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South African Designer Makes Casual, Trendy Clothes with Military Look
November 23, 2014

“Love what you do. Having a passion for the business can go a long way when overcoming obstacles.”

Four men in vests (LEGION Fashions)

Fashion is a fickle industry, but a designer in KwaMakhutha Township, South Africa, has created an urban, casual and trendy look that she hopes will become fashion cool for young men.

LEGION fashions is a menswear brand based in Durban, South Africa, owned by designer Nandipha Gaelesiwe, a member of the YALI Network. She is getting the company started as she completes a degree in clothing at the Durban University of Technology.

Could you describe your business to the YALI Network?

Gaelesiwe: LEGION produces men’s garments with a military-influenced look, but with a design and fit that set them apart. My motto is “Camouflage is not only for combat.” I want to produce designs that show the versatility of camouflage prints from traditional to modern. I also want a brand influenced by my own experience and by the urban hip-hop lifestyle.

What is distinctive about LEGION products?

Gaelesiwe: The styling and cut of LEGION products are distinctive. The camouflage print represents the brand and sets it apart from other products on the market. The garments break away from a traditional loose fit. They have a tailored style that lies smooth against the body while still maintaining ease of movement.

The South African fashion market has very few locally produced and developed urban brands catering towards the hip-hop community. This is a growing sector in South Africa’s entertainment industry, but most artists are wearing international brands. LEGION aims to promote a South African brand in the hip-hop community.

How close are you to getting there?

Gaelesiwe: I’ve been finishing my degree, learning all the things that are going to help me achieve these goals.

LEGION started as a brand in 2013 with my output based on a custom-order for each client, but I plan to scale up the business soon. I need to find a space with greater production capacity, to give room to all the sewing equipment and workspace necessary. I’m also looking for textile companies that will serve as suppliers of fabric and will custom-design prints for me.

You’re doing online sales now. Do you plan to open a storefront?

Gaelesiwe: Currently, LEGION is selling through social media sites online and also personal selling methods. Future plans are to open storefronts in Durban and Johannesburg. Both of these cities are hubs to my market and are growing fashion capitals in South Africa.

What obstacles have you faced in your startup, and how have you overcome them?

Gaelesiwe: I’m still dealing with these obstacles daily. The biggest issue is finding capital to finance the business. I do not have enough resources at the moment. I’m looking at different avenues of finance that might be available through government assistance and programmes for up-and-coming designers.

Marketing the business as a startup is also challenging. But I’m trying to be proactive, targeting local hip-hop artists to wear my clothing so that it can become more recognized. I’m also finding opportunities to showcase LEGION products at events like hip-hop festivals.

What advice do you offer others wanting to start a business?

  1. Love what you do. Having a passion for the business can go a long way when overcoming obstacles.
  2. Make long-term goals.
  3. Believe in yourself and be open to learn something new.

(LEGION Communications Director Nkosinathi Mkhize, also a member of the YALI Network, contributed to this article.)