Building a fashion brand: Vogue Forces of Fashion

Building a fashion brand: Vogue Forces of Fashion 7-8 July 2021

Building a fashion brand

New founders of fashion brands in South Africa, New York and London were brought together in conversation at the Vogue Forces of Fashion online Summit held on the 7-8 July 2021.

Interviewed by Vogue Editor Chioma Nnadi they were asked to describe what was most important and helpful to them in launching and creating a successful fashion brand.

Designers in the conversation were:

Mr Thebe Magugu, a Johannesburg based, prize-winning designer, and founder in 2016, of Thebe Magugu brand. The brand focuses on education. Past collections include Geology, Home Economics, Gender Studies, and African Studies that draw from Africa’s ‘storied past, complex present, and imagined future’.  

Rosario Dawson and Abrima Erwiah Co-Founders of Studio One Eighty Nine, an artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand and social enterprise. They create sustainable African-inspired content and clothing. Working in partnership with other organisations Studio One Eighty Nine supports various community-led projects in Africa and the US that focus on empowerment, job creation,  education and skills training.

Priya Ahluwalia launched her multi-award-winning brand in 2018. The brand combines elements from the designer’s dual heritage in Nigeria, India, and London. It explores the potential for vintage and surplus clothing by giving existing materials new life through textile techniques and with responsible sourcing and manufacturing methods.

Mrs Yueqi Qi, Founder of Yueqi Qi, her namesake brand in 2019, draws inspiration from traditional Chinese culture and moves it forward using exquisite embroidery, delicate glass-bead work, and beautiful printed fabrics. By continuously innovating and experimenting with traditional craftsmanship and materials, Yueqi Qi hopes to continuously push the boundaries of womenswear culture.

Ownership of a brand

There are many pluses and minuses to being the owner of a brand. Freedom to do what you like also means you need to manage everything yourself. A lot of risks are attributed to the independent designer as there are no financial buffers. Building from scratch needs space to make decisions. Pluses are owing your brand, which provides independence with agility. You can set the pace and redefine your goals.   

One can respond faster and distribute easier, as smaller firms tend to be nearer to production sites. There is, however, the drawback of carrying the responsibility for everything that takes place within the organisation. However, this does have other advantages such as building resilience, providing a wide scope of experience, and being able to use the experience to build resources and the business.  

Financial considerations

Initial financing was an issue for all brand start-ups. The advice was to apply your creativity, building trust with consumers, start small, learn as you go; slow and steady growth is critical. Don’t stress about investment in the beginning just keep working.

Some brands had studied the business models of other organisations that they considered did things well, for example building secure supply chains.

More than just design

Fashion now allows artistry to come together, options are now available that did not exist before.

Be true to yourself. Question whether decisions you make fit your values?

Build your universe – something that stops you in your tracks. Have conviction in what you do. Ask for feedback. Get informed criticism.  

In summary

You need to figure out what your mission is and then have faith in it. The point being that today great fashion ‘isn’t just creative, it says and means something’. Like our esteemed panel ‘impeccable authenticity’ appears to be at the heart of success.  

Tra for now


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