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Fashion entrepreneur Refiloe Mocwa is bringing positive change to the South African fashion industry




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

According to a study published on Twyg, the South African fashion industry contributes at least R1 billion to the country’s GDP and creates around 11,000 jobs every year. However, many emerging fashion designers are still struggling to break into the industry and get their products seen and sold at major retailers.

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

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

Photo: Provided to TRUELOVE.

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

Why did you decide to create this agency and where would you say your passion for supporting startups began?

HODA started with the realization that fashion, despite being one of the economic contributors that creates the majority of jobs, is still one of the most looked down upon industries. There is little or no effort for its growth. With HODA, we hope to bridge the gap that many start-up fashion designers feel as they try to get their brands seen across the country and even beyond.

Tell us about your fashion background, when did you find out it was something you wanted to do?

I have always been passionate about the fashion industry since I was young. I grew up surrounded by fashionable people. I’m pretty creative at heart and I knew with all my heart that I would want to be in the fashion industry.

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

What do you think inspires your creations?

My design style is inspired by different things. Nature, buildings, sometimes even what I experience – so emotions also play a big role. My target market is women between the ages of 25 and 60. I design for mature women who are middle to upper class.

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

I stay in my lane as much as possible. People are always hungry for those unique pieces or garments. I also believe that Refiloe Mocwa, the brand, remains relevant by offering unique and timeless clothing that can beat the clock when it comes to being stylish.

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Have you had any formal training in fashion, if so, where?

I studied Fashion Design at the Victoria Toma Fashion Institute, where I completed a three-year course in Fashion Design.

How would you say the formal study of fashion contributes to the success of a career in the fashion industry?

To succeed in the fashion industry, you would need a combination of passion and education. The fashion industry can prove to be a very difficult space to operate in. Without the knowledge of the ins and outs of the industry through training, it could be potentially two or three times harder for you to figure out something that some of your creative peers can pick up at the snap of a finger, which makes the game important education and training.

Passion also plays an important role and cannot be ignored. The journey to become a successful fashion designer is not easy, some days are dark and during those kind of days you need passion that you can use like a candle to navigate the darkness.

Photo: Provided to TRUELOVE.

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

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

What do you think of sustainable fashion and how do you incorporate it into your clothes?

Sustainable fashion is a necessity. It is not really useful to wear fabulous clothes which have disastrous consequences on our lives and our environment. We incorporate this into our apparel by producing quality apparel using eco-friendly materials that keep people from buying clothes as often 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 dress some of the African and international stars. But I’m also excited and eager to see HODA grow.

The House Of Designers agency has a great future, not for us as a company but also for designers. What we really want to achieve is to empower as many young, emerging designers as possible by connecting them to the biggest retailers in South Africa. What would be icing on the cake would be to connect fashion designers to opportunities where they can sell their clothes in major boutiques around the world.

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