One Saturday, the bright, multicoloured fabric that Portia uses to make her children's clothing range caught my eye from all the way across the parking lot and I made a bee-line for her stall which is set up at the back entrance of the Scarab Market in Sedgefield. She greeted me with a warm smile and we got to talking about her product. Her strength and tenacity immediately shone through and it was clear that she had walked a long road to get where she is today.
Portia grew up in Masvingo in Zimbabwe but when her native country plunged into chaotic upheaval in 2008, her husband Abraham left in search of work and stability. He managed to acquire a work permit and just two months after she had given birth to her first born son, she crossed the border into South Africa - into the unknown - in the hope of a better life.
It wasn't easy going to begin with. Abraham worked a full time job which initially paid him only a meagre R60 per day. Portia realised she would have to find something to do to assist in supporting her family. Her mother had been a very talented seamstress and had passed on to Portia her knowledge of sewing and making clothes. This has proved an invaluable life skill for her.
She first started making summer hats but later got the inspiration to make a children's clothing line using traditional West African fabrics that are very bright, funky and eclectic in design. She was able to kick-start her business through the kind sponsorship of an elderly local whom she works for in Knysna two days of the week. At first she tried sourcing the fabric in Johannesburg but it proved too costly so she decided to travel, by bus, to Mozambique to buy her fabric directly from the source. It took her 4 days to get there.
Her hard work and perseverance has paid off and she now sells her range at the Scarab Market on a Saturday, and during the week at the Milkwood Village in Wilderness. She also has someone working for her at a stall at the Knysna Heads. “I feel very grateful,” Portia said, “I can now afford to send my children to Knysna Primary and we have even managed to buy a small car.”
Her delightful range of children's clothing is bright and cheerful, and each one is unique – just like the children it is designed for!