PRESTIGIOUS STHEMBISO MNGADI | Flat base decoded
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PRESTIGIOUS STHEMBISO MNGADI

 

Wouldn’t you agree that it is better to choose than to be chosen? Being granted the ability to make choices is a privilege more than it is a right. All the choices you’ve made thus far continue to build on from who you already are. You can’t go back. You can’t rewind back to that day when you decided how you wanted your life to turn out. And here you are, living today from the decisions you made yesterday. That’s the beauty about making choices – you can’t blame anyone else for what you decide to get into. Be cautious, and continue to make choices that will benefit your future self. Because you know, you might just congratulate yourself one of these good days.
Having had the chance to meet a person who had the possible luck of making decisions from an early age proved to be a possibility rather than a challenge. That’s where Sthembiso Mngadi, the co-founder of Fruitcake Vintage, comes in.


Growing up in his hometown, in Kwa-Mashu was quite eventful and very interesting, even though Sthembiso was a shy kid growing up. “I was brought up by my grandparents. My mother came home once a month because she worked and was studying to become a teacher. I grew up in a religious home so I couldn’t get away with much because my grandparents were strict. Through my grandfather, I learnt the skills of an entrepreneur because he owned several businesses. We never got anything for free and had to work before we were rewarded. We learnt to work for everything we had.”


“Home was heaven and an exciting environment to grow up in. I left home for tertiary when I was eighteen and applied to study travel and tourism at the Eastern Cape Technikon. That’s where I learnt to be independent and got the chance to explore and meet different people.”
Before Sthembiso decided to fire up a career in the fashion industry, he moved to Johannesburg in 2000 and worked as a travel consultant before he was promoted to a management position. “During the recession in 2009, the company I worked for retrenched a lot of people, including myself. After that, that’s when I decided to pursue my passion for fashion. I bought and sold vintage clothes from my place in Yeoville. I’d cook, decorate my place and put up rails of clothing and would invite people to come over. I made sure the gatherings were entertaining so people would invite more of their friends to come as well. The first gathering was successful and that’s when I knew I could start a business from this.”

The other half of Fruitcake Vintage, Jamakazi Thelejane, told Sthembiso that she’d found a place to set up the business at Fashion Kapitol. “Jama and I were not friends but we shared mutual friends when we met before we became business partners. When she showed me the space, I fell in love with it instantly. I love the city because I’m a city child. The lifestyle, the convenience and the buzz of the city make me feel alive. This is where dreams are made and crushed. The city is central and familiar because everyone comes and passes through here. There’s a rich history and I’m an old soul at heart. That’s why we chose it.”


There was some scepticism on Sthembiso’s part when he went into business with Jamakazi. “It was very shallow of me, to be honest. People say that if I’d gone into business with someone more established I’d be far ahead, but I disagree. She wasn’t business-minded but she had such style and flair about her. I believe in getting my hands dirty, that’s how I learn. Jamakazi came up with the name of the business and she turned it into a catch phrase for anyone dressed stylishly and fabulous. If she calls you a fruitcake, you’ll love it because it represents our spunk for vintage fashion. I trust her fashion instinct and that’s why we chose to become business partners.”
“I decided to sell vintage clothes because I have an expensive taste in terms of quality and value. Vintage clothes are detailed and are carefully selected. I love the creativity in the clothes and there’s always an element of surprise. There’s a story behind the designs and the creativity. Vintage clothing is a gateway to individual styling and many international fashion labels are seeking African and vintage inspirations because there’s beauty there.”

Sthembiso and Mbali Mdledle, of Flat base decoded, form an incredible creative duo called Abalobi. “We decided on Abalobi because we are writers of our lives and we determine our own futures. Mbali and I formed the collaboration because of the personalities we have. I don’t believe in not mixing business with pleasure because I work with people I can be friends with. Mbali is calm, well-researched and his dream is not selfish. When we started on the first series, the designs were not broad and were rather very safe. We improved the ideas thereafter.”
The energetic entrepreneur almost burnt himself out when both the businesses he was a part of demanded his time and commitment. “At some point, I co-owned a catering company and it became more difficult to manage my time when both businesses started doing well. 

Jamakazi had just gotten a full-time job so I had to be at the shop every day. I remember I was so exhausted and I knew I was headed for failure because the demand was too much. I made the difficult decision of choosing Fruitcake Vintage over the catering company. I chose what I loved the most.”
Fast-forward that to November last year. Sthembiso and two other partners have ventured and opened a clothing store on 115 Fox street and corner Joubert, dubbed Addiction. “When we came up with the name, we wanted people to visit the shop as often as possible. The theme of the shop is a garden and we are filling it with beautiful big plants. Because of the city setting, we wanted to set up a “secret garden” surrounded by clothes, right in the centre of it. We were set back and didn’t open the shop in January as we’d planned. I was discouraged when people would ask me about it and I couldn’t give them an answer. I told my partners that if we didn’t open the shop soon, I was out. Thankfully, we opened on the 18th of May.”



“I didn’t anticipate the success because I don’t think I’m successful yet. There’s still so much I have to do. I remember a time when a friend told me that she’d read about Fruitcake Vintage in an art book in Kenya and I got excited for two minutes. I’m not as successful because I haven’t helped enough people yet. I want to give so much because for me, it’s all about self-fulfilment. Black people, especially young guys, don’t have role models to aspire to and I want to be the one that helps. I’m in love with finding raw promising potential Starting an organisation would be me saying I’m successful.” You could make all the money in the world and still feel drained from having so much. Success is all in the giving. Share a piece of yourself and invest iyour energy in others, because your foundation deserves to live on.

Sthembiso Mngadi is a man who feels so alive. He’s a selfless self-made artist who acts on continuous improvement of himself and those he’s surrounded by. Therefore, he’s Prestigious and maintains humility and appreciation for the arts.

“Art is an individualistic way of expressing feeling and thought. It is creating something out of nothing and it is in the beauty of the beholder. It has the ability to fast-forward the future.” – Sthembiso Mngadi


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