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Nikki Hutchings runs SA fashion brand Gold Bottom Africa, designing power pieces for strong womxn, which are made locally by women in Cape Town. What drives her: she’s  passionate about women’s empowerment, and wants her customers to feel powerful in her clothes. She tells Go Hustle about the journey…

The key to success – creating something the solves a problem 

“We create garments that solve problems that I encounter when shopping for myself, such as fit, focus on the shape and cuts, versatility, and quality,” explains Nikki. “When browsing, especially at mainstream retailers, there is a lot I wouldn’t buy because of the poor quality of detailing or trims, so you’ll notice this is a big focus in my work.”

Nikki is obsessed with the way fabric folds, gathers and drapes.  “I love the process of design and the people, collaborating with those whose input is essential to deliver the vision, and learning from their decades of experience – from selecting fabric, to pattern making, cutting, sewing and finishing,” she says.

 

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On people’s worth and the right to earn a fair wage…

“I’m in the position now where I can let the people who work for us decide what they want to charge or earn. At larger companies it’s all about squeezing suppliers to get the best price. But I believe in people’s worth and right to earn a fair wage. I think this is another reason it’s important to support small local businesses. That saying about small business owners doing a happy dance when they receive an order – it’s no lie!” says Nikki.

READ MORE: An Insider’s Guide To Fashion Design In SA

Keen on fashion design? Here’s how to get into the industry…

Nikki studied Clothing Management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) for three years, part of which included six month’s worth of in-service training – an invaluable experience. “After that, I went to work as a merchandiser for Reliance Clothing, working with buyers from the large retailers to produce their ranges. My next big role was as a planner at Pick n Pay Head Office; I then went on to become a buyer, coming full circle,” she says.

It was at this critical point that Nikki decided to start her own biz. “I had experience in practically every department before launching my own brand. This was really helpful in understanding how to create the perfect garment,” she says. “I would advise anyone starting out to learn as much as possible, get experience at established brands (big or small) before starting your own business, and try to become an expert at something – whatever it is that excites you.”

 

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Tips to navigate the fashion design workspace as a woman

In general, diversity and representation can be lacking in corporate environments. There’s still very much an established hierarchy – with mostly men in leadership positions. This can make it more difficult for women to rise through the ranks, especially when you take into account the lack of women role models.

“In terms of running your own business, sometimes it’s hard to be taken seriously as a woman,” says Nikki. “[But] I’m lucky to work with amazing people who really want my business, and by extension theirs, to succeed.”

There have been incidents though… “I was told in an early internship role that if I spoke out about the sexual harassment I had experienced there, my career would be ruined – this was before I had even started working properly,” she says.

In one instance she did speak out – and lost her job. But she’ll never regret standing up for herself. “In another situation, I spoke up, but didn’t wait around for the company to decide my fate and resigned. I acknowledge that this is a privilege, to be able to leave, and a lot of women are stuck in positions where they can’t make that decision,” she says.

 

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Best advice? Block out the noise.

There’s a power dynamic that can only shift when more women are in leadership positions; when there is support for women, and a will to change. “For women, I’d say trust your gut,” says Nikki. “You’ll succeed despite this. It will be harder than you think, and take longer than you think, but it’s important to block out the noise and focus on your vision. If you believe in what you’re doing – it’s yours for the taking.”

 

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Connect with Nikki 

www.goldbottom.co.za
Instagram: goldbottomafrica
https://www.facebook.com/goldbottomafrica

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