We believe that the fashion industry goes hand in hand with business thus we felt it was important to introduce the concept to our students. And since business is one of the subjects in our syllabus, we decided to invite a former student to speak to our current students about her experience as a business-owner in the fashion industry.

Tarien Malherbe was here to speak to our students on the role business plays in the fashion industry. Tarien started the clothing label NON-EUROPEAN.

NON-EUROPEAN is an ethical South African fashion brand pioneered and currently exclusively designed by Tarien Malherbe who expresses her SA heritage through this range of contemporary daywear ensembles as part of her self-sustaining business. Tarien is known for her timeless design and strong focus on cut and fit. All NON-EUROPEAN products are produced in house by a team of talented ladies from different cultural backgrounds. – Source 

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Cape Town Fashion Week collection, photography by SDR Photo

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Cape Town Fashion Week collection, photography by SDR Photo

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Cape Town Fashion Week collection, photography by SDR Photo

We asked her to share her knowledge with our first-year students during their business class. We set aside a few questions for Tarien and here is what she had to say:

Tell us about your business

I design, manufacture and wholesale garments under the label, NON-EUROPEAN.

I have my own in house production facility that I rent from Elizabeth Galloway. We sell our garments at wholesale to South African boutiques and directly to clients from my studio in Stellenbosch.

What motivated you to start your own business?

It was the next thing I had to do. I had just finished my studies at the Elizabeth Galloway Academy of Fashion Design and did not plan to start working immediately after graduating. I still had to show on Cape Town and Durban fashion weeks and had to produce a new range. This was part of the prize as Best Innovative Designer that I won at the VUKANI fashion awards earlier the previous year. People saw my clothes on the runway and wanted to order, but I did not know how I would be able to produce. Elizabeth assisted me by setting up a small factory, employing seamstresses and opening a boutique. She created the platform for me to start my business and I just seized the opportunity.

How did you manage to start your business?

I received lots of exposure through winning the Vukani fashion award and getting slots on all the fashion weeks. I also received financial and other resource support from Elizabeth Galloway for the first 2 years.

How did you build relationships with the people you deal with e.g. suppliers, buyers, customers, staff, and partners in the business?

Boutiques are my buyers – those who take things on consignment and those who buy cash on delivery. I meet them at designer boutique shows or they contact me when they see my garments in magazines, on the internet or in other boutiques. I always treat them fairly and with respect and deal promptly with them.

In terms of my staff – I treat them fairly and with respect and decency. They are a valuable part of my business and the business’ success largely depends on their diligence, honesty and commitment. Their names also appear on the labels in the clothing so as to give them a sense of ownership and pride in the product.

Which regulations and or laws have affected you at some point in the opening and or running of your business? At what point and how were you affected?

I’ve had to learn about labour laws, tax regulation, registering of a trademark and company and finding people who can assist me with all the processes, especially now that I’m taking people into my own employment.

How do you price your products?

To cover my costs and to stay competitive within the market sector in which I operate. The prices of my products also need to say to customers that this is quality without being outrageously priced.

How do you decide on your product – quality, quantity, price, and origin?

I operate ethically at all times, I have high quality standards and I source locally before looking at imports for my products. Quantity depends on demand and success of the specific style. I always test a design before I produce big quantities.

Who handles your finances and tax?

I make use of the services of a local accountant who works from her home. I often pay her in clothes to the value of the services she provides for me. Throughout the year I keep accurate documentation of all income and expenses so as to make it easier for her.

Any advice to our students?

In my standard 9 or grade 11 year I did a college course in small business management and entrepreneurship and this helped to form a business mindset at an early age. I did not plan to have my own business at all during that stage of my life, but today I am so thank full of that course. Even though I am a fashion designer, I’d say that 70% of what I do is business and only 30% of my time is used for design purposes. I’d say that business class is one of the MOST important classes at design school and I’d recommend that any student should focus and take in as much as possible in business class.

It was a great inspiring day with great insight.

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Cape Town Fashion Week collection, photography by SDR Photo

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Cape Town Fashion Week collection, photography by SDR Photo

NON-EUROPEAN SS 2009 AFI Tarien and her staff, photography by SDR Photo

See more on Tarien label Non-European HERE