Founder of Sari for Change

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Rayana Edwards is the founder of Sari for Change, an organization that collects old saris and empowers unemployed and uneducated South African women with the skills to open their own businesses in the fashion industry.

Through her efforts with Sari for Change, Rayana is making a significant impact on women’s lives by providing them with opportunities for socio-economic transformation.

On the Award side, the list keeps on getting longer. SABF Social Innovation Award Winner 2022, and she won the Goldman Sachs Fortune Global Women Leader Award 2020. 

Rayana is also a mother of five daughters, a sustainable fashion consultant, life coach, and a community change agent.

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Episode Transcript


We need to be able to tell them, you know, and show them that life is not just about the successes, but it’s about falling down and you’re going to fall down more often than most. But it’s how we rise that matters the most and how we hold our heads high and keep going.


Welcome to another edition of Expedition Business, where we talk to inspiring South African entrepreneurs about the highs and lows of their business journey and how on earth they manage to keep the flame of business adventure burning. Of course, facing your day with a smile is sometimes the toughest thing you have to do. My name is Christél Rosslee-Venter, your host and the one.


privileged enough to be talking to Rayana Edwards, director of Harem Consult and founder of Sari for Change. But before I introduce Rayana to you, I would like to remind you to subscribe, like, comment and share this podcast with as many of your friends and family as possible. Without your help, we cannot continue to share the amazing stories of our South African entrepreneurs.


But back to why we are here today. Rayana  is the founder of Sari for Change, an organisation that collects old Sari’s and empowers unemployed and uneducated South African women with the skills to open their own businesses in the fashion industry. Through her efforts with Sari for Change, Rayana  is making a significant impact on women’s lives by providing them with opportunities for


Socio-Economic Transformation. On the awards side, the list keeps on getting longer. SABF Social Innovation Award Winner, Goldman Sachs Fortune Global Women Leader Award, etc. etc. Rayana is also Mother of Five Daughters, Sustainable Fashion Consultant, Life Coach and Community Change Agent. Rayana , welcome to Expedition Business.


Rayana: Well, thank you so much for that long introduction. And it’s so lovely to be here with you, Christél, and I love the work that you do. I think it’s so important for us as entrepreneurs to have a platform. So thank you for anchoring this space. 

Christél: It is an absolute, absolute pleasure. I must say the last time I spoke to you or on air, you came in as a guest for our addVENTURES Business Club’s Power Hour.


And the feedback from our members was so overwhelmingly that they want to hear more about what you do. But you’ve been so busy, I think it took more than half a year to get you back on air with us. 

Rayana: Yes, indeed. I think that the life of an entrepreneur never ends. Our days are not 24 hours, it’s actually a 50 hour long, but good busy. You know, I also…


try not to use that phrase, oh, I’m so busy, I’m so busy, because then we kind of get flustered and you can easily go around doing things that are not productive enough. So, luckily for us this time around, busy meant that we were able to break into retail in South Africa. So that was a great busy, production busy, getting beautiful products out to the pick and pays country-wide. So…


Yes, it’s been our first major breakthrough and that’s most probably why the word busy comes up. But thanks for being patient. 

Christél: It is our pleasure. I am so super super excited that you’re with us today. But just for the people that don’t know you yet, just a quick recap on what you do. As far as I have it, well the two basic boxes that you tick.


is the fashion sustainability box and then the women empowerment box other than the parents and everything else that you do but on those two boxes just quickly give us a recap the story behind Sari for Change. 

Rayana: Sure so when we talk and when you introduced me earlier we touched on fashion and consulting.


And that really is under the umbrella or was always under the umbrella of Harem Consult. Harem started at least 15 years ago, in the retail space within the fashion industry. I’ve always been involved in the industry from being a buyer to being a boutique owner. That was my lifelong dream. And now various projects that we have launched. So…


35 years in the industry and being in retail myself and also doing international buying for international brands has given me a really good understanding of how the industry works, not just on the outer side of it and what we see in the public place, where we perceive this glamour and beauty, but there’s a whole back, a back story to it.


You’re looking at the whole ecosystem from the fabric that we utilize to how production is taking place to the end garment and where we’re actually selling that garment or where it’s available, where you as the end consumer has access to it. And following this whole process over a period of time, together with me, traveling the world, sourcing fabrics, sourcing manufacturing.


I understood the challenges in the industry and also the whole disparity between a big brand and the little sweatshop in the back streets somewhere that is producing for that big brand. And I felt that we need to do this differently. How do we change this? And so what I started doing through Harem initially was building brands for…


designers and business owners that wanted to do sustainable production and also have garments that were more functional than what you know we know to buy off a retail store. Through all of this, I worked with designers, with manufacturers and even to a point where I was a partner in my own factory. There was still something amiss. When I closed my last brick and mortar store in 2015,


team in Johannesburg. I’ve had stores in Nairobi, Kenya, in Cape Town and of course Johannesburg and when I closed my last store it was now what? Where to? This is what I, this was my dream, I live my dream. Well that’s what we think right because what I learned is you get to a certain point and then you achieve this dream and for me at that time it was about being a boutique owner you know and but then you realize you’ve grown.


because we’re changing constantly. And so you want more and you want to dive in deeper. And so that was the reality. So here I am, closed my last brick and mortar store, now what? I received an opportunity and an invite to apply for a Goldman Sachs, Gibbs 10,000 Women Entrepreneurial Program, which was a kind of watered down version of an MBA in women entrepreneurship.


that was hosted at Gibbs Gordon Institute of Business here in Johannesburg. Needless to say, I got onto the program 300 women in South Africa who were now part of this 10,000 women globally that were given this education. And it was a huge shift for me because going back to apartheid times, I did not have the opportunity to go and study further. Due to our economic situation, I was


I, my parents had said to me in uncertain terms, they have no money to send me for further education, you know, so it was going straight out of my trick into a job situation. My desire and dream was always to study further. Hence, I gave that to my children and I knew that, you know, out of five children, they all need to have an education first. So I went back to school quite late.


