A self-taught fashion designer, Lindiwe Makhoba from Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal, is gaining a global footprint for her fashion business.
When Makhoba (40) started helping women in her community with dress designs, little did she know that she would later venture permanently into the fashion industry. The women she helped realised her talent and inspired her to start her own fashion label, which she called Unalisa, in 2016. The label is known for its elegant yet simple dresses.
The business initially had only local clients and was not growing. Makhoba approached the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) for assistance. SEDA, an agency of the Department of Small Business Development, provides non-financial business development and support services to SMMEs. Reaching out to SEDA proved to be a turning point for Makhoba.
The agency not only secured her a spot at the Pietermaritzburg Royal Show, but assigned a business advisor to help Unalisa grow, she says.
The Pietermaritzburg show opened many doors, says Makhoba. “I met relevant people and customers liked my fashion taste.”
As a result, after the exhibition, she received an invitation from Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal to be part of its export trade programme.
“They were impressed with my work and I was part of six South African designers who attended London Fashion Week in 2019,” she says.
She has also twice taken part in the Seychelles Fashion Week and is currently preparing for the 2022 London Fashion Week in October.
Before COVID-19, Makhoba applied for and received a R90 000 grant from the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), which provides development finance to SMMEs and co-operatives. She used the money to buy four additional sewing machines, which allowed her to do machine embroidery and overlocking.
She survived COVID-19 by making masks for businesses.
Unalisa employs two women permanently and uses two temporary workers when there are big orders.
Makhoba says she wants to create opportunities for young designers who find it hard to break into the industry. She says she would like to own a design house and assist them to get established.”