Talking to the dynamic and creatively talented fashion alumna Aphelele Chonco, who is making a name in the fashion world.
“Getting a formal education really empowers you for navigating the fashion industry and fashion entrepreneurship, listen to your lecturers, complete all your work, always do your best and you will soar through your studies,” said Chonco.
She added that she is a proud member of the DUT alumni, and had completed her National Diploma in Fashion and Textiles in 2015. She also has her BTech degree in Fashion Design from the University of Johannesburg, and also attempted doing her Masters in Applied Arts in Graphic Design, but did not complete it. “My calling into entrepreneurship proved to be stronger and so I deregistered from my studies in order to focus fully into building and establishing my brand UP_PHELELE,” she said.
The talented designer has not looked back and has grown in leaps and bounds. In 2018 she had the privilege and honour of making the top 10 designers who were selected for the Made In Africa fashion competition, which aired on BET Africa (channel 129 on DSTV). In that same year she was also a mentee under the Durban Fashion Fair (DFF) Mentorship Programme, which is an initiative by the Ethekwini Municipality. She then showcased at the 2018 edition of the Durban Fashion Fair.
Chonco stressed that there is a vital need for DUT trainee designers to be part of a mentorship programme.
“The benefits are definitely mentorship or experience and exposure, because you learn as much as you possibly can about the local fashion industry and your potential clients also start seeing and hearing about you (and your brand),” she said.
Her desire to be a fashion designer was there from an early age.
“I have always wanted to be a fashion designer. When it was playtime with the dolls I was making clothes for them, then I started giving all my old clothes make-overs and keeping all my family’s old clothes for the same reason,” she chuckled.
Chonco added that generally she is a very creative person, yet making clothes and styling outfits had always come naturally to her.
Chonco also added that studying fashion at DUT had shaped her as a designer. “DUT’s fashion department has a team of talented and skilled lecturers and two very important things that have stuck with me is the importance of achieving a perfect finish on your work and the importance of constantly working towards mastering my craft,” she said.
Her future goals for now is to build her fashion brand, UP_PHELELE, into an internationally acclaimed, sustainable and profitable business.
Pictured: Aphelele Chonco