From TikTok Tutorials to Fashion Triumph: UWC Student’s Journey

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Staff Reporter

In 2020, during her gap year, Asenathi Unabantu Mjacu, a third-year student at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), embarked on an unexpected journey. With time on her hands and a desire to stay productive, she started a clothing line despite initially not having a deep passion for fashion.

Mjacu mastered the craft of sewing and designing outfits, relying solely on her determination and online resources, including YouTube and TikTok tutorials.

The 23-year-old purchased her first sewing machine using an R1000 voucher awarded by the Mayor of Mossel Bay for her matric performance. This pivotal moment marked the beginning of her fashion line, Asenathi Couture.

“In Mossel Bay, when you pass matric with good marks, the Mayor invites all those learners and awards us vouchers. I didn’t consider myself a top student, but I suppose I did well enough to be recognised by the school for academic achievements,” said the third-year Sports Science student.

Her first order came from a high school friend who saw her work on Facebook. The positive response and subsequent orders encouraged Mjacu to continue. Her first creation was a yellow outfit with a skirt and a tunic top. This early success led to more orders, primarily promoted on Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

“For clients outside Cape Town, requests are telephonic, and they send me pictures. I need the client’s waist and bust size and a full-length photo of the client. From there, I require a 50% deposit, purchase the material, and start with the garment. My turnaround time is two weeks.” But few things in life come without the challenges. One of the most difficult aspects of her work has been creating intricate designs like matric dance dresses, mainly due to the complex materials.

“Sometimes the material is very delicate, and it’s hard to sew intricate accessories.” Despite these hurdles, she has received big orders, which she tackles head-on as a one-woman show.

“I received an order from an entrepreneur with his clothing line. He ordered 15 hoodies and about 12 tracksuit sets. That’s been my biggest order to date. It was difficult to manage alone.”

The full-time student said balancing her studies with her growing fashion business has been difficult. Time management and dealing with diverse client personalities are ongoing challenges. Despite this, she has maintained a policy requiring a 50% upfront payment to ensure client commitment.

It’s been over four years since Asenathi Couture started, but the Mossel Bay local has big plans. She hopes to continue her studies and later pursue short courses in fashion design. Her goal is to register her business and expand its reach officially.

She advised other students to consider starting “side hustles” or small companies to support their finances, emphasising the importance of self-reliance and entrepreneurship.

Through her journey, Asenathi Unabantu Mjacu exemplifies the power of initiative and self-education, transforming a gap year into a thriving business venture.

INSIDE EDUCATION

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