Paledi Segapo holds a Master of Business in Leadership (MBL) through the University of South Africa (UNISA) – School of Business Leadership with dissertation titled Growth Strategies for Fashion Enterprise in South Africa. Segapo is a creative entrepreneur, fashion columnist for various local South African magazines, editor, reservedlife.co.za, and was once the fashion editor for jozibeat.co.za (the official publication for City of Johannesburg).
Segapo founded PALSE Homme fashion label in 2010 which specializes in men’s apparel. PALSE Homme is all about that impeccable cut matching a wrinkle free suit with breathing shirt-fabric that feels as light as a feather. Or that vintage trench coat that could be passed on from one generation to another. PALSE Homme bespoke clothes are for a man of eternal style who is simultaneously into modern classics. The brand boasts of meticulous workmanship encapsulating fine, subtle details and edgy cuts with a twist of class.
PALSE Homme introduced a men’s designer underwear line, launched this year during the SA Fashion Week. The brand is a regular feature at the bi-annual SAFW marketing platform. PALSE Homme recently showcased at Trendz Kenya Fashion Festival in Nairobi and will be showcasing in London at the Olympics (courtesy of South Africa the Department of Arts and Culture) and at Men’s Health Fashion Show this September in Johannesburg.
Ladybrille caught up with the man behind PALSE Homme to discuss the business of fashion. Enjoy.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us, briefly, how and why you decided to strike out on your own as a fashion entrepreneur?
Paledi S.: Prior to fashion, I worked as an IT professional for multinational entities such as PricewaterHouseCoopers, Oracle Corporation, to name a few. It was in 2007 I bought a stake in a fashion entity and became an active partner. You see, the fashion industry is like a drug, once you are in, it swallows you as a whole especially if you happen to be a creative person. You don’t choose to be one, you (are) born a creative. But the fundamental core is possessing business acumen. In 2010, I eventually relinquished my stake at the company I co-owned and I had just completed my Master of Business Leadership (MBL). I thought I would revert to corporate work, however, while I was back in the job market a few designers requested if I could help them grow their business and that’s how I got back into fashion. Soon after, the PALSE Homme (PH) brand was born. Today PH is a three tier business which comprises business consultancy, image consulting and PALSE Homme (menswear).
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Let’s talk a bit more about what PALSE Homme does)?
Paledi S.: [P]ALSE Homme comprise of three business units at the moment. PH, the fashion brand is all about bespoke suiting services for a man whom I’d like to label someone who is into modern classics. Meaning all the suits I design are one of a kind, made-to-measure. PH clients are given the opportunity to pick their own lining (similar to picking their own tie) and my technique is traditional, using age-old methods of creating a perfect suit that looks like it was carefully chiselled on the body.
For the business and image consulting services we render, PH works with fashion designers specializing in women’s apparel by helping them with brand activation and positioning. In 2011 we worked with former Miss SA Bokang Montjane looking after her image and this year PALSE is behind the reigning Mr SA’s image. We also consult for corporate entities including record companies that require an image boost for their recording artists.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What is the core mission of your business?
Paledi S.: Steadfast to ethical, supreme customer service and constantly endeavour to utilize quality, non-harmful fabrics to the environment.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What clearly defined business goals do you have for your brand within the next two years?
Paledi S.: Like strategy, certain things can’t really be unpacked before they are executed or manifested. But the prospects are good looking and the future is certainly most promising for PALSE brand. What I can divulge, however, (is that) PALSE diffusion range is hitting the streets soon. An online PALSE shop is launching soon and there is an amazing diversification the brand will be embarking on. See a good strategist or entrepreneur knows diversification is key to be leader of the pack. As the old adage goes, today’s winner is potentially tomorrow’s loser.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Interesting). For your (PALSE fashion products), what is the distribution system you have in place to make sure customers get your products when and where they want it?
Paledi S.: PALSE distributes to exclusive men’s wear boutiques. The business logistics we have in place are robust enough to ensure that PALSE apparel is accessible and of course it remains competitive price-wise. Because demand can easily outstrip supply, we endeavour to ensure we have strategic measures in place for the apparel to be available, wearable and turnaround time is also essential to ensure we meet the demand.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What has been your biggest business success date?
Paledi S.: I define success as enjoying every moment of being a creative entrepreneur and if I continue to habitually do this, then evidently I’m successful. Albeit, if we talk of business, well-visible brand footprint is pivotal here. Showcasing at fashion week platforms (a very expensive exercise, however) and cladding up high profile celebrities while also generating revenue, being well-positioned and staying profitable defines success.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What has been your biggest business mistake so far?
Paledi S.: Everyday is a learning curve. A mistake is not understanding what the consumer is looking for and not understanding the economic climate. [I]n business, disposable income is key. If people don’t spend money, we are all out of business. One has to constantly understand where the market is sitting, what it is people can afford and not afford. The biggest mistake is therefore sometimes being unable to achieve a balance between affordability and non-affordability.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What have you learnt from that mistake?
