TSHEPO MAHLAPE: FOUNDER - IDEAL WOMAN SA
Creating designs with the mission to make women feel happy and beautiful is the secret sauce behind the brand Ideal Woman SA. When Tshepo, 28, left fashion design school, she wanted to bring some fun back to the often times begrudging task of figuring out what to wear.
Tshepo’s label, Ideal Woman SA, features chic, functional pieces in comfort-driven fabrics. She transformed her passion into a successful business, without any formal business training, by reminding herself not to over think it—a skill that already deserves praise!
Melek Lifestyle had the opportunity to chat with Tshepo in her Centurion, Pretoria studio about the path that led to her career, how she maintains her everything-will-work-out philosophy and why she is committed to making people look and feel happy.
Full Name: Tshepo Magrietta Mehlape
Current Title/Company: Founder – Ideal Woman SA
Educational background: National Diploma in Fashion Design & Technology
What was your first job out of school and how long did you have it?
Post completion of my senior certificate, I went straight into pursuing my dream in fashion.
When did you discover your passion for design?
It was in Grade 12 when I discovered my passion for design. I had an opportunity to attend an art oriented school in my early grades, which helped prepare me for my journey in design. During my final year in high school, I designed my friend and mains dresses for our Matric Dance, then got someone to make them for us. That was a turning point and a confirmation for my passion for designing clothes.
Tell us about the process of starting Ideal Woman. What was your first step and how long did you think about the idea for Ideal Woman before it became a reality?
Ideal Woman SA started when I was still in university studying to be a fashion designer. It all started as a brand called 2Stitches (name inspired by the two most important stitches that I can’t produce a full garment without, and that is straight and over-lock stitch).
Then it was later after graduating that I decided to re-brand, due to the kind of styling I was interested in, then that is when Ideal Woman SA was born. The brand just came to me when I was brainstorming brand names with a friend and it was then that I knew what kind of a brand I wanted to build.
I was looking for something that was going to represent the kind of woman I am and what I stand for in life. I prayed about it for a full 6 months before making it official and I finally registered the brand in March 2016.
“When Jesus Say Yes, Nobody Can Say No”
How did you learn the ins and outs of running a business?
One can never say they know the in’s & out’s of running a business. I am always looking for an opportunity to learn, therefore I push myself to learn from people close to me who are in the same industry and those in different industries with more business experience. That further inspires me to value knowledge and information because I believe it has the power to produce products and provide services.
How do you market your brand and find buyers?
My biggest platform currently is social media and word of mouth. My brand is all about quality and not quantity, thus I always make sure that I put smilies on my client’s faces as they make my brand.
Tell us about your design process? Where do you find design inspiration? How long does it take to design a collection from start to finish?
I am a very open minded person and thus I get inspired by the simplest and beautiful items that I come across on my daily routines. This further spills into my designs.
Each collection is dependent on the amount of garments required and since garment construction is one of my strongest points, putting a collection together is something that I don’t struggle with anymore as I have acquired adequate skills.
You design clothes to make people happy and feel good. Was that always the mission behind your brand? Do you think having a mission helps guide your brand and designs?
Ideal Woman SA is all about creating your ideal self and with this mission I give my clients an opportunity to be creative and this further gives the brand a personal feel to each garment that is produced.
If we had the chance to peek at your schedule, what would an average day look like in the life of Tshepo?
Each day starts with a morning prayer, followed by analysing trends on Fashion channels, social media, which is then followed by going through deadlines and also checking the requirements for each deadline.
I then go to gym. On my way home I usually pass by fabric warehouses. I get home then start producing magic behind the machine and in between tha,t I follow up with clients to confirm their requirements.
What advice do you have for others who want to try to launch a business, whether in fashion or not? Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
When I started learning about the fashion industry, I found myself interested in fashion buying, as I proceeded with my studies, I started understanding the business side of the fashion industry and that's where I developed the entrepreneurial spirit.
My advice to others who want to start a business is to, first find your passion and your (USP) unique selling point and then enhance that into creating your own product.
How do you see the Ideal Woman brand evolving?
The brand is evolving daily through different platforms and our garments are now showcased across Southern Afroican borders. Through different channels we are using, I see Ideal Woman SA conquering in a bigger scale.
What has been the most valuable thing you’ve learned since launching Ideal Woman?
My clients bringing out the creative in me – that’s value right there!
Fashion is a competitive business. How have you overcome obstacles and stayed driven?
Fashion is one of the biggest industries in the world and yes it has its own challenges but the obstacles are there to build us, by bring out the best in us. I take those obstacles as an opportunity to rise above my limitations, stay in my lane and focus on my brand, but most importantly to be uniquely different ftom competitors. That is my competitive edge and it keeps me thriving for greatness.
Many women struggle to turn their passions into careers. What advice would you give them?
Where your heart is, that is where your wealth is!
And finally what advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Work Hard! Play Hard! #ForeverYoung
GETTING TO KNOW TSHEPO
Favourite way to celebrate a career success?
Make sure that the people closest to me are taken care of.
I wish I knew how to...
Play a guitar
Favourite way to spend a day in Gauteng?
Markets are the biggest thing happening right now, if only I could go to all of them tho!
3 things you never leave the house without?
Favourite way to treat yourself?
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?
Bonang Matheba and since I am a lover of Mash, I would probably order it as a main course with a T-bone steak as a side. #HidesFace
Perfect day off?
Laze around the couch and catch up on my favourite series & soapies
FACEBOOK: Ideal Woman SA
INTERVIEW CONDUCTED: Londiwe Nyoka - Living Editor