This was the start of my new journey and where I started understanding business a lot better. Because as a boutique owner, you know, there’s one level to it. But now we were learning about our whys and what problems are we solving and how is that filtering down into the communities? And suddenly my fashion diploma, fashion design diploma that I did somewhere in between started to hold a lot more weight as we started to apply design thinking.


And this was the start of Sari for Change. And Sari for Change really is about trying to solve the ills of society. We all know the high unemployment rate. And as a single mother myself, knew that the challenge was always how do we put food on the table? And I felt that that was something that we needed to pay forward to women in similar situations. I physically went into the townships, did a whole survey on


skills and an audit on the kind of skills available and realized that we were lacking. We were lacking in being able to manufacture so that we could supply to the boutiques because we don’t really have a wholesale district in sub-africa as opposed to other industries globally and I saw this gap and I felt that if we are able to teach skills


and allow the women to earn for themselves, give them ownership, we would have a different outcome to a system that we were already part of that has miserably failed us. And so my plight was really developing a system from scratch that could become a business model, what I call today a sacred economy. And the sacred economy really starts from a woman donor.


That has worn a sari because that’s what we use. We’ve recognized the traditional Indian sari as a fabric resource. And that is six meters that we can then cut up and recreate new garments. And the fabric itself is already so beautiful. It’s in silks and chiffons, beautiful beadwork, embellishments, and embroidery. There isn’t a lot that you need to do, but…


work with the natural fabric and look at the original artist’s direction and work with that. And that’s really how we started creating garments from the saris, did a huge call out to various organizations and it rained saris. Saris were coming from every single direction and this was really then knowing this concept can work. Now we need to train. We now have three 10 years later because this started all as a labor of love.


We have three training programs and eventually women moved towards self-sufficiency. So that was Sari for Change in a nutshell as to where it got born and how 10 years later here we are moved out of our little garage that we started from. 

Christél: Oh fantastic! So where are you now? 

Rayana: We based in Northcliffe. I have a beautiful view of Johannesburg as I sit here on the hill.


and we’ve got a studio, open plan studio, where all the stories come to and get distributed from. We do the designs here, we then distribute to the actual hubs. We have three very productive hubs that are operational. One in Cosmo City, one in Yeovil, and one in Dobsonville, Soweto. 

Christél: Wow. And how many women are involved in this program at the moment?

Rayana: At the moment, we have about…


24 women that are involved at various levels. So far in the 10 year period, our measurement is looking at 124 women that have been part of our training programs to date. Obviously the idea is, Crystal, not for them to stay. Come and get what you want. It’s starting from using a sewing machine from scratch and you move it along. If you are motivated enough, you have the skill and patience because…


everybody who knows how to sew or is sewing behind the machine knows there’s a different kind of patience and yet the saris are also really difficult as a fabric it’s slippery you know it doesn’t hold very well with the machine so there definitely is a skill and it takes a long while to learn the skill and so literally what happens between tier one to tier three the numbers start dwindling women either find


They become more confident because now they’re supported by a community. There’s a belief pattern and system that’s happening within themselves. So they go out and seek work within the industry. So they link the manufacturing industry or they decide to solve, become a small little company of Sari for change, but under their own umbrella, where they can either become doing repairs or do a lot of the success stories are.


women producing uniforms for schools, doing for corporate companies, et cetera. So they have the skill that they can use in whichever way they want. And of course, for the third part of it is, and this is where these 24 women are currently sitting, they opt to become part of Sari for Change and become our suppliers. So then we go into refinement of upskilling, as we call it, and they then…


now start setting up, we set them up in their own little spaces, in their own homes or in a community center nearby and they then start producing for us. 

Christél: Wow, it sounds quite extensive. I suppose in terms of the equipment that they need to go out onto their own, do you assist them with finance to buy the equipment?


Rayana: Most definitely. We just recently registered our foundation, which is the new addition, Sari for Change Foundation, as it becomes, you know, for us to reach profitability is really hard sitting on the business side, because of that, you know, we constantly having to feed back into the hubs, sharing that they are stable enough to continue, you know, working, even though…


They’re still learning and all these challenges actually amounts to us constantly having to fund them. By the time they reach tier three and we have breakthroughs like we are experiencing now, where we’re getting buy in from corporate and we’re doing a lot more quantity, it’s the perfect combination. And so that assists us then to easily, we’ve just received new equipment as we sent industrial


Cosmos City, and even the equipment is constantly being upgraded. So when they finish tier two program, they get a domestic sewing machine. That’s part of the package for them so that they feel inspired and motivated. And whether it is a duke or an apron that they’re making and they go to the church, as simple as that, but this income crystal. And for us, that is the first goal. How do we as mothers…


you know, put food on the table. So they are supported every step of the way. And also, we are now starting to give them a lot more business skills, the basics of business, so much so that they should be able to get to a point of being able to do an outline of a little business plan for themselves.


Christél: So they can go forward and create whatever business they want to grow into. Small, large, whatever works for them. 

