My name is Dumisani Mahlangu founder of Chepa Streetwear, I am the iKasi Original influencer for January 2018. I was born and bred in the dusty streets of Mamelodi West, Pretoria. I started this brand because I love African print, and the idea that I could contribute to writing a different narrative or definition of streetwear intrigued me a lot.
I shared this dream with Candice, who is my wife and business partner. We share many fond memories of what has influenced us over our formative years, from Doc Martins to Fubu, Ellesse and Ama Kip-Kip. We have experienced “street culture” in different ways and the experiences have been unique. We decided to push this brand and let the hustle take control and we have been hustling ever since. We spend most of our time brainstorming, setting up and attending meetings and learning about the clothing industry.Since our brand is fairly new, we try and market our products a lot on social media, and we have recently taken the e-commerce route by having an online store. We also attend a lot of flea markets and functions around Gauteng. We often take our two sons with us to photoshoots and events to expose them to the business and ignite an entrepreneurial spirit in them.
In 1989 Bobby Ruiz founded Tribal Streetwear. His definition of streetwear is: “it’s an expression of what we’ve learned on the street. We learned how to iron our clothes by being on the street. We learned how to cuff our pants. We learned how to rip our shirt. We learned how to dress based on our experience in the streets”. We want to expand on this and write our own story.
Chepa streetwear focuses on promoting African print by making it more hip, urban and desirable by merging it with modern streetwear i.e sneakers, accessories, cap, jeans etc. We believe that, if styled well you can rock African print anywhere and everywhere. We are a young brand who appeal to the smart, sassy and cultured street warrior who recognises that African print apparel can not only be a fashionable garment but a statement. For now, we are producing African print bomber jackets for adults, but are exploring a kids range and other African print apparel as well.
In South Africa, most people wear African print on the 24th of September, (Heritage day), or when they go to “traditional” weddings. Now imagine a South Africa where you see kids and adults wearing African print on a daily basis. This is our dream. To achieve it we have to be innovative with design, quality, and aesthetics as we want to bring African print to the forefront of streetwear.
In our short journey, we have met other inspiring entrepreneurs like Aderonbiculture, who designs and produces African print shoes. We have partnered on a number of projects and continue to market each other’s products. We believe that the more collaborations we can do the more we can grow one another and share information and resources so our textile and fashion industry can thrive.
Bobby Hundreds, founder of “The Hundreds” once said: “streetwear is not just a product but culture”. Through our clothing, we want to celebrate African culture. We want to celebrate the beauty and colour of Africa, where future leaders, doctors, writers, artists, musicians, and architects will be birthed. We know people; and our clients, love contemporary fashion and we don’t want to replace that but want to see more people match/complement contemporary street fashion with our garments and create a new look.
Growing up I never thought I would be running a clothing company. My dad was a businessman and he taught me that nothing ever comes easy. I worked with him on weekends and school holidays. His quiet, stoic nature helped to make him a successful entrepreneur in his own right. I respected my father a lot for that. He never worked for someone else but himself.
My father always told me “If you want something you have to work for it”. He was a very strict man and I learned from a young age that I had to hustle for what I wanted. Between my high school and varsity years, I did a couple of things; I sold sweets, boerewors rolls, Nike Cortez sneakers, I had a gazebo tuckshop, I sold t-shirts, you name it. I knew, from a young age, that there will always be a risk when you start something and I believe that’s why a lot of people never start anything because they are scared to fail. Some people don’t realise that failure is part of the process towards success.
I draw inspiration from my past failures and struggles. As an iKasi Original influencer, I want to encourage South Africans, to take more risks and not give up on their dreams. Don’t be scared to start small or to fail. The key is to pick yourself up, learn from it and keep going. Learn as much as you can by reading books, attending courses and getting a mentor. Work on your dream every day and believe in it like it’s your religion. Eventually, what you desire the most, will manifest.
Online Store: www.chepa.co.za
Written by Dumisani Mahlangu