- Capetonian Athenkosi Gexa has left his engineering career to follow his dream of becoming a fashion designer.
- The fashionista has already bagged R10 000 for his business pitch.
- He designs all his clothes from the comfort of his bedroom.
A qualified electrical engineer from Philippi, Cape Town, has hung up his helmet and traded in his dusty boots for a sewing machine because the career he studied for has not worked out for him.
According to Athenkosi Gexa, 27, he is finally doing what he loves – designing quality local streetwear.
He told News24 he started studying electrical heavy current engineering at Northlink College in 2015 and graduated three years later, with the hope that he would flourish in his chosen career.
"Working in various engineering companies to make a living so that I could afford to put food on the table for my family was the main priority. Life becomes very challenging when you become the only breadwinner in the house," he said.
Gexa said at his former workplace, he felt an overwhelming "sense of dislike" for the industry.
The bubbly entrepreneur said he decided to quit the industry and venture into his first love – fashion designing. And he hasn't looked back.
"The one positive thing Covid-19 brought about was the willingness to put everything I had into making a success of life. I've always loved making clothes, from a young age. People are always surprised that I know my way around a sewing machine," giggled Gexa.
He said he had asked a friend who was a qualified fashion designer to teach me him how to sew using an industrial sewing machine. According to him, he has also been "stealing with the eye" ever since.
His clothing brand, Truth, was established in November 2020.
"I had borrowed some money from my brother to rent a machine. Three months later, I started to generate enough money to buy my own industrial machines and overlocker, which cost me R6 500, and I started working from my bedroom last year," he said.
He does his own design patterns, grading, cutting, sewing, embellishments, trimming and packaging.
"I am in front of my sewing machine all day, every day. I firmly believe that if you want success, you have to put in the hard work and long hours. It helps that my bed is walking distance from my workspace," he said.
According to the designer, seeing customers wearing his clothes is one of the many pleasures he gets from his job.
With his business kicking off just over a year ago, Gexa has already made his mark in the fashion industry in South Africa.
He recently won a R10 000 cash prize from DoDigi for best business pitch, which he described as "mind-blowing stuff".
"DoDigi is an online learning programme, offered by Dream Factory Foundation, teaching small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) how to run a sustainable business. My sister had told me about the opportunity and gave me the line, and I applied immediately," he added.
The competition was held earlier this year, and participants had to pitch their business ideas for the R10 000 cash prize.
Gexa said his long-term goal was to own a factory and many more sewing machines. Ultimately, he wants to employ people.
"One step at a time. I'll get to where I want to be. I'm in no rush. I took a leap of faith to start this new chapter in my life, and if my clients are happy, then I'm all good," he added.
Due to his determination to succeed, the young entrepreneur has already been nominated for two fashion awards: an Mzansi Arts and Media Award (MAMA) for best fashion designer and a Kadzukuphi Award for best clothing brand.
"I still can't believe that this is my life right now. I wake up every day with more meaning. I hope that my story can inspire so many youngsters to follow their dreams," said Gexa.
The young designer said having been raised by a single parent in the township, he knows first-hand the challenges faced by the youth. He encouraged them to "never give up on your dreams".
His designs can be found at Truth Gexa Creations on Facebook.