Rayana: Yes, like right now I’m busy enrolling one of our ladies in tier 3, you know, on her computer skills so that she can become more computer literate and start obviously having everything online and it will just make communication easier.


So there’s just so much for them to catch up on but we are there to hand hold on every step of the way. 

Christél: Something that interests me and that yeah, I would like to know you obviously started with a big sustainability factor getting stories existing stories and to re-use them. Do you still get used stories for your projects and


Do you get enough to cover all the retailing that you’re doing now? 

Rayana: I… It’s just like the stories itself have such a life of its own. I remember times, and we often speak about this, when it was really, really a low point in business. And I had on that point of giving up, and I can’t do this, we’ve now thrown all our monies into the business. And…


I have to keep apologizing to the children. Sorry you have to eat peanut butter sandwiches again tonight. You know, because the money’s all gone into the business. But you get that call, we get that message. Hi, I have a box of saris to donate. And, you know, you almost feel like it’s it’s it’s like God speaking to you. You know, it’s like almost saying, carry on. Don’t stop. So I have this.


very special relationship with the Saris because it’s always been there in my lowest moment. And as more and more people hear about us, Christél, the donations just start coming in more and more. So as we speak, I constantly have to look at see how am I going to get more storage space because we’re going to be running out of storage.


I wish I could show you my stash of saris and I have a whole room that is all filed in color order and yeah, it’s just magical. 

Christél: Absolutely insane. You’ve mentioned a couple of times your daughters in the background of your business. How did that impact your business and what you do on a day-to-day basis?


Rayana: First of all, please after you hear my story, don’t accuse me of child labour, okay? I think being a house of women, it’s been a constant dress up, right? So, I mean, if your mom… You have daughters, Christél? 

Christél: Mm-hmm, yes I do. 

Rayana: Yeah, so then you know, right? What do I wear today? I’m going to an event, what am I going to wear? And so it’s this constant dress up.


And I think them being exposed to what I was doing, even in my boutiques in Kenya and Nairobi, where they grew up and they were born, you know, coming to after school, sitting in the boutique, doing their homework, it was, you know, it was part of who they were, actually. And by the time they finished and graduated from university, it was no surprise because they’ve always been my models, modeling and…


always assisting behind the scenes if it was I had what and I used all the skills, you know. My one daughter who’s now an industrial engineer, she’s always good on Excel and I hate Excel. She’d be the one doing all my spreadsheets and stuff. And then Iman who’s now in the business and the director of Sari for Change, she literally took the project at the time through her visuals and her content creation.


from out of a project sitting in the township to a global winning picture, you know, that immediately puts us in a different league completely. So I’m just, I’m saying that because we have to understand the power of great pictures and content creation and stuff. And I’m always in awe of what she creates and how she tells a story. And I give her that creative,


permission to just flow with it and tell the story from her perspective. So she’s an integral part of our team moving forward. And then of course we’ve got my eldest daughter who has her own brand and she’s opted to brand for herself that appeals more to her age category. And


Then I also have our doctor who is always, she says, you know, if she has, she obviously loves what she does. She has such a great passion for serving. So she always says that she serves differently, but she serves in her Sari for Change garments. 

Christél: And then you’ve got a laat lammetjie. 

Rayana: Oh, a little ballerina. So she, all she wants to do is dance and she…


is now at that stage where this is cool and that’s not cool. So she’s my biggest and my worst critique. 

Christél: Okay. 

Rayana: Yeah. 

Christél: The worst critique sounds hectic. 

Rayana: No, she does. She’ll tell me like, mom, that looks like just silly, you know, like those colors don’t work or, oh no, that’s cringe. Cringe is their favorite word if you ever have one. A Gen Z. 

Christél: Oh, that’s… Uh-huh. I know that one.


Rayana: Yeah, so we cringe quite often. But they’re so supportive and you know, we really, they’re so enthusiastic about what we do. They connect with every single lady or trainee. When we do have get togethers and the trainees bringing their children, it’s just one big happy family, you know, and there’s this acceptance from my family that this is…


my mom’s work, this is her legacy and this respect that goes into it and for me that is just it means so much to me and it gives me the fuel to continuously do what I do and do it better and because it is legacy work as well, Christél, and they’re showing that they have the appetite for it. 

Christél: I must say the One Big Happy family story sounds so romantic. I suppose you never had any challenges.


trying to be a mum of five daughters and running a business at the same time and being involved in your community. 

Rayana: Well, I always say that, you know, it’s these stories that make us who we are. And the challenges are so many that are definitely not going to take place in one podcast. But all I can say is…


that as mothers, as leaders, as mentors and coaches, we need to be able to give them the authentic version. We need to be able to tell them, you know, and show them that life is not just about the successes, but it’s about falling down, and you’re gonna fall down more often than most, but it’s how we rise that matters the most, and how we hold our heads high and keep going. And…


You know, my lessons are their lessons, because I share, I share generously, and they are there to experience it too, and allow them to speak back and to be able to express how they see it and how they feel about it. And we have these amazing debates that becomes quite brutal sometimes with me stomping off and having to go for a walk. But I wouldn’t want it any other way, you know, these…


This is my tribe and I have one rule, respect. That’s it. Respect. Respect that everybody’s going to have a different opinion. Everyone’s going to see it differently. And I must say that it’s big happy families. It’s beautiful to be able to see those and enjoy those moments, but it takes hard work to be able to get there. And I suppose the…


about falling down and getting back up for them. It is one of the best educations I can get to see that it does happen and it’s not that easy to get up. Well, it starts, you know, again, like I said to you with just the education alone, Christél, I don’t always have the money to be able to see them all through in terms of their degree, you know. I mean, we all know universities are so expensive


Christél: I’ve got three at university I know exactly what you’re talking about. 

