So… according to Harper's Bazaar's 2020 Fashion Runway trends there's a lot of 70s, 80s and 90s styles coming back. Can you believe bright neon dresses, hot pants and big ‘disco' collars are coming to stores (or online stores) this year?
I lived through those styles and it's just so funny to me to see them come back around again. It's part nostalgia part cringey, feeling like I’m back in school, insecure and trying to fit in. Seems like ages ago and much simpler. No Covid-19, rather the opposite. We were sharing water bottles, hugging, high-fiving, and packing in tons of people at house parties!
This year 2020 is a whole new ballgame for fashionistas to stand out and be unique. Empowering women is the name of the game these days. Women business owners are kicking a$$ and busting through the clutter. It's so much fun and so freeing to choose your own unique style and share it with the world. It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur.
I’m excited and energized to shout out my brand: BOSISI DESIGNS!! What's even cooler is that our brand is making an impact with it's values: gender equality, financial stability, stopping the cycle of poverty, and ethical business practices. Our mission is to help underserved women with an opportunity to work and gain financial stability and independence.
Bosisi started with a creative mind, entrepreneurial spirit and passion to help others. We support women who deserve respect and opportunity. While we lived in South Africa, all the stars began to align and the seed of the business was planted. Here’s the backstory…
There's this amazing place in Johannesburg, South Africa where the Bosisi product 'magic' happens. The place is called Riversands Incubation Hub and that’s where the story begins. There I met two independent fashion designers and women business owners: Vuyo and Kele; and I asked them if they would help me with my production.
What is Riversands Incubation Hub?
It’s a "ground-breaking initiative with the scale to have a real economic impact by supporting small businesses, fostering job creation and alleviating poverty." If you check out their website it goes on to say, "inequality is one of the most pressing global issues and South Africa is the poster child for this crisis.
Riversands Incubation Hub is adjacent to luxury estates and the township of Diepsloot where most residents live in shacks. The comparison is stark.” Riversands is a public-private partnership that encourages black women and men from underserved communities like Diepsloot (more on this in a minute) to create businesses with their resources, space and reduced rates.
It's so true and maddening that the rich are super rich and the poor are disturbingly poor in South Africa and many other countries around the world. My goal during our 2-year stay there was to learn as much as I could about real South African life and make friends with not only the expats but also South African women (both black and white). I'm thrilled that I was able to make really good friends that I continue to have after returning to the US in the summer of 2019.
Some key women have been instrumental in helping and collaborating with me to start up Bosisi. The most important collaborator is Vuyokazi “Vuyo” Nghona, who I mentioned before. She’s a woman who started her own traditional South African fashion brand called InAmi Trading and InAmi Kids. I met Vuyo in March 2019 and she took a chance on me. She allowed me to begin to realize my dream of starting a handbag company and said 'yes' to collaborating with me. Vuyo didn't ask me for my qualifications. She didn't inquire about how much funding I had or what my business plan was or what the long term viability was. She said 'okay' and off we went. I cannot thank Vuyo enough for permitting me the opportunity to follow my dream.
I wish it was that simple for all entrepreneurs or women or people without the "qualifications" on paper that "look" like they might be worthy of saying 'yes' to another person's dream. Starting and running a business from scratch is an uphill battle with one person managing every aspect of each task. But even with that in mind, Vuyo accepted me and added my production to her schedule and she has been so genuine and real to me, even while we're 8,000 miles away from each other. We kicked off the first collection of bags in December 2019 with five different styles and six different vibrant shweshwe fabrics. The joy and excitement I felt to be a REAL business, selling and earning was incredible.
Vuyo has several seamstresses that she’s hired who live primarily in Diepsloot, an informal settlement that is unsafe and unpredictable. Blacks were moved to areas like Diepsloot in order to segregate and control the population during the Apartheid era (1948-1994) and even long before that. Lack of infrastructure: water, electricity, and sanitation coupled with substandard (if even available) education kept its residents poor, uneducated and struggling to survive. Living in Diepsloot often prevents blacks from being able to gain skills and knowledge that employers look for when hiring. Unemployment is rampant and most only get money as part of the government assistance programs. Without work and training opportunities the cycle of poverty has no hope of changing for future generations. Just like Vuyo took a chance on me and gave me an opportunity, Bosisi’s goal is to hire and train women from underserved communities and enable them to gain financial stability and change their trajectory.
Bosisi Designs is a fashion brand. Our bags are handmade in South Africa by underserved women living in Diepsloot. We hire women so they can earn a decent living and provide for themselves and their families and lift themselves out of poverty. Our vision is to change the cycle of poverty one woman at a time. These are lofty goals but I think we can achieve them and grow the company with our strong mission and ultimately to change the lives of many many women.
Fashion trends come and go. I don't know if bellbottoms or platform shoes will come back but I know that women have ideas and want to support each other and cheer their successes. Black women are trendsetters and have a vision that is unique and cool and worthy of an opportunity to share their ideas and products. Bosisi supports women. Our brand stands for equality. We also give back a portion of our profits back to the seamstresses from Diepsloot.
Come learn more about Bosisi, our gorgeous bags and seamstresses, Vuyo, South Africa and what we’re doing to empower underserved women.
Pinterest: Bosisi Designs
Vuyokazi “Vuyo” Nghona
Instagram: @INAMICLASSIC and @inamikids
Riversands Incubation Hub: www.riversandsihub.co.za