By Motlagae Konyana
Madja Rabin started her fashion design career in 2008. She is inspired by the distinguished texture of ostrich leather and textile elegance of crocodile skin. Majda saw the potential of these inherently African objects to add exquisite detail to leather handbags and belts. This is how her brand Chimpel was born.
What tips can you offer businesswomen looking to start their own fashion/handbag business?
Have a vision for yourself and put it put to the world. Listen to your instincts, persevere as being a women entrepreneur takes lots of guts and stamina.
How would you describe your brand?
Chimpel focuses on classic yet modern shapes, which ensures that each design remains timeless. I experiment with colour and textures, which means each design has its own uniqueness. All my designs have a touch of ostrich or crocodile – this adds character.
Where do you get inspiration from? Are different collections inspired by different things?
I look at all the fashion week runaway collections. This provides me with the inspiration and keeps the brand on trend and current. I also listen to my customers, they give me loads of inspiration.
Why crocodile skin and not any other skin for your luxurious bags?
I prefer using crocodile and ostrich leather because of its texture. The texture provides a very unique feel and richness to each bag designed. I will explore other exotic skins but I prefer using leather that is available within South Africa.
Why is educating South Africans about fashion so important to you?
In South Africa we need to educate our consumer that we can produce fashionable, good quality products that are not mass-produced. We offer a difference to your conventional designer labels. What is important is that the production of these products employs South Africans. It’s important to uplift everyday people’s lives.
What inspired you to start your own business?
I wanted job flexibility which was not really an option in the corporate world and after the birth of my first child I knew that long term I wanted to be with him when he started school. That was my goal and in 2009 when he started Grade R I started full time in my business.
What are you planning on doing with the skills that you have learned from Stitched By Standard Bank Threads?
So so much! At the moment I will be setting up and online shop, which was something I never thought about but after I went through my client segmentation process with Threads I realised how many end customers I have.
What have you learned in the Threads programme so far?
Threads has opened up so many doors and allowed me to approach my business in a different way with “out of the box” thinking. Being an entreprenuer, you’re often excluded with day to day things that is happening around you and this has just opened a new network and allowed me to think about my daily activities differently.