Rayana: And that’s it right and so especially as an entrepreneur as well we’re not dependent on we’re not always dependent on a salary right so they we’ve had to depend on on sponsorships or scholarships and that meant they had to work really hard they had to try a lot more than you know their friends possibly and they’d


You know, this is how nice must it be to be able to just go and not worry that you’re not going to get your report because school fees wasn’t paid on time and you know, or the fact that you’re not. I mean, our worst one was we one of one of them were not actually had. It was this chance that they weren’t going to graduate because schools when the fees were not paid on time. Do you know the sleepless nights you have as a mother?


when you know it’s graduation and you have this huge deadline looming, what are you going to do? And you don’t have a partner that you can turn to to say, listen, please help. So yeah, they understand that. And so they were thrown into the deep end at a young age where they knew they had to work hard so that they could get those scholarships. And cue when necessary to go and stand in the cue like,


everybody else to be able to put their case in front, to be able to pitch at any moment and and to know exactly what it is that they want to do, clarity had to come early to them and I made it clear this is your way out of the situation because you know life is not going to serve it to you on a golden tray. It’s hard work and and so yeah they see my journey and they know that so well.


And if I look at them today, the choices that they are making for themselves, it’s unbelievable. And they say to me, mom, we know what it’s like to be challenged and to have hard times, but we also know what it’s like now, you know, when things are a bit better and we can go out and buy ourselves a car and what that means to our lifestyle. So yeah. 

Christél: Oh, that is almost brings tears to my eyes.


Rayana: Christél, we came back to this country after a divorce. Let me actually share this with you, okay, and you didn’t know this about me. We came and I came with five suitcases and four girls. I am from South Africa, but their father was living in Nairobi, Kenya. And we came and we had to start life all over again. I had a thousand rand in my pocket, okay, and we literally lived on the floor.


for months was no furniture. And I had to get a job. I had to slowly start building myself as a single woman with absolutely no support. And so when I go and meet women that are in similar situations and they’re misproperly, and they’re living in the townships, I’m able to say to them, I know your struggle. I know your pain, but I could rise above it. I would take a taxi into Sandton every single day for


a job that I had, and interviews that I had to go to, etc. I know that. The day I could buy myself a little car and, you know, small little baby steps. But today I’m here to share the story so that you can do this for yourself. And that’s how raw it gets. So my kids know that. We had a thousand ran. I ran into Ranberg to go and buy four plates, one pot.


Four spoons, four, and four because we’re four children. I would wait for them to finish so I could have. 

Christél: Oh, wow. 

Rayana: Okay, so that’s real. And you know, you just don’t know where life is gonna throw you. I, you know, at one point I had my own business and I had this amazing database. And the next year I was back on the plane, coming back home, walking away from.


a really, really bad situation. And that was it.


Christél: But you got back up and you made it. And you showed your children, your daughters, that you can make it on your own. 

Rayana: And that’s not just for my daughters, but for every other woman that feels challenged right now or have been challenged, and they just don’t see a solution forward. Just take it day by day and look and see, what do you have?


What do you have in terms of skills and resources? Make that work for you. It’s in the same way as able to launch this project, knowing that there was resources that could be utilized and repurposed. And recycling was so big for me because there was never a budget for anything. So we had to make use. And hence now, when we look at the world and how we align, it’s about this giving…


a second lease on life to certain things that had an original function. And now we’ve changed that. And that is sustainability. And what we working in as businesses called the circular economy. And now apparently the circular economy is where the future lands. Exactly. But it all sounds so easy if…


you look from where you came from, where you are today, and I think it’s good to know about all the struggles that you’ve had in between because people very often think everything just happens on its own. And having an example like yourself just makes it so much more inspiring that if you could do it, I might be able to do it too. Yeah, you know it’s


We all, I think, we all have a story. It’s life. Okay? We, I think we’re at a point in life right now where marketing has become a big storytelling and people are wanting to hear the authentic stories and this gives rise to a whole other movement. I call it a movement because it’s a movement of authenticity. It’s a movement of, you know, actually understanding yourself.


Because Christél, it comes back to that. As much as I’m sitting in a good position right now, but to get here wasn’t just about the business, it was also the relationship that we have with ourselves. Are we able to heal? How are we on this journey of self-discovery and renewal? And that’s literally the other part of it. It has been a healing journey in many ways.


And so I felt that, you know, the minute you deprive yourself of that healing and that self-renewal, you’re going to struggle. You’re going to struggle to be able to meet and to live to the best of your potential. 

Christél: That is so, so, so true. Just a little lighter note.


Before you get me into tears, yeah. You mentioned that there was going to be child labor involved. We haven’t heard anything about child labor yet. 

Rayana: The models and you know, they always if you go back into our journey 10 years ago, so they were probably 13, 14, dressing up as trying to look 18, right? Because we could never.


to do professional shoots or to hire professional models. And so they were there in their makeup and heels. And then of course, coming to markets, we did flea markets and we did wherever there was a spot, we were there as a family. And these girls learned how to sell at such a young age. And I remember my first boutique that we opened up at Victory Park in…


here in Johannesburg and my daughter who is now the engineer, she came she was nine years old at the time when I opened the boutique and she comes to me and she whispers and we have this beautiful opening and my friends are all there to support and the clothing just arrived. This was all based on an imported model and she comes in and she says, Mom, have you priced everything? And I’m like, yeah, I have. Why are you panicking? She says, are you sure you put a profit on everything?


