Young entrepreneurs who are making it possible to buy a South African sneaker, luxury leather bags, and fashion wear that celebrates SA culture
Since 1998 South Africans have been called upon to buy local products. Proudly South African was established in 2001, born out of the 1998 Presidential Job Summit which was convened by the late former President Nelson Mandela to support the buy local campaign. The challenge however is that when it comes to some products there was almost nothing South African to buy. Enter South African young entrepreneurs who are making it possible to buy a South African sneaker, luxury leather bags, and fashion wear that celebrates SA culture. These young South African entrepreneurs are Inga Gubeka, Theo Baloyi, Laduma Ngxokolo, and others.
When Inga Gubeka tweeted -”I’m just a boy from the village of Engqeleni (eastern cape) with a dream that some day my brand will be recognized internationally as one of the best luxury leather goods brand to come out of Africa. watch this space”…
And this is where I started in 2018”, the response was remarkable as he ended up selling the entire range of his luxury leather bags. Finally, South Africans had an alternative to the French and Italian luxury leather bags.
In the Inga Atelier product website, Inga is described as a boy who grew up in an underprivileged and marginalised village in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, where people live below the poverty line and are not exposed to fine things. It goes on to describe him as someone who grew up making wire cars and little clay cows and houses. His background story is similar to so many other young South Africans and yet he rose above those conditions to create a product that is worthy of national recognition. He is not alone, he is part of an unofficial club of young South Africans who are finally developing products that South Africans can finally buy as opposed to buying European and American products with little relevance to them.
Another member of this unofficial group of young local entrepreneurs is Theo Baloyi. He is the young man behind a brand that has been named by Brand Africa as one of 2021’s most admired African brands. According to Theo, one of his motivations is that during his travels he noticed that something was missing – an African Sneaker brand, portraying an authentic African story. As they say, the rest is history and today South Africans can finally feel free to heed the Proudly South African call at least with their sneaker range.
The unofficial club of young entrepreneurs also boasts another award-winning designer, entrepreneur, and creative artist who has elevated homegrown South African fashion to another level, Laduma Ngxokolo the founder of the MaXhosa brand.
When he started, Laduma had a desire to explore knitwear design solutions that would be suitable for amakrwala (Xhosa initiates). His initial vision was to create a modern Xhosa-inspired knitwear collection that would be suitable for this market. As a person who has undergone the process, Laduma felt that he had to develop premium knitwear that celebrates traditional Xhosa aesthetics. His designs capture the hearts of South Africans with their strong cultural links to his own heritage.
The MaXhosa brand is now considered locally as one of the locally developed fashion brands that qualifies as a luxury in the sea of international brands. Through the MaXhosa brand South Africans can now wear a Proudly South African brand with confidence.
Inga Gubeka, Theo Baloyi, and Laduma Ngxokolo are shining stars of young entrepreneurs who made it possible for South Africans to truly embrace the idea of buying local products. What they have achieved is critical for the South African economy and should receive the necessary recognition. The design and quality, which is partly responsible for their success, of products developed by these young entrepreneurs are responsible for their success. South Africa struggles to encourage locals to buy local products as they compete with seemingly better products from other parts of the world. What these young entrepreneurs have done should serve as a case study in developing local products that can be embraced by society. This is important partly because, it is one thing to develop a local product, it is something else to ensure that people can embrace such products over and above other products. South Africa will have to develop more local products if it is to stimulate the local economy. Inga Gubeka, Theo Baloyi, and Laduma Ngxokolo can show the nation how it can be done.