Uzwelo isn’t just a brand that creates stylish and functional bags from fabric that was once destined for landfills. Our brand’s foundation is built upon 3 core pillars – environment, skills development, and conservation. This vision has not only allowed us to do our part for the environment but empower people with the tools to change their own lives.
These are the amazing people and initiatives that form the pages of our beautiful Uzwelo story:
Our lovely Gugu, who started as a cleaner for Expand a Sign, watched Uzwelo startup and then put her hand up to learn to sew and earn a better living. Her “Beautiful News Story” documentary truly captured the essence of what we are wanting to achieve. Seeing Gugu give out the very schoolbags she helped make to the community she grew up with, is the full circle of giving back we were dreaming of at the outset of Uzwelo. Gugu is now a full-time member of Uzwelo.
Kingdom – Our beloved DUT fashion student. This is an unfolding story. We met in 2016 and ever since, Kingdom spends whatever spare time he has with Rajes – honing his pattern making and sewing skills and understanding the work involved in manufacturing life. His lecturers have all noted how fast his skills have improved through his time here and we wait anxiously to see what he will design for us once he graduates.
iBunghezi – This team of 4 young sewers is a gorgeous one to follow. Expand a Sign and Uzwelo donated sewing machines to this team based in the Inanda Valley in 2017 in order to provide them with a means to stay in their community and earn a living. We provided skills training over a period of 6 months and while we don’t always have work to send their way, they are now capable of taking on their own sewing work from elsewhere and are well on their way to full independence from Uzwelo. They have made small schoolbags for an inner Durban City school and are extremely proud of their achievement and so kindly send us updates of the progress they have made from the skills learned at Uzwelo.
Beauty – This lovely sewer who has been part of the Uzwelo team from time to time, is now fully independent and running her own bag making business from home. Beauty purchases bundles of excess fabric from Uzwelo and turns this into handbags, shoppers and mattress covers which she sells into her own community. In her own words “I don’t cry anymore that I don’t have a job in a factory. I can look after myself and pay my electricity, water, funeral plan and DSTV”. Beauty pops in from time to time to show us her work and to get some advice from Rajes. It is incredibly heart-warming to see her progress.
The Clothing Bank Sewing team – This is a lively group of sewers who through a barrier to learning English could not step into the “Learn To Earn programme” of The Clothing Bank. In order to help this team of ladies, the graduates of TCB programme set up a sewing arm. These ladies purchase bundles of fabric from Uzwelo and have turned this fabric into an array of products from Table runners, cushions, bags, barber aprons and bedding. They are beyond creative and have learned through mentoring them, to work as teams to produce and sell their products. The delight to see them stand on their own again is an incredible journey to be alongside.
Uzwelo Team – our very own “A-Team” of sewers are now buying bundles of fabric to sew their own products at night and on the weekends to sell and earn extra money. The confidence and independence that we see growing in each and every one of them is our reward.
The story doesn’t end here. Uzwelo is a place of learning where any Expand a Sign factory staff member who wants to learn to sew, is able to learn under the guidance of Rajes during their lunch hour or tea breaks. We have a steady flow of interest and it is heart-warming to see new skills development in play.