A head wrap or a doek, might seem like a simple accessory but it has significant meaning in many cultures. A headwrap can sometimes be an accessory to express modesty, a replacement of a hat, and other times, it can be an expression of melanin slayage. For me personally, it is a combination of all these but to others it’s more that.
I spoke to a young businesswoman who uses the symbol of the head wrap to effect social change while creating a sustainable income for black women. Phephisile Mathizerd is Afrikan social entrepreneur who is dedicating her life to help build Afrika and its people through her headwrap fashion line, Headdoeks &Gear.
She has always had an interest in fashion but recently found love with social entrepreneurship. This is not your average fashion business venture, so I asked her why she does it and how she makes it work.
Why did you start Headdoeks & Gear?
I am a passionate entrepreneur and I feel that so much needs to be done to shape society and to build a better Africa. I have fused all this into my brand.
My doeks offer a simplistic approach to beauty, particularly black beauty, and the focus is more symbolic than physical. In the African context a doek means beauty, royalty, respect, power – the list goes on. These are the values I hope to transfer to anyone that interacts with my brand, specifically young black women.
You work with black women at Headdoeks & Gear, and I’m sure elsewhere too, why is this important to you?
The work I do allows me to be that older sister I wish I had growing up, someone I could relate to, talk to and ask advice from. It allows me to be person that can show young women the way and have their back. Black women are beautiful and can change the world. With my brand I hope to inspire many to see this and allow themselves to be great and hopefully do the same for others.
Do you also teach those who might not have the skills?
Yes, I think head wraps are beautiful and for me they are a great way to accentuate and accessorise. The idea is to leverage off of the values that align to a woman who wears her doek. In my culture a women that wears a doek oozes power, self-love, confidence, respect and ambition. This is how I want women to feel when they are wearing my doeks and I want this feeling to inspire women to unlock their full potential.
For many years anything that was associated with being black stood accused of being inferior, weak and not beautiful. I think this is a very critical time to be reminded of our true beauty and power. Imagine the possibilities if every single black person knew that they are beautiful.
How does the rest of the structure of your business look like?
I work closely and source my materials from Kanyisa Booi, a young black Xhosa woman who has a brand called Kanga Fabrics. For the manufacturing process I work with a local sewing company called Jabavu design that is based in Soweto. So far I have managed to recruit more than 15 young women as ambassadors. These young women form part of my team and are brand champions for my business. The idea is to identify and groom talent from this group to occupy positions and leadership in the business. And we’re hoping to expand soon!