South African designer goes from shanty town to London

Tue Sep 20, 2011 11:53am EDT
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By Mmathabo Tladi

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African-born fashion designer and entrepreneur Lesego Malatsi has gone from stitching ready-to-wear garments in a Soweto township mall set amid shanties to savoring the sweet success of London's fashion week.

Malatsi had his first international show at the weekend in the British capital where he displayed a collection of new look African prints at the Fashions Finest event backed by Richard Branson's Virgin Unity initiative.

"Honestly you don't know how to prepare," Malatsi said from London in a telephone interview with Reuters.

Malatsi has taken a long road to London that started in a tiny home in Soweto, the segregated and impoverished township next to Johannesburg that grew under apartheid.

He first tried his hand at accounting after leaving high school but a stint at a cosmetics company altered his career aspirations.

"(It) changed my mind and how I saw things," he said.

He then studied fashion at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and has been making clothes since.

Money was tough to come by for a young man living in the wrong part of Africa's richest city but he eventually opened a store in a Soweto mall to sell his clothes.   Continued...