Fashion Designer & Entrepreneur: A Thursdate with Brigette Mashile from Roka Roko

“Style is a reflection of your attitude and your personality.” – Shawn Ashmore

Brigette Mashile is a bold entrepreneur with a golden personality. She is blunt, fearless, carefree, unapologetic, loud, fun, funny and goofy.

Her out-of-the-box personality and passion for fashion has led her to create a number fashion ventures along the way. Her latest fashion venture is Roka Roko, a stylish brand with personality and attitude. True to her business mantra and personality, Brigette enjoys ‘creating happiness’ and unusual fashion combinations with fabric, culture and style.

Lights, Camera, Brigette
With a B. Com degree from the University of Witwatersrand and a Fashion Diploma from Studio5 School of Fashion, Brigette has always had a love for fashion. She has been creating garments for over a decade and her fashion buying industry experience has come in handy along the way.

We decided to shake things up by having a one-on-one with Brigette to learn more about her and Roka Roko. Here’s what she had to say:

Roka Roko – sew a dress
Roka Roka means ‘sew a dress’, in Sesotho, it is a fashion design venture that was created in February 2014. Roka Roko is passionate about creating whatever the client wants, in the exact style and detail that they want it in.

We’re not the same size 32
Roka Roko exists because everyone struggles to find something that fits perfectly in the colour, lining and details they desire. It is about creating tailor-made clothes that are made specially for you. I for one hate shopping for myself, it’s a nightmare because nothing fits properly; it’s either too big, too small, too tight or too loose. There’s always something that is out of place because the clothes are factory products made for a crowd, they were not made specifically for me or my body type. There’s a misconception that you can size people, I believe that you can’t size people. On average, there’s no perfect size 32 or 34; body types different.

Fashion that makes people happy
I hate making clothes for myself; it’s not fun for me – working with the same body types every day is boring. I enjoy making clothes for other people; there’s a difference in the experience. I get to work with different body types and meet new people. Making clothes that make people happy is more inspiring. I have no aspirations to make mass-produced clothes. I aspire to have something similar to what Vera Wang has where it is exclusive and more personal for clients. Funny story, I actually started making clothes for my dolls at 4 years’ old. I’ve always loved clothes; I just didn’t know what it was called at the time.

What do you call yourself?
I am not very formal; I struggle with being formal but if I had to reduce myself to a title, I’d have to say I am a Creator because it sounds more fun – it says that I am making something.

Having an aneurism was a turning point
I used to be a Fashion Buyer and I left because there was a need in side me that was not being fed by my job. I eventually started disliking my job, started slacking and ended up depressed and sick. I got sick enough to die – I had an aneurism. It was caused by high blood pressure, stress, depression and too much pressure. I don’t like speaking about my aneurism because contrary to what you might think, I actually don’t like to reveal too much about myself. The aneurism was a turning point in my life, when I woke up I made a choice to live a happier life. The funny thing is, the year that I resigned from my work we bought a house. It all starts with a choice; I chose to start my own business and do what I love. Right now, I am doing what I love and loving what I am doing.

After you go through an aneurism, you have no other choice but to succeed. I don’t wake up with the idea that I should go and try to start a career. If you’re still at a point where you are ‘trying to make it’ then you’re not ready to be an entrepreneur. You have to wake up every day knowing that you’re going to make it come rain or shine. When I was still working I was getting paid twice what I am making right now but I was broke and unhappy. The irony is, the race was about making money. Starting your own business creates a fearlessness about you because of all the things you go through. You learn to solve just about anything; for instance, no fabric gets wasted and a sewing mistake turns into a new style of dress. Every entrepreneur’s motto should be ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’. I have the least amount of money right now in this journey but I am the happiest I’ve ever been.

Be stubborn about your dreams
I am lucky to have an understanding partner who was with me through my sickness and he knows who I was before I became I made the choice to become an entrepreneur. For me, entrepreneurship is about living in the moment. You’re neither rich nor broke. It is about living on the edge and never having to fit in. Entrepreneurs don’t fit in with the crowd and they never will. As an entrepreneur, your desire to create and grow is so much that you learn to live on what you need. Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey and you have to get used to losing people who do not understand your vision along the way. It is hard for non-entrepreneurs to relate to your unique challenges. For instance, I just spent all my provident fund on my business and it is hard for them to relate to such decisions. Non-entrepreneurs see entrepreneurs as a risk.

As an entrepreneur, you need to be 150% stubborn in order to survive. Since the age of ten, I’ve had to fight to get to where I am today. I had to fight my family, friends and acquaintances because they all had their own version of what I should be doing for a living. That’s why you must be stubborn about your dreams because you are probably going to fight your mother who wants you become an Architect, your father who financed your schooling and even your sisters who look up to you. Everyone has their own dreams for you.

For as long as you’re trying to survive the brain is not free to create
Operating cash is a challenge. The trick is that you don’t even need a lot of operating cash to be successful but it is the reason why most businesses die out. When you don’t have operating cash, you can’t survive because to make more production you need more money and to make more money you need more production. Basically, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Advice to other entrepreneurs
When you say you want to be entrepreneur, be ready to be seen as a risk. Be brave, prepared and stubborn. You need to believe in what you are doing. You’ll get so many people telling you how expensive you are – you actually need to have alittle arrogant voice that helps you overcome the critics and pessimists.

Here’s some of Brigette’s work:

Signature dresses

Matric dance outfits

Weddings & couples’ outfits

If you would like to know more about Brigette Mashile and Roka Roko, visit Roka Roko on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You can also contact her on 0716844379.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at different types of entrepreneur personalities. We started you off with an entrepreneur personality quiz. Inspired to start your own business? At Co.Space, we’re all about making your business easy to start. Send us your details and we’ll help you find the right office, workshop, showroom, studio, storage and parking space for your type of business.