5 minutes with Jabulile Gwala, founder of Siko Republik

Jabulile Gwala
Jabulile Gwala

I started Siko Republik just over two years ago with a friend, but currently run it on my own. I grew up an active child who loved sports – you would always find me in the street playing umgusha or amathini. So, landing up with a business that allows me to express my unique sense of fashion in the active world has been a dream.

Starting Siko Republik was a result of frustration. At the time, I was enjoying the gym and loved dressing up for it. But, I was struggling to find clothes that were comfortable, with a Nguni print on them. So, I decided to create something that was tailored for African bodies with a print that represented my tribe. The brand was launched at a major fitness festival in 2018. We received so much love and support from South Africa and beyond, which has turned the dream into a sustainable and profitable business.

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The Siko Republik range is unique because it’s a mixture of modern and traditional roots. It’s a cultured range like no other – it has a lot of African swag, and is suitable for both the gym and street life. The range includes long and short tights, crop tops and trendy jackets. We’ve just launched swimsuits, tennis dresses and skirts to cater for different sporting activities.

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Our brand targets different kinds of women – from fitness fanatics and trendsetters to affluent fashionistas. We are targeting people who love to look fashionable in African-inspired attire. It is young and dynamic while the eye-catching Nguni print draws our community, and we love that!

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I’m inspired by African art at the moment. I’m moved by the stories behind it, and how different artists are redefining how our continent is showcased – African stories by African people. This not only helps me to craft the next phase for the brand, but it inspires me to push and disrupt our storytelling through our pieces, too.

The business is mostly self-funded. A loan from my friend’s mother helped us pay for the initial stock that we needed for the launch, but we paid it off.

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Some of the highlights of the business include seeing the brand come to life and receiving positive feedback. We’ve been invited to amazing platforms like Travel Indaba and Buy Local Summit through the endorsement by Brand South Africa. We’ve also won a few accolades, including one from the Durban Business Fair and the Active Brand to Watch in 2020 Award.

Getting a local manufacturer was so tough that it almost killed the dream. But, I’m glad that we pushed on. Resources and the ability to reach a wider audience is something that we continue to work on.

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My future plans are to use the brand and fashion pieces to tell stories of hope. We wish to use our platform to showcase the diversity of our country and continent at large.