Dr Vuyo Mahlati, started her own textile business upon realizing that she was heavily influenced by her surroundings. Growing up in a community of wool farmers, she was always surrounded by sheep. She was inspired by her mother, who was also a shepherd.
Mahlati travelled to many countries, from as far as Morocco, to steep herself in the different ways in which a textile business can be run. She soon realized she was passionate about ensuring communities could benefit from being a part of Ivili Loboya, which made its runway debut at the recent AFI Cape Town Fashion Week under in-house fashion label Dedani Collection.
She wanted to ensure that communal farmers would not just benefit from selling wool but earn lifelong skills along the way. “Our clients here at home are factories in Durban and the wool industry in PE,” said Mahlati. Ivili Loboya has a global footprint with customers in Paris in France.
“We work with farmers with indigenous goats for cashmere and farmers on the wool side as well. We have trained over 100 farmers that we work with. It’s a totally new initiative. We are the first producer of cashmere in the whole of Africa and in the continent,” said Mahlati.
Mahlati and her team refurbished a factory and furnished it with nice desks to be used by the young men and women during their training. With assistance from The Department of Economic Affairs, they look for individuals who do not have work experience.
Furthermore, they also developed an app called the Dedani App for the logistics of the collections from the farmers. Members of the community have been selected to assist those members without access. In collaboration with Tsolo Agriculture College, they placed seven veterinarians to assist the farmers with the app.
“When the animal has a certain disease or is behaving in a certain way then there is someone who is qualified to respond to their message on the app. It’s introducing a new dynamic and it’s a journey. We are learning new things all the time. What is also interesting is how we create jobs in the factories. The area of Butterworth used to be a hub of textile and clothing some many years ago and it became dilapidated,” said Mahlati.