PORT Elizabeth up-and-coming designers have been given the opportunity to showcase and cultivate their fashion mastery talents through a fashion and entrepreneurship training programme. The workshop, a brainchild of local fashion designer, Zola Booi, is aimed at assisting developing Bay fashion designers who have applied for assistance from the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) or the Hope Factory into well-known entrepreneurs.“In our selection criteria, we were searching for 40 candidates between the ages of 20 to 30. These candidates had to be willing to commit to the development of their community for at least five years,” Booi noted. The programme is divided into two segments; the first segment is the Basics in Business Management and the second segment being the Basics in Garment Construction and Knitting.From the platform, the group will go through vigorous training and mentorship where they will be provided with skills to maximise their growth and development. “Coupled with Africa’s heritage and history we believe our province’s skilled and creative fashion designers can become pioneers. The programme is about more than just clothes. It is about job creation and empowerment.”The 24-year-old self-made fashion designer described that the initiative is also his way of ploughing back. “I am very well aware of the hardships one faces when trying to start a business – as I experienced it first-hand, and not having a qualification makes matters even harder.” Booi had to suspend his tertiary studies due to financial constraints. “I was devastated, but I had to keep on going in order to fulfil my dreams. Fashion has always been my first love, so when I couldn’t continue with my studies I decided to start my own fashion business.”Using old sewing machines to make clothing and educating himself through online tutorials his business slowly began to flourish and a year later he was funded with a generous amount of R10 000 by the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), which has helped him growing his business into what it is today. The workshops are expected to run until next year due to fundraising challenges and thereafter a fashion competition among the candidates will be held where the winner will be given the opportunity to work as an assistant designer at Booi’s company. The lucky winner will also receive a bursary from Damelin - a major partner in the programme, to study Fashion Designing and Retail Buying at the Damelin Walmer campus as well as funding from National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) to start his/her own business.“Damelin together with NYDA have been of great support to the programme. I strongly believe that our long term partnership will see a lot of young designers and entrepreneurs benefiting in the long term.”Booi said that the workshop is also a motivation for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to live their dreams in the competitive industry. For info contact Zola Booi on 063 895 7606.