Fashion entrepreneur Refiloe Mocwa on bringing positive change to the SA fashion industry

Refiloe Mocwa
Refiloe Mocwa
  • Award-winning fashion designer Refiloe Mocwa is determined to bring change to the South African fashion industry.
  • Through her agency, HODA, Refiloe helps emerging designers by connecting them to buyers, retail, boutique and online stores.
  • The Free State-born designer chats to us about her passion for helping upcoming designers and the importance of sustainable fashion.

According to a study published on Twyg, the South African fashion industry contributes at least R1 billion towards the country's GDP and creates approximately 11 000 jobs each year. However, a lot of emerging fashion designers still find it difficult to penetrate the industry and get their products seen and sold at major retailers.

To help solve this problem, award-winning designer Refiloe Mocwa started the House of Designers Agency (HODA), which is a fashion agency that works with startups and established brands to connect them with buyers, retail, boutique and online stores.

“This working relationship also develops key entrepreneurial skills that are necessary in the design industry. We work closely with each collection to identify the right outlet for each brand within the South African market,” she tells TRUELOVE.

Photo: Supplied to TRUELOVE.

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The fashion entrepreneur, who hails from Bloemfontein in the Free State, chats to us about her passion for helping upcoming designers, what inspires her designs and more.

Why did you decide to start this agency and where would you say your passion for assisting startup businesses began?

HODA was started with a realisation that fashion, as much as it is one of the economic contributors that create a majority of jobs, is still one of the looked down upon industries. There is little to no effort being put towards its growth. With HODA, we hope to bridge the gap that many startup fashion designers feel as they attempt to jump over to making their brands noticeable across the country and even beyond.

Please tell us about your journey in fashion, when did you discover that this is something you wanted to do?

I was always passionate about the fashion industry from a young age. I grew up surrounded by fashionable people. I am quite creative at heart and I knew with all my heart that I would want to be in the fashion industry.

My journey into the fashion industry started way back before I started venturing more into fashion entrepreneurship. I had two taxis that I eventually sold to go to study fashion and knew deep down that I had to do more hence I ventured into entrepreneurship to make an impact in my community.

What would you say inspires your designs?

My style of design is inspired by different things. From nature, buildings, sometimes even what I’m going through - so, emotions also play a big part. My target market is women aged 25- 60. I design for mature women who are in the middle to upper class.

How do you ensure that your designs are relevant in the ever-changing world of fashion?

I stick to my lane as much as possible. People are forever hungry for those pieces or garments that are unique. I also believe that Refiloe Mocwathe brand, stays relevant by offering unique and timeless garments that can beat the strides of time when it comes to being stylish.

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Did you get any formal training in fashion, if so from where?

I studied fashion design at Victoria Toma fashion institute, where I completed a three-year course in fashion designing.

How would you say formally studying fashion contributes to the success of a career in the fashion industry?

To be successful in the fashion industry, you would need a combination of both passion and education. The fashion industry can prove to be a very tough space to operate in. Without the knowledge of the ins and outs of the industry from training, it could potentially take you two or three folds harder to figure out something that some of your designer peers can figure out at the snap of a finger, which makes the education and training part important.

Passion also plays a significant role and cannot be ignored. The journey to becoming a recognised fashion designer is not smooth sailing, some days are dark and during those kinds of days, you need passion that you can use as a candle to navigate through the darkness.

Photo: Supplied to TRUELOVE.

Coming from Bloemfontein, how hard would you say it was for you to break into the mainstream fashion industry?

It's not easy at all. The fashion industry is still viewed as a mundane industry with no impact. Even getting funding that other industries are getting is quite impossible in the Free State region.

What are your thoughts on sustainable fashion and how do you incorporate that into your garments?

Sustainable fashion is a necessity. It's not really helpful to wear fabulous clothing that has dire consequences to our lives and surroundings or environment. We incorporate it in our garments by producing quality clothes using environmentally friendly materials that enable people not to buy clothes as frequently as possible.

What does the near future look like for fashion entrepreneur Refiloe Mocwa?

As a designer, I would love to see my work get more recognition across the African continent and dressing some of the African - international stars. But I'm also excited and keen to see the growth of HODA.

House Of Designers Agency has a great future, not for us as a company but for the designers as well. What we definitely want to achieve is empowering as many emerging young designers as much as we can by connecting them to the biggest retailers in South Africa. What would be a cherry on top is connecting the fashion designers to opportunities where they can be able to sell their garments in leading boutique stores across the world.

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