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Studio 05 House of Fashion: Cecilia Mungofa

Fashionistas take an innovative approach to education – and revitalise the rag trade in the process.

Juliet Pitman

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Cecilia Mungofa of Studio 5 House of Fashion

South Africa’s clothing industry may be under threat but this was no deterrent to Cecilia Mungofa when she set out to start Studio 05 House of Fashion. “Quite the contrary. It made me want to do something to revive the industry,” says the stylish and statuesque businesswoman. “I knew that the best way to do that was through education, so my vision was to establish an educational institution that would develop the fashion talent of tomorrow.” Cecilia started the company with sons Nashville and Bruno, setting up shop in Rosebank’s vibrant fashion hub, which is home to rag trade icons like Sun Goddess and Stoned Cherrie.

“We started with little more than a room, a few tables and a white board, but what we did have was skills,” says Cecilia, who spent her career in the fashion industry working her way up in afactory from marker to designer. “Bruno came with web design skills and Nashville had been in advertising, so together with my knowledge of fashion, we were good to go,” shesays.

Early years

The initial “marketing campaign” –handing out flyers at traffic lights and running ads in local community newspapers– yielded a small inaugural class of part-time students. “But we quickly realised that we needed to include year-long courses in our offering so that we could be assured of regular monthly fees. To our short courses we added certificate and finally diploma qualifications,” says Cecilia. Doing so allowed the school to cover two bases: the part-time market made up predominantly of older students or those in corporate employment, and the full-time market of young students wanting a fashion career.

Getting the edge

One of the first things parents ask is how long the school has been going for. People want to know that the qualification they are paying for is worth something. A related consideration is whether their qualification will get them a job. Students at Studio 05 can leverage the school’s relationships with top fashion houses to secure internships that provide them with work experience. “We have relationships with both Johannesburg-based fashion weeks, and we organise our own shows to give students a taste for what it takes to conceptualise, design, develop and showcase their own work,” says Cecilia.

A programme called Designer Solutions provides graduates with support, access to facilities and work opportunities.“Many graduates don’t get to follow their dream because they don’t have access to facilities or infrastructure to get going. Designer Solutions allows them to use our facilities and equipment for a very competitive rate. This gives them a chance to get their own operations up and running. And we put them in touch with the local fashion stores with whom we have relationships so that they can gain access to the market,” says Bruno. Studio 05 is also in negotiations with one of South Africa’s biggest clothing retailers. “Graduate designers would be able to pitch their design concepts and then we’d handle the production of the garments in-house as far as possible,” explains Cecilia. Young designers would there by build a portfolio of retail lines while still being free to start their own fashion businesses.

Looking externally

Cecilia’s vision may have started with education, but it’s evolved into something far more holistic. She has a finely-tuned sense of the state of the industry and clear ideas about how it can become a thriving and healthy sector. Where these ideas lead, Studio 05 House of Fashion follows. “One of the biggest problems facing the industry is that the seamstresses who once worked in our factories are nearing retirement age and there’s no one to take their place.

The Department of Labour needs to develop these skills so we’ve partnered with them to be the service provider,”she explains. Studio 05’s fee is paid for out of the National Skills Fund. “But it’s more than an income generator,” says Cecilia, “It means we have access to a much-needed skills base that our graduates can draw on when they start their own fashion businesses.”This macro view, along with the ability to make connections and bridge gaps, can only strengthen the business’s reputation in the industry, establishing the credibility required to become a leader.

  • Studio 05 House of Fashion
  • Player: Cecilia, Bruno and NashvilleMungofa
  • Est2004
  • Contact+2711 447 5552 or www.studio05.co.za

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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