Lindelwa Skenjana (LS), Founder of Mbewu Movement sat in an interview with Kendibone Sapepa (KS) of Barbara McKenzie. Barbara McKenzie is clothing brand that is a tribute to the founder’s late mother; Barbara. Coupled with a play on the founder’s name; Kendi – Barbara McKenzie was born. Founded in Johannesburg in 2013, Barbara McKenzie is a clothing brand that provides fashion-forward clothing for stylish and fashionable women. The Barbara McKenzie woman, loves being beautifully dressed and embraces her femininity through classic-inspired, yet modern clothing.
LS: Thank you for agreeing to speak to Mbewu Movement; please tell us more about Kendibone ‘Kendi’ Sapepa?
KS: I am a Xhosa female who grew up in the coast, eMthatha…and I am the founder of Barabra McKenzie. The store opened in December 2016 but Barbara McKenzie has been around since 2012
LS: How did you the birthing process of Barbara McKenzie begin, where did it all start?
KS: It was a grade 10 project, where you could shadow someone in an environment you would like to work in and I shadowed a fashion designer. I then studied Marketing
LS: Is Barbara McKenzie what consumes you come sunshine and sunset?
KS: I am still a full time employee; I am growing my brand and business to a point where I can take it on full time. To me- it’s all about freedom (of time, creativity) and it is also about leaving a legacy for my country and children one day.
LS: Is it only Barabara McKenzie clothing stocked in the store?
KS: Barbara McKenzie is a boutique and we house upcoming South African designers’ clothing. My first step was to try get my clothing into more established boutique stored and when that did not work out, I called up my business partner to the brand Sculpture and told her we should put money together and open up a store…this is after plenty rejections from various brands.
LS: Wow- you found a solution in the face of disappointment, very inspiring Kendi. What about the art in the store, are these carefully considered pieces?
KS: From the art in the store to the railings in the store- these are all hand made by South African creative.
LS: How do you drive brand awareness for Barbara McKenzie?
KS: My marketing strategy so far has been mainly social media and influencer marketing. For example, well known figures who wear my garments to social events.
LS: Who are your fashion icons? Who do you look to for inspiration?
KS: I pay dues to brands like Babatunde and everything that gives me life. I also adore Nomzamo Mbatha and how she has proudly showcased African print garments in her public appearances, Solange Knowles as well. I was recently in Windhoek (Namibia) and their traditional garments were also a source of inspiration.
LS: Any partnership projects with partners on the African continent or the rest of the globe?
KS: I am slowly making headway in partnering with people from other parts of the globe. I was recently in touch with a designer from Namibia, an organisation called *Bold Africa.
LS: Any lessons around start-up capital/funding when one takes the leap of faith and wants to start their own business and just does not have enough capital to do so?
KS: It is incredibly hard trying to source funding to maintain and grow my store. You fill in forms, you apply and get no response. I have found it incredibly hard sourcing funding from public sector bodies/institutions as opposed to private sector. I am now a part of the Standard Bank Young Lioness’s initiative and they provide training/grooming around topics related to running your own entrepreneurial venture.
LS: Wow…that sounds challenging; one would imagine public sector funding institutions would want to be a part of a sustainable, proudly South African business. That said- what message do you want you brand/legacy to convey to the world?…
KS: Embrace who you are is essentially the message I want to leave in society; stay true to who you are, be authentic and don’t try to be anyone else. BE WHO YOU ARE!
Interviewer: Lindelwa Skenjana (Mbewu Movement Founder)
Interviewee: Kendibone Sepapi (Barbara McKenzie Founder)
Photography: Robyn Solomons (Miss Marshall Photography)