Onkgopoleng Kolagano, the winner at the 2012 Entrepreneurial and Cultural Expo (ECPE) fashion show, dubbed ‘Afrolize-Me’, has spoken about the success his relatively small business has experienced courtesy of the exhibition.
“I participated in the fashion show and won the prize for best designer which included an opportunity to attend the Vukani Fashion Awards at the Emperors Palace in South Africa,” said Kolagano, a designer of African inspired fashion attire and leather crafts, ‘Lebang Setso Leather Garments’. “The aim of the annual awards is to stimulate creation and competition of innovative garments that reflect African culture and expose promising and accomplished designers to fashion buyers and consumers both locally and internationally.”
The Vukani Fashion Awards were founded by Sonwabile Nadamse, South Africa’s legendary designer, famous for designing the ‘Madiba Shirts’ worn by former president Nelson Mandela.
Kolagano says attending the fashion awards gave his business unprecedented exposure and he managed to make some important contacts.
“I managed to strike a deal with an African fashion retailer in Rosebank to supply both men and women’s leather hand bags and other leather items. Attending the awards also helped me to discover a niche in the market for household leather interior designs and ornaments,” Kolagano says.
On top of winning the prize to attend the Vukani Awards, Kolagano says the ECPE’s founder and organiser Thandi Phiri sponsored the trip to Johannesburg financially.
“I never had to push anyone for my prizes,” he says.
He encourages young and upcoming designers and entrepreneurs to take part in the annual ECPE to get the necessary exposure and get an opportunity to bench mark with other young business owners.
“The Expo is an interesting event that has a lot of potential. It does not only provide exposure but also presents a very good market to sell your products to the general public and I see it taking us designers very far,” Kolagano says.
He added that the Lebang Setso brand is owned by him and his wife, who he says is the lead designer. The Entrepreneurial and Cultural Pride Expo (ECPE), which was first launched in 2011, is back for the third year running. The three day cultural exhibition event scheduled for August is the brain child of Thandi Phiri, a young entrepreneur whose aim is to facilitate access to markets as well as stimulating growth for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Our view is to allow people to take safe risks, test their product appeal on an affordable platform buzzing with business people, both small and big, who trade in various products and services,” says Phiri.