Luxury accessories brand, Xyza Savanna may only be 8 months old but supports local manufacturing that employ vast amounts of local artisans… Read the inspirational story of Xyza Savanna’s journey into the sustainable luxury fashion below.
How Did Xyza Savanna come about and what does the name mean?
In 2017 I went to the homemakers expo in Johannesburg. My husband and I bought some Nguni Rugs, and as we were about to pay I spotted a gorgeous Nguni skin handbag on the top shelf that was for sale. I was fortunately able to convince my husband to buy me this bag. A little later the lady said to me that if there is a handbag I have that I want done in Nguni she could do so for me. However, this meant she would have to take the handbag apart.
At first the idea of having some of my existing handbags made in Nguni excited me, but upon further analysis the idea of copying someone else’s designs didn’t sit well with me. I later said to my husband; if she was copying handbags, surely I could create my own designs and have them made up for me? This idea of designing my own handbag line was one that would haunt me for the next two years. I kept speaking about it and held on to that dream.
Later that year I resigned from a corporate role and came back to Tzaneen to renovate our home. Once the renovations were completed, we left to go on a 3-month sabbatical where we travelled around Europe. During our travels I went to visit leather schools and factories from where I drew a lot of inspiration. More importantly, here I learned about the importance of quality and precise craftsmanship. I also visited a stud manufacturer that does many of Fendi’s studs, which was also an incredible experience.
When arriving back in South Africa my plan was to go back into corporate and to save up to start this business, however one evening we visited some family friends and I had told them about my dream to start a leather accessory business. The next day this family friend said that he would be interested in investing and that I should put a business plan together.
In May 2018 the funding from this family friend came through and I was able to start the development process. In November 2018 Xyza Savanna was launched. The name Xyza means ‘by the sea’ and Savanna means ‘grassy plain in tropical and subtropical regions’. These are my names, which I thought was fitting as Xyza is rather exotic and Savanna makes you think of Africa, which really encapsulates the essence of the brand.
## When was this business founded?
I launched/founded Xyza Savanna in November 2018.
## How did you get funding to start your business?
One evening we visited some family friends and I had told them about my dream to start a leather accessory business. The next day this family friend said that he would be interested in investing and that I should put a business plan together, so I did. In May 2018 the funding from this family friend came through and I was able to start the development process. In November 2018 Xyza Savanna was launched.
## How many people do you employ?
At this stage I am the only employee. Xyza Savanna is only 8 months old so it is still very small, but it is my goal to grow it and employ many people. We do however employ people indirectly, as we outsource our manufacturing to local factories that employ vast amounts of local artisans.
## Who do you admire most in this line of business?
I admire all the people who are in this line of business as it is incredibly challenging. One person whose journey fascinated and inspired me is Diane von Furstenberg. She walked a long and hard path to get to the point she is at, and it is inspirational for someone such as myself who has just started a business in this line.
## What advice would you give to others wanting to get into this business?
It is an incredibly tough industry. We all have this dream of starting a career or business in the fashion industry, however we forget that, like anything, it takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication. One of the most important lessons I have learnt on my journey is patience. You need to be patient and learn to endure the hard times, as it is these times that will make you appreciate the good times even more.
## How do you get inspiration/generate new ideas?
I draw my inspiration from a variety of channels. The most important one is traveling. Once I resigned from corporate, I came back to Tzaneen to renovate our home. Once the renovations were completed, we left to go on a 3-month sabbatical where we travelled around Europe. During our travels I went to visit leather schools and factories from where I drew a lot of inspiration. More importantly, here I learned about the importance of quality and precise craftsmanship. I also visited a stud manufacturer that does many of Fendi’s studs, which was also an incredible experience.
It is very inspiring travelling to different countries, as you are able to draw inspiration from their architecture as well as some of the rich and vibrant colours found in these countries.
## What habits and mindsets helped make this business successful?
You have to be incredibly strong minded and resilient. You are going to have many people telling you it is a bad idea or that there is too much competition and you are going to have to be able to stand your ground and believe in your dream, but more importantly believe in yourself. Once the business is running there are going to be tough times and you will make mistakes along the way so it is pivotal that you are resilient and able to bounce back and stay positive.
## How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
The fact that our brand is African already makes us special, but that is enhanced by the fact that it is also a luxury brand made by incredible artisans, and not mass-produced in China. We have made it our mission to create timeless pieces that are suited to the everyday modern woman. Whether you are a corporate girl or a mommy, we have a handbag for you.
## What do you love most about doing business in Africa?
What makes doing business in Africa special is the people. There is a huge trend toward supporting local brands and artisans, and is incredibly moving to see how people will think twice about buying an established European brand and rather look towards the local market. The support has been overwhelmingly phenomenal.
XYZA SAVANNA ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
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