Christél: Oh, cute. 

Rayana: So, you know, again, we are role modeling constantly. And this filters through the project and the actual organization now. This filters through to our youth sitting in the township. They are actually actual beneficiaries. I have beautiful stories of how children at the school, because we also have a back to school program where moms come to the school to learn skills and we have a classroom.


at Dobsonville and the children just they will come when we have workshops and training sessions they all join their moms and they all come and sit behind those desks and they are all sewing and learning the skill themselves and this is really just so beautiful to see how involved they are because their mom is interested. So when I talk about child labor it’s everything that they don’t get paid for. 


Well, I think there’s nothing better for a child than to get involved in their parents’ business. And if you can use that, they’re so good with the phones. I mean, often, I mean, that’s how Iman started, you know, I would say, please, can you take a picture? And I would, I tried to take a picture and she’s like, mom, you suck at this. I’m like, yeah, I can’t be good at everything, you know. And that’s how she eventually got into managing the social media in the beginning.


So yeah, let them learn as much as they can. And there’s so many different parts of the business. And I think again, we’ll relate as business owners. We have to do everything because we never really have the budgets, you know, in the beginning. But so in that process of doing everything, I literally got them all involved. My first business card was a little, I mean, I had this important meeting and I didn’t have a budget even to make cards as yet.


So we hand made business cards and I got them to color in the back and we did some creative designs so they could color. And I remember handing out my business cards at this meeting and everybody was looking at it and they were so amused and I said, welcome to my tribe. I tried to make light of it, you know, but and they were amused but at the end of the day it was like I, if I look at it now and I was like, what was the messaging? Be memorable. And that…


they most probably will always remember me for those cards. 

Christél: Do you still have a photo of those cards? 

Rayana: I do. Actually, that’s a good, good question. I must look it up. Okay, I’m going to look for it. I definitely will. 

Christél: Okay, I can just see a collection of all these startup images and where your kids were involved. I think that must be quite interesting.


Rayana: Thank you for bringing that to my attention. Ah, wow, that would be amazing to create an album or, you know, start something like that. Thank you, definitely. Well, while… I’ll send it to you once I’ve got it together, definitely. 

Christél: While you were talking, I got this image in my head where my two sons were helping me to cook for my team at my advertising agency because I wanted to treat my team, but there wasn’t any budget.


get caterers in so I got my children to help cook for my team. Oh that is so pretty. And I took a photo of it. 

Rayana: Oh beautiful. I’m sure there’s many of these stories but but how do you feel as a mom you know just knowing your kids are involved and and they believe in what you’re doing I think that’s such a big gift. 

Christél: It is it is absolutely but I think looking back


looking at how you try to run around to keep your children from still doing all the activities that they want to do and competitions that they want to be involved in while trying to manage your company, while being involved in the community. It just gets a bit much at times and I think there’s a big danger in that trying to be everything for everyone.


tends to have negative effects over a long period. 

Rayana: I totally agree with you. And like I said, you do these amazing adventures and getaways. And I can’t wait to be able to say, oh, I can afford it, first of all. And that’s coming soon, I promise. And but also just being part of that. There’s so much we want to do for ourselves. But I think that I won’t rest until I’ve gotten.


the business as well as the foundation to a point where it is fully operational and you know, and I guess in many ways it’s putting a lot more pressure on myself and you know what use am I then if I’m going to burn out because that’s my biggest fear so I think that’s what you’re going to do and possibly you know it’s just do it just maybe and that’s my takeaway for today you know instead of waiting to be


at a certain level because it could take longer, maybe, I don’t know, but the reality is when you feel what you feel like, right now I’m exhausted, I must tell you, I’m tired, you know, and I wish that I had a team, a full team that could do and get to everything that needs to be done. But, you know, so I could take some time out. That’s a luxury. So what do you do?


Do I just take it out anyway and deal with everything else later? You know, and that’s what I’m grappling with and I’m really being very vulnerable about it. 

Christél: Well, burnout is a reality and what’s also a reality is that most of the times you don’t see it coming. And only afterwards you realize, oh, sure, but you made this decision because you were just so flippen tired.


and exhausted. So, yeah, I think we need to organize an event very, very soon where you can join us and we can just get out and have fun somewhere in the world. And there’s some amazing places just in Johannesburg itself where one can just get away. 

Rayana: I’m signing up for that. Please. 

Christél: Fantastic.


Rayana: Help me and guide me, get me out. 

Christél: I will get you out. 

Rayana: So I find myself the days that I really feel that I need it because we get those days. I mean, I do do a lot of meditation. I do yoga. You know, we are and I go for walks with the girls. So, I mean, I do have my own little practice in place, but it’s not enough. And, you know, we can I really miss connecting to nature more. And so.


So when I do have that space and I’m feeling really good that I want to do this, I sit in Google like where to go, what to do, you know, like I just feel it’s not that easily accessible because it’s not part of my lifestyle yet. So I think by you creating these events and guiding us and saying, okay, come, let’s do this, it helps. 

Christél: Okay, I will definitely get back to you on all those events.


and we will dedicate it to Rayana  Edwards that pushed us into getting this together. Rayana , but something that I would like to know, your business after 10 years is doing really well. What is your motivation for continuing doing what you’re doing? 

Rayana: It’s definitely seen the women grow.


