“To say this is only about clothing would be short-sighted,” says Mpumelelo “Frypan” Mfula. “It’s about more than that; it’s about moving from just consuming to actually owning the things we create.” Mpumelelo (25) is a Jo’burg-based politics graduate and entrepreneur who, by his own admission, has “never been interested in formal employment because there’s a greater mission to be fulfilled”. What he wanted was to open a store that would marry his love for fashion and his desire for self-employment. Mpumelelo had long grown weary of the dominance of international clothing brands at the expense of local products. So he founded Returning Home to Create (RHTC) in 2012: an online store selling clothes of emerging South African designers.
“There aren’t enough retail stores that exclusively house locally produced streetwear brands. That’s what RHTC does.” The online store — with a combined Twitter, Facebook and Instagram following of close to 6000 — uses its social feeds to promote the clothing while also selling at pop-up events. “I negotiate a selling price with the brand and we work out how much commission I get off each sale.” Mpumelelo only stocks a limited amount of each product, which gives his customers exclusivity.
Since being founded, the online store has worked with emerging fashion labels such as Kreative Beings, Retrofontein, S.W.A.N.K and Uniconz (pronounced Unique Icons) while also occasionally selling clothing from more established brands, such as Gareth Cowden’s Babatunde and Thesis Lifestyle (most popularly known for its bucket hat, now a ubiquitous fashion accessory across South Africa). His site now also sells Casio watches — the only international brand on his catalogue — due to the high demand from his customers. Mpumelelo says he’s always open to working with other brands and stresses the importance of collaboration between small businesses. “Ideally, what I’d like to see happen, is a sort of eco-system that works to benefit small businesses. Because we don’t have as many resources as big businesses, we should be leveraging off each other’s expertise.”
Recently, Mpumelelo has broadened his work beyond fashion. Since the start of the year, he’s been hosting monthly workshops with experts in different creative disciplines. It’s primarily to break down the barrier between aspiring creative practitioners and their established counterparts but also to present the creative industry as a viable employment option. Jamal Nxedlana, Khanya Sibiya and Bianca Miles Sibiya – who founded popular fashion labels MissShape and Punk and Ivy, respectively – gave a talk on the business of streetwear, recently, while internationally-acclaimed genre-bending musician Okmalumkoolkat spoke on the music business. “The sessions were initially targeted at high school kids but they’re pretty much open to anyone. They’re a space where we present the creative industry as an alternative to a regular nine-to-five. The response has been great and the people we’ve featured as panelists provided really valuable insight into their different disciplines.” The last workshop is set to take place next month.
To find out more about RHTC, head here
This post was originally published at the Red Bull Amaphiko website.