Positioning ‘Africa Your Time Is Now’ On The Global Stage
By Katlego Mereko
It is a well-known truth that taking on a business venture is no easy ride. Over and above natural talents, it often requires unencumbered passion, a common touch, steely determination and guile. These are some of the attributes Papama Mtwisha-Ramogase, founder of children clothing-line Butter Pudding and social movement Africa Your Time Is Now, encapsulates. She launched Butter Pudding in 2016 and has seen it grow in interesting ways over the last couple of years.
The name butter pudding was chosen as it invokes of warmth, comfort and sweetness - all the things children should be associated with. It is an inspired brand, rated as one of the 5 best up and coming children clothing brands in South Africa by IOL.
"The brand has grown, certainly in footprint and exposure. We have travelled the world and embarked on some PR exercises to grow it. The same is true for Africa time Your Time Is Now." Papama says.
For over 10 years, she worked in the fashion and media industry, learning and grappling with the ropes before she plunged into designing her own clothing line.
"I have been in the fashion industry all my life. I studied Design, went into media and worked in the fashion department of the media, so I knew enough before heading into this journey because it is something that I had immersed myself in for a long time. So, as much as I won't claim to know everything, my experience has helped me understand the ins and outs of the industry both locally and internationally."
"From that experience I managed to carve out my own niche and how I wanted to go back into the fashion space, and even though I had traded in the magazine space I always knew I wanted to go back to creating things and make my own contribution, but it needed to make sense to me and as a mother I always struggled to find stuff that I wanted for my kids and if I did, it was not good enough, or it was hard to get. So, I thought there is potential for me to kind of carve a niche for myself within the kids' space and it is a decision I do not regret and that which I thoroughly enjoyed. I am very passionate about children and so is passion, so I never like to feel like I’m working."
Africa Your Time Is Now is today a movement breaching international frontiers, but it started as an expression of Butter Pudding's stylistic outlook in the form of a T-Shirt with the bold print Africa Your Time Is Now. Initially, it was meant for Children, but it quickly attracted the parents who buy for their kids, and they demanded adult-sized t-shirts. "Butter Pudding birthed Africa Your Time is Now" states Papama.
"As a brand that inspires and encourages kids to be proud of their heritage and these are the type of designs that we use, the type of slogans that we use, and we believe it is more important and better to raise strong kids as opposed to fixing adults." She remarks. "One of the slogans we use is Africa Your Time Is Now and this attracted adults who wanted the same for themselves, that's when we started producing t-shirts for adults."
Africa Your Time Is Now has since taken up a life of its own and is now selling internationally "I always think of Africa Your Time Is Now as more of a movement rather than a clothing brand. It has blown up very quickly and people wearing the T-shirts have served as something of walking billboards. The style is very simple being a black T-shirt with bold white print, and a bold message to match and the reception has been really incredible from people across all races and gender, the world over."
"We have different suppliers, yet we create everything on the continent and supply to different stores in South Africa, especially in Johannesburg and Cape Town. We have our own online store as well and we distribute the world over, from Paris, Australia to New York and now we are going to Nigeria. We have also and partnered up with like-minded retailers because indeed Africa Your Time is Now is more than a T-shirt." Ramogase quips. While Ramogase is taken to an African aesthetic, she does not feel that is it something to be imposed and this is reflected in Butter Pudding, which does not limit itself to African-esque designs. “While I can never dictate to people, the African aesthetic is something I resonate with and this is incorporated into butter pudding, but the brand is not limited to this style. I embrace my heritage in my everyday living.”
“Within the African aesthetic, because many designers can adopt it, it is about how you package it. What is unique about yours? So, our garments are super well-considered, multifaceted and very versatile garments and that’s the box that all butter pudding items must tick. For example, we have coats that are reversible. They can be inside-out. We have dresses that can be worn as tops, skirts that can be worn as dresses, depending on how clever we were on the design. So that’s the USP that we introduced into the market and it has worked for us as customers are finding the novelty quite beneficial. We’ve had a great response from them.”
An enduring lesson of what she has learnt in the industry is one of the core principles of her business. “Customer relations is key. Making sure that you take care of partnerships, collaborations and working relations that you have. Quality is also very important. I often say that quality is what keeps you in the game a while longer. This one of the biggest lessons I learned in my career, even in the media industry, just make sure that you are proud of what you put out there. Do not rush through something just for the sake of doing it. Sometimes you only get one chance to impress and you have to make it count.” “The international market is really strict. So, you need to make sure that you treat a customer with a lot of respect. And a customer paying R10 gets the same treatment as one who is paying R100 000 because you just never know who that one person is.”
Butter Pudding and Africa Your Time Is Now, now operating as two entities seem to have an inspiring future ahead under the stewardship of Papama Mtwisha-Ramogase. The time has arrived for Africans to create and produce for themselves and it is business such as Ramogase’s which serve as legitimate exemplars of Africa’s reservoir of potential.