I want, if I just see one shift, it just gives me so much joy. And it gives me that motivation to continue doing what we do and to increase the training hubs. I’ll give you an example. We, so Mercy heads our CosmoCity hub. And Mercy started off as a cleaner. And she was always interested in the sewing machine in the factory. This is when we were in the factory.


and she’s like, please cannot come in, I really can’t, somebody teach me and that’s this is how we started with her. She’d come in on a Saturday and learn how to use the sewing machine and a few maybe three four years down the line she started making little bags for us. I bought her a sewing machine and then eventually she started learning how to make garments. Mercy is a hub leader today.


and she was responsible for the pick and pay production together with four other women in the in the Cosmo City area. When we were done with pick and pay production and they had it launched at the stores, on the launch weekend we took them. I squeezed them all into the car and I took them to Sandton City. First of all, I did not realize that it was the first time that they actually


saw Sandton City or were in Sandton. The second thing is, by the time we got into the mall to the pick and pay there, and seeing their work being displayed on the rails in the setting of a Sandton City store, the fact that there were hardly any more dresses left on the rails, including myself, we were in tears. It’s just such an emotional part of what we do and how…


in the end we could take them to witness their work. It was really very special. And it’s moments like that that you just, no matter what the challenges are, Christél, everything is worth it.


Christél: I can just imagine. But speaking of challenges, what would be your major challenges that you face on a daily basis? Obviously it’s a pioneering space that we’ve been working in 10 years and I called it my labor of love because would you ever imagine that a secondhand fabric could be


at a retail store in South Africa. Would you imagine if somebody had to tell you that would you think that that would be possible? Definitely not 10 years ago. Exactly, exactly that. So where we started everybody looked at me as if I was crazy you know. What are you doing including my mom? I reminded her the other day she’d say you know and my mom speaks a bit of African so


Oh cute! Oh bless your mum! You know and she could not make sense of this. Hey play Berserk, play my Ola piece and today and when she sees all these articles and the launches and she said then I say to her yeah mum my Ola piece. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. But the challenges is first that what that was the first challenge is


educating people around the impact of what we’re doing. That it wasn’t just about the second hand fabric, but it was creating or saving these saris from landfill or fabric from landfill, reducing our carbon footprint and also reducing water in production because the fashion industry is the biggest pollutant of…


the industry of globally, the industry is one of the highest contributors to pollutants. And so now when we look at the saving of all of this, it really is part of a green economy. And then of course, the challenges such as we’re not in a public space, so people really have to, you know, call us out, please, can we collect the sorries, where can they drop it off, etc.


So we have to literally book a courier each time. And so our logistics poll is really high in, you know, moving saris around, collecting them all in every part of the country. So we definitely praying for a logistics partner. And then of course, it’s, you know, looking at our…


e-commerce site in the digital space, we really want to position ourselves more strongly. Goods coming in from different hubs comes in inconsistently because it comes in from different places. And then by the time we get it onto the website, the lag in between that costs quite a bit. And it’s going back to fix things.


So, you know, it’s about getting the ecosystem right and constantly working on that with industry experts. I’m obviously work, I can create a garment, but when it comes to the refinement of it, especially with this fabric, it’s really challenging. So we’re doing the experts. And yeah, I think also we’re sitting in a very fragile economy right now. I cannot complain.


But again, you know, people need to understand what we’re doing and the impact that we are creating that allows for them to spend with us because every garment is accounted for going back to the hubs and increasing capacity so that we can bring on more women and that has also taken the backseat because we’ve been working with this 24 woman that’s part of production.


But I’d love to be able to increase that and say, okay, we’re starting a new hub, which we are. I mean, I’ve decided that this has to happen so that we can shift that 124 women to 200 and make that 300. Imagine if every city in South Africa had a hub that was working and that then filters down to a repair shop in every area. We are huge contributors to the economy.


in the industry and it’s simple little task that needs to be undertaken. Absolutely. Just a thought that I have is to what extent do you find people understand the difference between your garments and the garments that’s in the major retailers that all comes from China and is just on a completely different level?


So that’s exactly the biggest challenge that I mentioned, taking 10 years to educate and inform people the difference between slow fashion and fast fashion. At the end of the day, in a fragile economy, it’s cheap items is obviously more desirable and affordable. So that’s where you’re gonna go, right?


But if we all just become more conscious about it, we can make better decisions, not just for ourselves, but also the planet. And again, you know, for people to start understanding this relationship between planet and people and profit. It’s a huge, not just in the clothing industry, even in the food that we consume, what’s the difference between potato that you’re buying at checkers?


versus a potato possibly that your neighbor gave you from the soil of their ground or their farm. You know, there’s just such a huge shift towards more conscious consumption and again it takes time and you know it either resonates for you or it doesn’t.


And that’s the conclusion that we had to get to. So a lot of our, I mean, social media plays a huge part of our business process. It had to because it’s about educating the consumer in our own way, you know, but ultimately the decision lies with you. You decide where you spend your money. And again, you know, the economy doesn’t help much. But if we look at the future, the fashion proofing of the future.


then it’s models like ourselves that is taking center stage globally at the moment. There’s definitely a shift, although I think there’s a portion of the people out there that would never catch this, but there’s definitely a shift towards more consciousness about slow fashion as opposed to fast fashion. That is definitely, but I suppose it comes back to your whole target market planning.


and you just some people you never went over and you should just forget about them. But you know with that being said that the pick and pay activation and collaboration was actually an important one. The pricing point was very reasonable, it could because of the collaboration pick and pay and so it opened it up to a different target audience completely as compared to a normal one.


that sits on the website or bespoke markets or pop-ups, right? So it was interesting to see that movement and the demand for it. But at the same time, we need to be mindful as to, you know, how fast, how slow fashion businesses and brands operate and the costs involved to make that garment versus fast fashion. We it really impacts the person creating it.


