By Sameer Naik
As a youngster, Jodi Deerling would not leave the house without making sure he was dressed to the nines. “Even when my mom sent me out to buy bread at the corner shop down my street, I would make sure that I was looking good and wearing my best clothes,” says Deerling.
It is a trait that has stuck with the 31-year-old.
The Port Elizabeth-born fashion designer runs the Jodi Deerling Brand, a handmade accessories company in Pretoria, which sells stunning bow ties and ties to leather bags and shoes.
His home in Centurion is also his workplace. Getting ready for his work day means Jodi must look good and feel good, so he’s in a full-denim outfit, complemented with brown leather shoes. He sports a silk red and white polka dot.
“I dress according to my mood. Today I feel very happy so I’m rocking one of my favourite items,” he says, laughing.
Starting the day with a strategy meeting, his team discusses what materials they will need to source for an order of a thousand bow ties from a popular food chain. Jodi is known for his unique bow ties that can be flamboyant and over-the-top with bold colours and textures ranging from cotton to canvas. Each is custom-designed and handmade.
“The bow ties I design are a reflection of who I am, loud, proud and flamboyant.”
Jodi, who appeared in Season 2 of the popular food TV show, Come Dine With Me, wore a different bow tie each night of the dinners and received compliments every night. With little or no money, Jodi went knocking on doors looking for customers to sell his loud-and-proud’ bow ties.
Slowly business picked up and he hasn’t looked back since.
With the meeting done, Jodi and his assistant brand manager, Mitchelle Msithini, head to the West Pack Lifestyle centre in Benoni to pick up packaging for their bow ties.
“We are working on this campaign called hungry for fashion’. So we use sandwich plastic boxes to package our bow ties. It looks pretty cool,” he says.
Next they’re off to Edenvale to shop for fabric. Jodi’s eyes light up as he makes his way through the different aisles of the store. “I love choosing different fabrics. It’s one of the best parts of this job,” he says.
Jodi is looking for a particular check fabric which one of his customers has asked for specifically. Thankfully the store has the fabric in stock.
After choosing the fabric, the pair head to a graphic design shop to print their custom-made designs on the fabric they have bought.
“The one thing I love about this job is the fact that you can be so creative. You can express yourself in the products you make. It reflects who you are.”
Jodi hopes to become South Africa’s top handmade accessories brand name.
“I’m not saying that my company has made it already, but it has grown incredibly since I started three years ago. Today I have three more members on my team and we are supplying hundreds of bow ties and other accessories on a weekly basis. I have never had the need to take out a loan. This business pays for itself.”
Jodi sells his accessories on sites such as Zando and Spree, and also has his own website.
He also pushes items on social media, and in stores such as Big Blue and Sowearto.
“Social media is fantastic. I can’t tell you the amount of accessories we have sold on just Facebook.”
After finishing at the graphic design store, Jodi returns to Pretoria to get started on the big order. But before starting on the bow ties, he makes a point of updating his customers on their orders.
Jodi, who has a background in arts and drama, says: “I think if you are a fashion designer, you need to understand you are a business. It’s not only about creating beautiful masterpieces.
“You also have to worry about the financial aspects. Thankfully, I have great support from my team.”
Jodi also recently ventured into selling women’s accessories.
He says he takes inspiration from Italian fashion brand Dolce & Gabbana, as well as his partner.
“The journey of Dolce & Gabbana is really beautiful. They built such a powerful brand as a gay couple and have influenced fashion all over the world.
“My partner is also a source of inspiration for me. My boyfriend is a chartered accountant and handles the financial side of my business.
“Hopefully one day we can be a power couple like Dolce & Gabbana.”
After completing a batch of bow ties, it is time for Jodi and his team to call it a day.
While he waits for his partner he unwinds with a glass of wine and a home-cooked meal – and switches off to recharge for another day of being “loud and proud”.
Source: IOL (edited)