When she was born 27 years ago, her family was deeply divided. As a result, her parents took the extraordinary decision to give her two names that mean the same thing-Peace
Noxolo Lady-Peace Gumede’s birth brought peace to her troubled family. She started designing greeting cards at an early age which is not surprising she ended up as a fashion designer.
She was part of the South African delegation that took part in the African fashion week that took place in London from August 1-3.
Francis Ngwa has been speaking to the peace loving designer.
Q Can you introduce yourself and your brand?
My name is Noxolo Lady Peace Gumede and the name of my label is Bello designs. We produce dresses fo male and female clients but with more emphasis on female garments. I have been doing this business for three years. It has not been easy but if you are passionate about designs and wht you really love doing and persevere, you will succeed
Q Did you go to school to study designing?
Yes. I studied in a fashion academy in South Africa and had a diploma after two years of studies. After that, I registered my own business.
Q South Africa is a long way from where you are now. Why did you decide to attend this London fashion week?
I came because I want to show people in London and around the world the great designs that we are making in South Africa. The world needs to see the types of fabric and styles that we produce. We also wanted to see what others from across other African countries are also producing so that we can also learn from them. We need to also see how others combine colours together so that we could also start using fabrics from different parts of Africa
Q How old are you?
I am 27 years old
Q What first got you interested in designing?
I knew I was capable of sketching. I first started by making greeting cards for mother and father’s days, St Valentine days, etc. I use to make those cards and sell them in school. It is from there I knew I could also design dresses. I had an old black dress which I took and added some beads and it looked very good. From then, I started designing dresses.
Q How does your creative process work? How do know what designs to make on garments and who produces the final dress for you?
For now, I do everything. However, I intend to start hiring people who will be helping me very soon. I will need to select people who are as passionate about designs as I am. I will teach them so they can do exactly what I am capable of designing. This will mean when I am away as I am presently in London, they can remain behind and continue designing garments for my clients
Q What type of people buy the designs you produce?
I sell to a wide range of people who need evening dresses and I also have corporate clients. You will see some of these designs I have here are very unique. I have added quite a lot of designs to the original garments. Some have symbols of South Africa on them. I design for women who like long skirts as much as I do. In South Africa, we use a lot of animal skin in designing fabrics. I also buy garments from other countries and mix colours including fabrics from Nigeria.
Q At 27, how challenging will you say designing is?
It is a very challenging profession. Our parents really do not understand this kind of designing we now do. They sometimes think our designs are made for very old ladies. They are really not interested in me being a designer. As far as they are concerned, I should have gone to school and studied to be a teacher, a doctor or a nurse. Since they don’t understand, it is a bit difficult to get them to support you.That means you need to work very hard so that you can convince them. By accepting to attend this London fashion week, I am making them understand what I am doing is relevant and can bring in money. I just love designing and hopefully, will soon help me make some really good money.
Q Did you finally get to convince your parents to accept you as a designer?
I did because I stood up for myself. I did not ask them for anything. I worked very hard and organized shows where people came and recognized the value of the work I do and I had customers in the process. They then understood I was serious about what I was doing even though I haven’t started making the kind of money I will like to be making from designing. They are not as hostile about the business as they used to be
Q Is this the first time you are traveling abroad to showcase your designs?
Yes. This is the first time I ever traveled out of South Africa. My parents were very happy when they leanrt I will be travelling to London for this show.
Q What do you intend to get out of this exposure in the UK?
I am hoping to get a couple of new customers. We will also be meeting designers from different countries and we can therefore network and share ideas which will be good for business. I have met people here who need our garments and shoes. Hopefully, we will soon be shipping our designs and shoes out of South Africa. We design shoes too but I could not bring some here.
Q I see quite a lot of colour in the designs that you brought here for this show. What part does colour play in your designs?
Colours represent what South Africa is, a rainbow nation. The colours we have in South Africa are representative of the unity in the country. The colours show we are one nation, one people. We need to love each other and Love our country. When we mix these different colours, you feel good as a person when you wear them. You might be feeling low but when you wear some really brightly coloured clothing, you feel happy internally
Q The best known South African is Nelson Mandela who unfortunately is sick now. How did he inspire you personally?
He has inspired me a lot. By spending so much time in prison and refusing to bow down to pressure, he showed me you can have values you stand for and will do anything to defend them. He loves his country. Like Mandela, i want to stand for what I believe in, I want to stand for what I am passionate about, I want to stand for what I am doing.
Q When he left prison, Mandela liked dressing in very colourful shirts. If you have the chance to design something for him, what will it be?
I will make some very lovely shirts with an African touch to them. The shirts will have multiple colours representing Africa and the World. He fought for Africa, he fought for the world, he fought for everybody. The shirt I have here is a fabric with an African map and a lot of colour which is what president Mandela loves.
Q Any advice for other young prospective African designers?
I will advice them to be patient, love other people and Love their work. They need to believe in themselves, love God and put him first in everything they do.
Q What is your marketing strategy? How do you sell the designs you make?
We attend exhibitions, we organize fashion shows, we sell by advertising on radio shows and newspapers and we also sell online from our website
Q In ten years time, what do you think you will be doing?
I will have my own boutique hopefully. I will like to have a gallery where up and coming designers will be able to showcase their work. We don’t have a lot of places like that in South Africa so I will like to own a gallery.
Q So are you one happy lady?
I am so excited coming to London. It is a dream come true.