Why look to Europe for fashion inspiration when South Africa has such a rich story to share?
The world is starting to look to Africa and a local fashion designer believes it is the right time for her to expand her brand.
Neo Rangaka (26) is the owner of Johannesburg-based BLVNK, a range of luxury streetwear. “The brand is all about telling African stories through fashion,” says Rangaka, who holds a degree in fashion design from the Villioti Fashion Institute.
“I started my company back in 2017 while I was still studying. It started off as a consulting company, offering personal styling, custom-made garments, wardrobe consulting and shopping,” she says.
She got her big break when she came across the Design Innovation Challenge hosted by Edcon and Runway Productions in 2018. It is an incubation programme in which designers come up with new concepts and create something out of it.
“I saw this as an opportunity to start a clothing brand, which is something I had always wanted to do but I first needed to acquire the right skills and knowledge. That is how BLVNK was born,” she added.
She has so far managed to hire one permanent employee, who is responsible for marketing. However, she outsources human resources from local places, such as Victoria Yards in Johannesburg, from where her business operates.
“We [at the Victoria Yards] are a number of designers who share space and work together. I bring my designs to the team, which assists in meeting my manufacturing needs,” she says.
She sells her clothes at Victoria Yards as well as via an online platform called Vibe Life Culture.
“My ultimate goal is for the world to buy clothes in South Africa. We all want these well-known international brands. I also love and admire them but South Africa has so much to offer in culture and diversity,” she says.
The Design Innovation Challenge is endorsed by Proudly South African as it helps create employment for young fashion industry professionals.
The initiative enabled Rangaka to showcase her clothes at the South African Fashion Week.
With the help of Proudly South African, she also got an opportunity to erect a pop-up store in Milan, Italy. Although the event has been postponed as a result of the coronavirus, she was among the local designers chosen to showcase their products at the next Buy Local Summit and Expo.
The National Youth Development Agency also assisted her with R10 000 that she used to buy fabric.
For Rangaka, resilience is what keeps her going because she believes talent and connections are not enough to survive in the industry.