We just came through Fashion Revolution Week. In 2015, there was an incident in Bagnodesh where about 350 people lost their lives in a fire working in a building. And they found that the big brands, this building, which was completely unsafe and actually unfit for anybody to be operating from, the big brands were actually their clients. And so.


This gave rise to what we call the fashion revolution. And since 2015, this narrative has really shifted and through various activations and interventions, people are asking who made your clothes. And we actually have hashtags around this now. What are the conditions under which those clothes were made? How were people compensated? What are the conditions of who’s been impacted, et cetera.


So these questions are now being asked. So every time you look, and actually if you go to our local brands these days, you’ll see that there’s a lot of, like you said, there’s a huge shift. Like we’ll see, if you reread, we’re not a reading nation, but we need to start reading the labels. Even just, you know, a brand I read this morning at breakfast, the top of a juice bottle, the top was made from…


bamboo, recycled bamboo. And I thought, wow, that’s so impressive, you know, simple things like that. The fact that when we go to another certain stores, there’s no plastic, you know, we’re using fabric bags instead. So there’s a whole lot of changes that has taken place and not realizing how this is filtering through to the fashion industry. How many times do you see now a label that says


I am made from a recycled fabric. So yeah, it’s real, it’s gonna get bigger, it’s gonna get better, and we’re constantly innovating in this space. It is definitely, definitely very, very exciting. Raona, just quickly, you sort of touched on it, but what would be, when it comes to business, what makes you feel on top of the world? The whole aspect of


growing as a local brand and people preferring to choose local brands and I’m not just talking of my own brand but you know if you look at the likes again because I’m in the industry you might not have heard of him but if you look at the likes of a Laduma or a Mascausa sorry or Tebe Magugue you know they are doing amazing work heritage work cultural work


and it’s all in the fashion space and their garments are sought out after globally. So for me what makes me feel on top of the world is to see this kind of support coming through not just locally but internationally and also to be able to see brands like myself reach the international arena because I think that everybody is inspired by Africa and it’s time that Africa and especially South Africa


starts taking ourselves seriously and with that what products are we sharing to the rest of the world export needs to be a huge component in our business and we all should start thinking about that as well well and i suppose especially certain countries if i think of europe there is a lot more consciousness about sustainable correct um yeah so we fashion


Yes, we have few clients situated in these countries. Denmark is the fashion capital, sustainable fashion capital of the world right now, as well as Sweden. So we’ve been sending and supplying to clients since two, three years ago. And also we have quite a few following in the UK as well. So there’s a huge shift in terms of the appetite for


sustainable products, but also furthermore, the back story. How are, what is our impact looking? And in our case, of course, you know, the fact that we are moving women towards self-sufficiency and, you know, with the sustainability tagging. So it’s very, you know, it’s obviously very favorable, but again, policy needs to change around exports for small businesses. It becomes quite a…


a difficult exercise, especially, you know, in duties on the other side. And so there’s been a few talks because I do sit on quite a lot of panels, not just locally, but internationally as well. I went to I was invited by United Nations last year, International Trade Center. I was the guest at COP 28, which is a conference of parties from all over the world.


where the main focus and discussion is based on sustainability. And my takeaways from there was just first of all, being able to see the huge connection and like-minded people coming together to focusing on this, but most importantly, how leaders could then hear our voices coming from grassroots up and how they could then start shifting and breaking down existing policies.


So there is, those shifts are there and I do know in the next few years, you know, we will see changes. Okay, so it becomes easier for you to export your amazing clothes? That and also just understanding more about, you know, what constitutes a sustainable garment or product, because there’s a lot of whitewashing that’s happening as well. So big brands have come out. I’m not going to mention any names, but you know,


stating that they have a certain percentage of sustainability or measuring their carbon footprint, but not being truthful about it. And it makes us look really silly because we’re doing the groundwork, you know, from the grassroots right up. And yeah, and so it’s just like, you know, being able to hold them to account. And that’s easier said than done. Well, that’s it. So we need measurables. We need…


correct standards. There’s a lot of what your measurables and evaluation processes that’s taking place right now and that’s a lot of my energy is being directed to that because we also want to align to a bureau of standards as such.


I must say, listening to you, you say it takes a lot of your energy. I don’t know how you keep up all your energy for your business and helping your industry and everything else. Still being, trying to be a mom. It’s absolutely amazing how you keep things together. I think that you can only look forward. We can’t look backwards. You know, we can’t look at…


what should have been, what could have been. We wake up every single day with new hope and just pray that today is gonna be a better day than yesterday. And for me, it’s like having to learn how to be present, present to every situation as it arises. And then again, being able to connect to like-minded people. This is the really nice part of what I do, being able to contribute X amount of time.


to a platform such as yours, Crystal, and just having a chat and sharing the story, it makes it worth it. After this, I’ve got lots of admin to go and get into, not my favorite, but I’ve got to promote myself to at least an hour and a half there, and then I’ve got a shoot later on that I’ll pop into. So, you know, it’s really just managing, time management is so important. Mm, mm, absolutely. Rauna, if you could be 20 years older,


again and you could change anything. What would that be? Sure, I just said to you now, we can’t go backwards, we’ve got to keep moving forwards. But let me try and answer that question. I think it is just really, you know, being more present and not taking ourselves so seriously. We strive for perfection as humans, right? But you know what? This space has taught me nothing is perfect.


