Nonkonzo Yekwa, known as Nono from her brand Designs by la Nono, started making clothes at the age of nine for her dolls.
Using the sewing machine belonging to her mother, who is a dressmaker, Nono even made clothes for her friend’s dolls and sold it to them for 10 cents.
Nono graduated last year with a diploma in fashion design from Northlink College.
“At the age of 11 I made a skirt for myself using my mother’s fabric, from there I continued to make clothes and wear them in church. When I was in Grade 12 my sister suggested to my mother that I study fashion design as I was passionate about making clothes,” she said.
Nono said when she was growing up she wanted to be a lawyer because she never knew you could study fashion design. She saw her mother was making clothes but didn’t go to school to learn how to do so.
“When I started my course at Northlink, I used to struggle because many people used to come and make orders even during the exams. Even the place I worked from was a problem as many people didn’t think I could make their clothes in a shack, but they didn’t know I make magic in this shack,” said Nono proudly.
Her design inspiration comes from the things she sees and the people she meets everyday.
“When I was visiting my parents in the Eastern Cape, I saw a rooster chicken and I immediately pictured a dress that looked like the chicken. As soon as I got back to Cape Town, I made that dress,” she said.
Among Nono’s challenges is that she has to finish all her work alone and uses public transport to get all her materials.
Some clients also look down on where she works as it is a small shack.
“I want to see my designs all over the world, but for now I want to work on getting a bigger space that is appealing to people and also central to reach as many people as I can.
I need to get better equipment to work with and I believe that would grow my business,” said Nono.
She has been invited to manyfashion shows to exhibit her work but she has not done a solo show because she feels she needs more preparation.
“Fashion shows open many doors for a designer and you get many orders for people, I can’t afford to get too many orders when I don’t have people working for me and I don’t have a space to work in, I have to be ready first,” she said.