Mr Linen is just a stitch in time

2016-06-09 06:00
 Micheal Mpengesi is a Gugulethu fashion designer who went from being a petrol attendant to starting his own clothing label.  PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

Micheal Mpengesi is a Gugulethu fashion designer who went from being a petrol attendant to starting his own clothing label. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

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Micheal Mpengesi, from Gugulethu, went on from being a shebeen king, a petrol attendant and ultimately to being a fashion designer; proof of the adage that it is never too late to follow one’s dreams.

At the ripe age of 45, Mpengesi is only now starting to make a name for himself as a designer.

Mpengesi runs his own man’s blazer label called Micheal Vintage and dresses the CEO of Cape Town Fashion Council Bryan Ramkiliwan. He also designs women’s dresses for special occasions like graduations and matric balls.

Mpengesi is adamant that despite his succes, it was not always smooth sailing.

“In the late 70’s we moved with my mother from Gugulethu to a small town called Butterworth in the Eastern Cape. I was raised by her alone with my late elder sister. My mother was a seamstress who made clothes which she sold at the markets. I used to watch her work on her machine and I also fell in love with making clothes. I asked her to teach me and that is when my journey began,” he told City Vision.

He said he started by stitching together various clothing items such as combining two t-shirts into one and this turned him into a firm favourite in high school.

“There was a time dungaree jeans were a fashionable item but there weren’t many available in our area. I started alternating jeans and people were crazy over them. That is how I managed to make pocket money for myself,” he reminisced.

Things were going well for him and he was set to finish his matric and chase his dream. He said his dreams were shattered when his mother succumbed to illness and passed away while he was doing matric.

“That just blew the wind out of my sails. It really hurt me as my mother was all that I had as my older sister had died a couple of years before. I didn’t have a good relationship with my father, everything just went south after that. I even failed my matric,” he explained.

After completing his matric in 1992, he moved to Cape Town where he had to find a job to support himself. After failing to find a job, he started an illegal tavern, which proved a tough sell, so he started looking for work.

“I worked in various jobs until I became a petrol attendant in Parow in 1996 and stayed there for six years. All that time I always had love for the textile industry but I needed to survive so I stuck to the job,” said Mpengesi.

He said his turning point came when he received a job as a general worker at a textile factory in 2003.

He got back to designing and producing garments over the weekend, which he sold at the markets.

“In 2006 I did that on a full time basis and was then known as Mr Linen as I sold linen clothing items in town.

To get in touch with Mr Linen contact... or Facebook

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