You know, you strive towards it. And then when it becomes perfect, and then it’s like, now what? All that stress, and now we’re here. You know? And then the next and the next. So it’s this constant loop. So just don’t take yourself too seriously. And it’s OK if it’s not perfect. You’ll get there eventually. Be patient with the process, because it’s in the process that fun actually happens. I like that part about it’s OK if it’s not perfect.


you know, exactly, even in the fashion space as well. So my ladies, when they’re sewing, the seams are not always straight, the stitching is not always straight. I have to make that call. What am I gonna do? They’re gonna redo it, they’re gonna botch it up further, they’re gonna, I gotta accept it. I’m like, okay, I’ll buy that bag because I buy the first tier one training, I buy bags back from them. So I buy the most imperfect bags. The stitching is all skew and, but you know what?


The joy that it gives them and the motivation is everything and that’s what I need to recognize. And so if I had to look at myself as a 20 year old, were you really so scared to make all those mistakes? You’re scared to fall? You want to be perfect? Bullshit! You know, there’s no such thing. It’s going to happen anyway. In that process of trying to perfect it lies the best learnings. So let us rather be focused on that.


than being focused on getting to that point of perfection. And society dictates that all the time, but we’re stressing too much about it. Like, it’s not worth it in the end. Just don’t take yourself so seriously. Have the ability to laugh at yourself. So when we look and we bought 100 bags in that are imperfect, we take stock and we say, wow, it took 100 bags, imperfect bags, to get you to the next level. And we laugh about it.


in the hubs. Well I suppose in the end for people who’s really serious about sustainability that is 100% proof that it was handmade. There’s so many different stories that we can look at you know and formulate to justify that and but again this is what I’m saying you might not know it’s perfect you know but somebody else will see it as…


perfectly perfect. So a message to ourselves every day, we are perfectly perfect right now. And I suppose also with that imperfect him, when I buy that garment, I know that I’ve helped someone some way that didn’t have a future and because I’m buying it, I give them a future. Exactly, exactly.


Our innate nature in life is to be able to give back. Really, we all, don’t you feel good when you give back? Absolutely. Or you think you’re doing something for somebody and you get to experience that joy or not sometimes. But just knowing that you are doing good. And why do we feel that this, why do we have this good feeling afterwards? It’s because we were given this gift of life ourselves.


Absolutely, absolutely without a doubt. Rana, you mentioned earlier that South Africans are not a reading nation. I suppose it’s not just about labels but books as well and I know you are extremely busy. I cannot imagine that you have time to read a book but if you could recommend a book to any entrepreneur out there what would it be?


It’s not going to be a book on entrepreneurship as such, but I feel that there is a really, really good self-help book, kind of, that has really helped me and it’s, and I still have this practice today, and it’s by Julia Cameron. It’s called The Artist’s Way, and The Artist’s Way is delving into yourself, your inner self.


and it has these beautiful exercises in the book. You know, like one of it is journaling on an A4 paper for three pages every single day at the same time. And you just write down your thoughts and your emotions. And sometimes you just like hit the blank. And you write. I don’t know what to write. I’m just dawdling right now. I have the situation in the office. I’m not sure about it. And I promise you, you keep writing.


Okay and eventually you get to and you do this every day. You actually empty out your thoughts number one and number two you will find that in this writing you’re able to see a pattern emerge and you’re starting to find your own solution and that’s one aspect of the book the artist’s way.


Definitely sounds like something that has to be read. Yes, no, it’s a read, but as well as a dive into yourself. I’m definitely going to get myself a copy of that one. I’d love to hear about your experience about it afterwards. Well, I must say I love journaling, but I don’t always, I definitely don’t get to it on a specific time every day.


but I find a lot of value journaling and then looking back and see, oh shabbit, this pattern is repeating. So somewhere along the line you need to make a difference and need to change it. Yeah, that’s what I’m saying. It’s such a good investigation into ourselves. The other value I got out of that book was taking myself out on a date. We spoke about this earlier, you know, and again, you know, I do this quite often.


you ask how do I cope? Sometimes you just need to be alone with yourself and whether I go and have a tea with myself, which I did yesterday by the way, I went to have a lovely scone with fresh cream and jam, I love that, and a tea and I sat in this coffee shop and I could do some work but I could also just be alone with my thoughts and you know or a date could look like going to a gallery, an artist gallery and looking at art and appreciating it, it could just be a walk you know. So I really


also very mindful about that and it does help just to hang out with yourself sometimes. Well that is something that needs to be written down into the diary. Yep absolutely. Rahana what would be your metaphorical mountains that you still want to climb within the next three to five years except for exporting? I really see myself as


being an author of where I can actually share these stories and I am writing a book at the moment. So I think it’s the book. The book is really my next big challenge and I do want to launch this globally because it is a book about women. It’s not just the entrepreneurial journey, it’s just how women rise.


That sounds amazing and when is that going to launch? It’s probably within the next year, I’d say. We’re taking our time around it, you know, we want to be really conscious and mindful of every word that we are putting down, but also the fact that it has to be able to link into what we’re doing constantly, as well as women moving forward despite the challenges.


Hmm that is such an important message. I cannot wait for your book. Are you going to have any quotes in there? Definitely, I think the one that jumps out straight away is I was a hidden treasure and I wanted to be known.


Some explanation behind it? The answers lie within us. And we just need to be still to be able to access those answers. If we dig within, we’ll find our treasure. It’s not without. Finding your treasure. There is a lot of work to be done there. But there is a treasure.


Yep, we all have it. The fact that we were created from one source and that we’ve given this life as a gift, we find that treasure within.


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