Designer partners with Chinese company (Botswana Daily News)

| September 6, 2015

With so much vibe in the fashion industry, partnership with other countries to blend the African and Tswana culture is growing.

One of Botswana’s rising fashion designers, Andes Ralontshwane, has found a niche in the market to partner with a Chinese company to manufacture stilettos with a combination of leather and African print. Ralontshwane is not an amateur in the fashion industry. The 33-year-old Moshupa man is one of the first youth to benefit from the then out-of-school grant in 2006.

He started his business in 2005 under credit from Mascot Engineering Company and fortunately government came to his rescue the following year with a grant of P20 000. Through the grant, Mr Ralontshwane managed to acquire machinery, tools and working capital to boost his leather works business, which at that time was only focusing on producing sandals, belts and later added bags and wallets.

He revealed in an interview that, through his outstanding products, he attracted interest from Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority (BEDIA) and he was invited to travel to 15 European countries for benchmarking and making new contacts with potential clients.

Through his passion for success and hunger for results, he went around Botswana to sell his products door to door and the strategy was quite effective. I saw growth in my business with a base of clients ranging from hawkers and boutiques and some from countries like South Africa, Canada and Namibia, he said.

Ralontshwane beams about adopting a marketing strategy of designing and dressing some of the local celebrities such as Afro pop artiste, Skavenger, which he said worked to his advantage. So demanding was his business that he ended up quitting school where he was studying for Interior design in 2008. Unfortunately that was the same year that he had to close down his business due to low returns.

His business resurrected again in 2009 when Moshupa sub-council authorities promised to buy 150 pairs of school shoes from him but after manufacturing them he received bad news that the council was broke. He said beginning of 2010 the council resolved to support him again and they bought 50 pairs but that time he had moved to operate his business at home.

Meanwhile, there are people who always recognise him for his outstanding work. In 2009 he received a Vision 2016 award under the pillar of a prosperous, innovative and productive nation. The following year he was honoured again by the SADC JET vukuzenzela community award which came with R15 000.

In 2011, Local Enterprise Authority (LEA) also recognised him for being the best manufacturer in small and micro medium business. He has been to other African countries to show case his products that include the 2013 Revolutionary Exhibition in Mozambique and Swaziland through the sponsorship of Ministry Of Youth, Sports and Culture. With a trend of growth in design, in 2014 he was invited to an all Africa Leather Fair through Botswana Investment Trading Centre (BITC) to see producers in other countries and meet experts and veterans of the industry.

After the Youth Fund was reviewed in 2013 to be called Youth Development Fund with ultimate increase of funds up to P100 000, he tried his luck and was funded with such.

Ralontshwane has introduced a merging design of leather and African print in shoes. The response from customers is so positive and I intend to go an extra mile in doing stilettos through a Chinese company because they have fast and advanced machinery, he added. He said they are still sorting out some logistics and he promised to deliver the much awaited stilettoes that will target fashionistas.

Currently he manufactures leather bags, mens shoes, ladies pumps and clash bags. He said Batswana should recognise local products and adapt to handy work because it can help boost the economy in times when the white collar job market is saturated.

He said his business has been putting food on the table for the past years and it has allowed him to open up his creativity and innovation. He applauded the government for branding him and believing in his business when it started.

Ralontshwane promised to accelerate the seed the government planted in him by creating more employment. Currently he has employees who work on freelance basis depending on the workload.

Category: Arts Culture Entertainment

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