Nomonde Masilela's designs a cut above the rest
South Africa's high unemployment rate - especially among the youth - is the reason Nomonde Masilela put her love and passion for fashion to good use.
Masilela, 19, a fashion creative from Westpark, west of Pretoria, is a second year environmental engineering and geology student at the University of Pretoria. Her accessories range is called Lea Couture.
She designs and manufactures culture-inspired accessories such as exclusive clutch bags, Ankara head wraps plus neckpieces and other fashion items.
Her products are uniquely designed and ooze her passion and appreciation of cultural influences.
"I was influenced by all things cultural. I have a hunger for everything that has to do with culture. It intrigues me," said Masilela.
"I'm also pushed by the fact that I have this appetite to make an impact in the fashion world and contribute towards the improvement of our economy.
"In the next few years I would like to create employment because of the number of people who are either out of work, or have never had a job in their lives.
"Job creation is a real worry for all South Africans."
Though her enterprise was established in December 2016, Masilela has not employed any workers.
She has taken her cousins under her wing, teaching them about the business of fashion.
Her brand is still in its infancy, but Masilela has big plans for it.
"I would love Lea Couture to branch into other spheres of design - interior designing and decor among other fields related to design."
She said her mother is her inspiration and motivated her to follow her passion.
"The name Lea Couture was coined by my mom, Lea Masilela. She has been my biggest inspiration.
"She came up with the name for my enterprise. Lea is her first name and couture is a French word meaning design," said Masilela.
"As much as the name is sentimental to me, I also found it to elicit some sophistication. It's a true reflection of what we do. It's the definition of my craft.
"Because of her resilience and teaching me how to be strong-willed while I was growing up, I am more or less determined to be like her," she said.
Masilela looks up to two phenomenal South African women - Basetsana Kumalo and Criselda Dudumashe - for encouragement and mental stimulation.
"I respect them and see many qualities from them that I would love to acquire as I grow up and mature.
"They have contributed a lot to the improvement of the plight of women and are still doing their bit to encourage women to become their own bosses by becoming entrepreneurial."