Makwe said South Africans did not embrace bigger figures like citizens of other countries around the world.
“Here, most frown upon big people. They call us iziduhla and fat. But I realised the need to embrace plus-size women,” Makwe said.
The model studied PA administration at IT College in 2005 and Ward Governance in 2012 through Unisa. She does part-time modelling for a plus-size magazine. But her dream wasn’t always to become a model.
“When I was younger, I was a ballerina, but I wasn’t able to go to the finals, so I told myself I would become a model instead.”
Makwe sent her pictures to modelling agencies. This helped her to kick-start her plus-size modelling career. She soon found herself modelling for Diva magazine.
She said she was often teased about her weight and even called names such as “big mama”, in reference to her size 42 frame.
However, it was embracing her big curves that made her work so popular; being plus-size meant she was able to perfect the art of designing clothes that suit fuller-figured women.
She uses her home in Orchards in Pretoria North, where she grew up, as her studio and makes clothes for women’s from sizes 36 to 56.
Makwe is currently making pillows using cultural fabric to sell and raise money for her trip to France for Paris Fashion Week for plus-size designs. Her day-to-day life centres on planning her designs for Paris as well as raising funds to start her online store. The money she makes from the pillows will also help her buy more fabric to make her summer collection.
The 27-year-old has just returned from the UK International Plus Size fashion week, which took place in London from September 11 to 13.
Makwe showcased her Popzen Doll clothing line there.
“I achieved this without any financial assistance. I requested the Department of Arts and Culture to assist, but never received a favourable response,” she said.
Makwe had to raise R87 000 so she could go to the fashion show by selling as many of her designs as possible. The money went for flights, accommodation and fees.
Of this money, show fees were R25 000, which included 10 models and their hair and make-up, as well as for media coverage. Another R12 000 was for a stall.
“Most fashion bloggers – from the US, Australia and even Malaysia – loved my collection,” she said.
It was so well received that she was invited to take part in the same event next June.
Makwe gets her talent for designing and dressmaking from her mother.
“I started learning how to sew about 10 years ago when my mom had a clothing store. In 2010, I used to sew for my friends and family, but I started my company seriously last year,” she said.
Makwe said it had always been her dream to have her own clothing label for plus-size women. The mother of one quit her job to pursue her dream because she realised she was “sleeping” on her talent.
Makwe’s designs use only South African prints, but made in a modern way.
Contrary to most start-up designers, she refuses to make clothes designed by her customers.
“I used to do that and it doesn’t work. People bring designs that Beyoncé can wear, but they don’t suit their bodies. My designs suit every body type.”
She said she designed collections, and people could choose from what she had made, just as they would at any other clothing.Read more at:red prom dresses