Exciting year ahead for fashion designer

Bay woman wins internship with a top name and retail opportunities

From attending a workshop with David Tlale to being mentored by Thula Sindi and sharing the runway with Gert-Johan Coetzee – all three big names in South African fashion – a Mount Croix-based designer’s star keeps shining brighter.

ati setipa
Port Elizabeth’s Ati Setipa has won a six-month internship with Thula Sindi in Johannesburg
Picture Werner Hills


Ati Designs founder Ati Setipa’s 2017 luck is already spilling into next year as she has secured an internship with acclaimed designer Sindi through the first Buyel’ekhaya Fashion Programme.

Setipa presented a black and white coat and a red dress to win the internship after she showcased the garments among the likes of Coetzee, Tlale, Bay export Laduma Ngxokolo and Taibo Bacar at Buyel’ekhaya in East London on Friday.

Setipa, who was born in Mthatha but studied fashion design in Nelson Mandela Bay, was among scores of hopefuls who submitted portfolios for adjudication in a workshop facilitated by Tlale at East London’s Miriam Makeba Hall.

At the workshop, she made it to the top 10 selected for a 10-day mentorship programme by Sindi in Johannesburg and was asked to make two garments to showcase at the fashion show last week.

Setipa was one of two winners, alongside Mdantsane- based Nomfuneko Kenyane, scoring an opportunity to have their own online store created and retail space in fashion stores in Johannesburg.

She spoke to Weekend Post about her journey:

  • What inspired Ati Designs?

I have always been a creative child. My father saw this while I was still very young and advised me to do arts and that’s what I did when I got to PE Technikon (now Nelson Mandela University) in 2004, until I realised that I was more in love with the fashion side.

I come from a business- minded family and my father has always taught me that ubutyebi bethu busezandleni zethu (our wealth is in our hands), so this is me building my empire.

  • You got your National Diploma in Fashion Design in 2008 and have been building your brand since. Have there been times when you considered giving up?

Quitting has never been an option for me because I’ve been doing this out of love and I am reaping the rewards of my work. I started working from a kitchen before I could afford my own studio, but now I’ve had my studio in Richmond Hill for five years and that’s a sign of gradual growth for my brand.

  • Did you expect to win the internship with Thula Sindi?

Yes. I believe in myself a lot and thinking positively is what put me there in the first place.

  • What inspired your two garments?

The red dress was inspired by the Bathembu red blankets, amaBomvane. It drapes around the body as the blanket does. The black and white coat was inspired by the wood usually collected by the Bathembu wives. I went home in search of inspiration before going to Johannesburg and found a book called The Red Blanket and did some research on the content.

  • Have you ever imagined that you would one day showcase in alongside the likes of David Tlale and Gert-Johan Coetzee?

I have a picture of myself with Gert, Thula, Laduma, and David’s assistant, Ntando, that I look at in disbelief because I have never imagined even being in the same picture with them!

  • How do you think the internship will impact your career?

I was already taking my business towards the route of mass production and opening an online shop, but with [Sindi’s] assistance the process will be faster.

  • What words of encouragement or advise do you have for other aspiring designers?

Put effort into your work. When the quality of your work speaks for itself, people will automatically fall in love with and buy into your product.

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