Posted on 11 May 2012.
Ouma Tema is a dynamic businesswoman and is the founder and force behind Plus-Fab, a clothing line mainly aimed at fuller figured women. I first met her at a women’s event last year. I noticed her from across the room, fabulously dressed up in a chic dress topped with a faux fur piece and stunning shoes to match. I dare say she was the best dressed lady at that event! She exuded with confidence. Her friendly, inviting personality shone through; so much so, that people were drawn to her. I was intrigued!
I caught up with her recently to get to know her story and unpack what drives her.
KT: Tell me a little about yourself. Who is Ouma Tema? Where are you from?
OT: I am a humble young woman from a small township called Namakgale in Limpopo. I am God’s favourite daughter, Mama’s Baby, a Sister and a Friend. I own a fashion line for fuller figured women called PLUS-FAB *not just the right size*
KT: Anyone who has ever met you would know you have a very positive self-image. Have you always been that way?
OT: I guess so. My family is full of fun, crazy and positive people. I also learned from a young age that I might not have the killer body, killer smile or even killer face… but I have a killer life to live!
KT: What did you do before getting into the fashion industry? And when did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
OT: Because I am not formally trained, I had to soak myself in knowledge and learn as much as I could before hitting the ground running. I was blessed to have amazing mentors in the business.
Being a fuller figured woman myself, I was struggling to get clothes that speak to chic, fabulous, fuller figured women. My mission was to bridge the gap, and I guess being a fashion designer came with the package.
KT: What was the first article of clothing you ever designed?
OT: One of my favourite uncles was getting married and I needed to look absolutely fabulous for his wedding ceremony. I asked my mom for money to buy fabric and to take me to any seamstress she knew of, to construct my design. I loved the end product… thanks to my gorgeous mom!
KT: How did the Plus-Fab brand start? And how did you select your target market, especially given that society dictates that cover magazine type of skinny women are beautiful?
OT: I used to design my outfits and have them made to my specification, and that resulted in a lot of women asking about my garments, from those in my circle, to those at events I attended, to women on Facebook. Some women were even willing to offer me double the price of the garment value. I realized that fuller figured women have been discriminated against for a long time where beauty and fashion are concerned.
I also realized that it would not help just complaining about it and not do something about it. Before I knew it, PLUS FAB had been embraced by women all over, from South Africa, to Zimbabwe, Botswana, Nigeria and Ghana.
KT: What skills are required to be a successful fashion designer?
OT: Be genuine and pay attention to your clients at all times. You will need to be ready to invest your TIME and MONEY in what you believe in. Building a brand takes time and money, so the need to be patient is paramount.
KT: How do you build a successful customer base?
OT: I constantly build a database of all my clients and all my networks by sometimes going to an extent of stopping every plus and fabulous woman I meet/bump into anywhere! I then tell them about my brand… be it in malls, streets or at events. Social networks have also helped me build my clientele.
Money is not always there to run a 10 page advert in media, so you have to rely on free resources at your disposal to make it happen.
KT: What is the most difficult aspect of running a business?
OT: I like to call them “building challenges.” One of the challenges faced by entrepreneurs when starting out is trying to be everything at once: you do your own marketing, HR, sales, finance and office administration concurrently and that can be too much at times. I am grateful to have my assistant Ms Ayanda Faba, my part time intern Ms Leago Marume, and my seamstresses. Without them, I have nothing!
KT: How long does it usually take you to construct a piece?
OT: It depends on the complications in the garment, sometimes two days and sometimes a week or even more.
KT: What does fashion mean to you? How would you define your personal style?
OT: Fashion is life to me. I don’t take myself seriously. I am more into simple, chic and comfortable looks. My personality is my ultimate accessory and it brings life to everything I put on.
KT: Who are some of your favourite designers?
OT: Locally, I adore Lebo Mashile (the designer) of Lebomash, Coleen from The Space, and David Tlale. Internationally, it has to be Chanel and Alexander McQueen.
KT: What do you wish people would understand about working in the fashion industry?
OT: That it’s a business as much as it is in an art form.
KT: What motivates you?
OT: Being a young South African woman in this day and age of possibilities and many opportunities leaves me with no choice but to be inspired and motivated to go after my dreams.
KT: What are some of your accomplishments as a designer?
OT: Plus-Fab outfits have won the heart of some Mzansi’s best-known and loved personalities, like poet Ms Lebo Mashile and singer Ms Winnie Khumalo, Member of Parliament Hon. Thandile Babalwa Sunduza (Arts and Culture portfolio chair) and Metro FM’s Criselda Kananda to name a few. Also, being profiled in the following shows and papers since its inception:
- Good Morning Africa on channel 114 (DSTV)
- The New Age
- Record Pretoria Central and Mamelodi
- Daily Sun
- Sunday Sun
- Sunrise on ETV
- 3 Talk with Nolleen on SABC 3
- Big & Beautiful nline magazine
KT: To what do you most attribute your success?
OT: A lot of hard work, resilience, passion, patience and God’s grace and mercy.
KT: What’s next for your Plus-Fab?
OT: We are working hard towards having Plus-Fab readily available at retail stores, and God-willing, we will get there.
KT: We’ve seen the rise of brand Ouma Tema. Besides Plus-Fab, what else are you working on?
OT: We launched our latest winter ready to wear collection last month and the support is humbling indeed. We also launched a campaign to promote self-love, using car stickers; the message is “I AM PLUS AND FABULOUS! Nothing about us without us. It’s time for us to stand up and affirm ourselves is NOW!” Money made from sticker sales will be donated to my favourite orphanage in Atteridgeville, the Magau Community Centre, which feeds homeless kids and child-headed homes.
KT: Where can readers buy your clothes? And how can people contact you?
OT: Plus-Fab is based in Pretoria (Arcadia)
Contact: 0764242314 or 0735283817 or 0127514037
Facebook page: “Ouma Tema at Plus Fab”