can dress locally, I often wish I could be part of the sponsors for events like Miss Swaziland where the ladies can get an opportunity to showcase the beautiful talent behind the custom-made pieces that we do outside of our normal work. And abroad it would definitely be Bonang – I love her work ethic and ambition more than anything.
- Where do you see Fashion Dash Couture in the next 10 years?
Being an online industry leader. I often get people asking me why we do not have a physical store, but my aspirations revolve around wanting to change the negative stereotype attached to online shopping. I want clients to find in us a brand that they can trust with their money, while also being certain to get a garment that fits the same way that it is promised to. Also, the pandemic has taught us that in order to survive, the future of a lot of work is online and through virtual platforms – that’s what I want for the success of my brand.
- What words of encouragement would you like to give to other aspiring African designers?
1.Take time to study the industry, the business and your target market so that you can position yourself in the best way.
2. Do not forget that business is done with people, not with money, so sharpen your client service skills.
3. Do not just copy someone, add your own taste to your offering, there is always someone looking for the uniqueness that you have to offer.
4. Have fun, only venture into it if it is something you really enjoy doing, otherwise you will just be another number in the long line of clothing vendors.