Paledi S.: Like I’ve emphasized, every-day brings new challenges, new ways of beating your path through the inevitable. I have learnt that research is key. Constant research and market understanding is synonymous to a marathon race without a finish line so to speak.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: As a business, what is the customer experience you want each customer to take away every time they experience your fashion brand?
Paledi S.: Clothes of superior quality with longevity (timeless, modern and stylish). Moreover, the experience for our customer is to feel well catered for regarding the service they require, primary in our business structure and for PALSE is to be a first and preferred choice, always.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What kind of challenges do you face when it comes to sourcing of materials for your fashion business?
Paledi S.: I find designers who do not have the capacity to manufacture their own fabrics, find themselves with fabrics that are identical with competition on runway. Meaning chances of showcasing a collection with similar fabric are more than 100% and that kind of kills the designers story, perhaps. And the alternative is to import. Which has an adverse impact on cash inflow, and to recover that is passed on to the consumer or buyers. Which sadly ends up escalating the prices. As a result, this has a huge impact on potential sales. This is a 360 degree vicious circle which has to be looked at not from a key whole perspective. But then, how many designers at the end of the day can afford to manufacture their own fabrics and still remain profitable?
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you believe are the key qualities of a brilliant (Ladybrille) entrepreneur?
Paledi S.: Possessing a good business background, or alternatively partner with someone who has one. Understanding the market is fundamental. Business is not about just remaining profitable, but being able to forecast, look beyond and make sense of a flux of trends that are still miles away. In business, it is fundamental not to find yourself surprised but to always be ready for the surprise.
Marketing and PR is also quite imperative. With all the fabulous service one renders, if they are not meticulously packaged and presented to the consumer how else will there be a buy-in? Presentation, accessibility and pervasive, robust brand footprint are key.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Can you share with our audience some few tips on financial management of a fashion business?
Paledi S.: Every designer and entrepreneur needs to comprehend how to make sense of financial statements, that is, cash flow statement, income statement and balance sheet. I’m not suggesting one to be a qualified accountant or anything similar. But just to make sense why the figures are there in those statements, so you have something to talk with your bookkeeper and you’ll be able to challenge him or her when necessary. Understanding the country’s economic climate, so that you able to adjust your prices reasonable. Things such as interest rate, inflation rate, for exporters and importers – the exchange rate. One needs at least to have a generic overview of these fundamental business attributes. Otherwise, you will lose in the end.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: How have you been able to integrate new technologies into your business to make it successful?
Paledi S.: Without even unpacking financial applications let’s focus on small phones and the internet. Any creative entrepreneur has to be active on twitter to be accessible to the consumer. Smart phones have become mandatory; they have changed how we communicate. You need to be on email 24 hours, and therefore with a smart phone at least there is no waste of time trying to access computer to retrieve emails, or have a tablet at least. Furthermore, instant messages are the best such as Blackberry’s. One is able to interact in real time thereby saving overheads.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: Tell us the three ways you have used social media to increase brand awareness and gain recognition for your brand?
Paledi S.: I can’t emphasize enough on tweeting, “facebooking,” sending generic email newsletter to your legions of fans and array of customer including buyers.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: In your opinion, why do fashion businesses, especially African fashion businesses, fail?
Paledi S.: Do they? I think we just lack investors in general to spearhead and assist in increasing our brand footprints. In the US and Europe you find businesses that invest or purchase a huge stake in designer fashion houses that are established, hence the success story. In Africa, fashion is sometimes looked down at, like a Mickey Mouse expensive hobby. Once this phenomenon can change, (we) will see fashion businesses flourishing in our continent. It is not about embarking on establishing yourselves overseas. But it is about getting big in our own continent first, attracting investors, leading to increased employment, profit margins and of course identifying distribution channels. Also, designers need to stay away from the notion of being all-rounders but have industry leads (finance, legal, marketing) coming together. “Busyness” doesn’t translate into effectiveness. Designers need to be effective instead of being all over and busy.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you look for when you hire employees?
Paledi S.: Does the potential employee meet required criteria? If not, why bother? Experience is a bonus. There is no school of experience in life. Everyone deserves a chance, but only the strongest and significantly felt can crack it.
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What drives you as a business owner?
Paledi S.: Passion, focus and strategy
LADYBRILLEmag.com: What makes you get up to do what you do everyday instead of throwing in the towel and getting a 9-5?
Paledi S.: Results, always learning something new!
For PALSE Homme South Africa Fashion Week collection featured on Ladybrille, click here.
To view PALSE Homme website, click here.
*** The “Ladybrille® Fashion Business With . . .” is a feature on Ladybrille® Magazine that is focused on entrepreneurs in Africa’s fashion industry, with a heavy emphasis on fashion designers. This feature highlights business principles, business practices, follows the money, discusses the challenges faced by fashion startups as well as offers pragmatic tips that should help stir the Ladybrille fashion entrepreneur towards success. If you would like to be featured, send an email to our Associate Editor at ([email protected]), indicate the kind of fashion business you operate and what you intend to share with our audience that you feel will be beneficial to them.
Photocredit: Simon Deiner/SDR Photo
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Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.