When Anisa Mpungwe looks back on the past four years, the thing that stands out for her is the importance of passion. “It’s only now that I look back and realise I had no idea what I was doing when I launched Loin Cloth and Ashes (LCA) in 2008,” she admits. “But I had passion. Two years earlier I was in London with big plans for myself.
Before I even registered my business, I designed business cards and brochures. I was a real go-getter. Whenever things get tough, I remember that spirit.”
The roots of success
Tanzanian by birth, Mpungwe moved to South Africa with her diplomatic parents when she was a young girl, and while South Africa is now her base, she hasn’t forgotten her East African origins. “This wasn’t originally the case,” she says.
“I shied away from busy African fabrics. And then my mom brought back some prints from India, I made 15 simple full 50s-style skirts, and they were all sold within the week. I realised that women love prints and it was time to broaden my mindset. I also needed to rein in my habit of creating designs that are more art than function.”
Along her journey Mpungwe has learnt many valuable lessons, and this was one of them. You can be an artist, but if you want to also be a business owner, you can’t lose sight of your clients and what they want.
“The trick was to bring my personality to the new printed designs I was producing,” she says. Returning to Tanzania, she found exactly what she was looking for; beautiful prints that she sources and imports herself.
An eye for opportunities
LCA has enjoyed steady organic growth which Mpungwe believes has been the result of grabbing every opportunity with both hands. “My first big break came in 2009. A local fashion icon, Jan Malan, wanted me to show my collection at the New York fashion week. We had two weeks to get it ready.”
Mpungwe knew that she couldn’t let the opportunity go. “When you’re faced with that amount of work and no time, you can either cry or get down to business. I was determined to get the collection together – even if it meant not sleeping for two weeks.”
LCA’s progress can be attributed to a number of different shows, contracts and branding decisions, but the overriding contributor is Mpungwe’s ability to put her head down and meet her goals – no matter what.
LCA designs have featured in Mr Price and a more high-end range is currently available at 36Boutiques.com. Mpungwe also dresses local celebrity and DJ Anele Mdoda, and they will be releasing a line together in 2013.
“The biggest shift recently has been my decision to open a boutique store,” she says. “I was working from a studio apartment, doing made-to-wear and made-to-order designs. My overheads were low, which allowed me to concentrate on growing the brand and securing contracts but to grow the brand further I needed to open my own store.
“The formal platform came at the right time. I was established, my cash flow was stable and I had figured out who I wanted to be, and that I needed to balance business acumen with my creativity. Real growth and a national and international brand is what I’m aiming for.”
Player: Anisa Mpungwe
Company: Loin Cloth and Ashes
Contact: +27 (0)72 143 2312