Despite graduating in Information Technology Software Development Shikombiso Bila from Nghezimani Village has ultimately chosen fashion design as her path. Bila is from the Village situated outside Malamulele in the Vhembe District, Limpopo.

She obtained her IT qualification from the Tshwane University of Technology [TUT].

She says her journey started when she was just playing around with garments. Today she has dressed well-known people such as DJ Lady Shiks, Gigi LaMayne and also contributed to Sho Madjozi’s book Shoma and Stars.

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“I grew up loving fashion and modeling so when I went to study IT in TUT, most of my friends picked it up that I was passionate about fashion,” she explains. “They advised me to enroll in a fashion course, but I went ahead with IT.”

Fashion design a calling for Shikombiso Bila
A design by Shikombiso Bila

But it was in 2017 that she eventually followed her calling and started the fashion design business.

“To me, it’s more than designing, I want to be part of people who will preserve the Xitsonga tradition or culture through fashion. Crocheting garments means expressing myself through fashion, but also taking into consideration the needs of my customers,” said Bila.

WHY SHIKOMBISO BILA CHOSE FASHION DESIGN OVER IT

One day Bila posted crochet hats on social media and people were interested, as they say, the rest is history.

“I decided to do it full-time.  My goal is to have a production house and produce as many products as possible so that I can cater to the international market, which also means employing as many people as I can and solving unemployment.

“I would like to see young girls proud and celebrate heritage daily, I would like to see young girls rocking xibelani at a mall or any other place and being proud of it,” said Bila.

 “I am motivated by seeing my customers happy with the outfits I make for them, that gives me joy and motivation to go on. It’s consistent, so do it over and over again until you become the best.

“Giving 100% effort every day, you’ll succeed. And don’t give up, try again and again until you reach where you want to be,” she said.

Although the crocheting industry is thriving internationally, she still faces a huge challenge in her own country.

“I love it when people take my work internationally as well. Business needs most of my time and life is also demanding, especially as a mother. I try by all means to balance my life and my work. But the best thing is to create working hours and stick to them so that I can spend time with my family and friends,” she said.

Fashion design a calling for Shikombiso Bila
Shikombiso Bila sign

FAMILY SUPPORT IS EVERYTHING

“My father is my number one supporter, he’s the one who even pushed me to open my first shop. When I told my parents that I was going to be a designer full-time, my mom just said, go for it. As long as you’ll give your customers good service and I’ve been doing exactly that.

“My two sons are my inspiration, I am doing this for them so they know that success is a mindset. I want them to also go after their dreams,” she explains.

She advises other young women who want to follow in her footsteps. Start where they are with what they have.