Today’s Wednesday shoutout goes to the founder of a South African jewellery brand, The Big Cheese.
Here’s more of Camilla’s story.
Where are you from?
“I grew up in Joburg and have recently returned to my home city after six years of studying in Cape Town.”
Can you tell us about The Big Cheese?
“I launched The Big Cheese in February of this year. The business aims to provide unique and bold statement jewellery and I place a heavy focus on curation and youth culture. All of our jewellery is Gold Plated to allow for increased affordability. I am passionate about environmental and social sustainability and this reflects in the brand from how I make the packaging through to how we decide to transport and courier the chains.”
Since you matriculated what experiences have you had in the fashion industry that have lead you to where you are today?
“Initially, I pursued studies in Business Science (Finance with Accounting). I quickly realised that I had absolutely no interest in the field, and convinced my parents to allow me to move into studying a Bachelor of Arts in Fashion at FEDISA. I completed my BA, but realised that I needed intellectual stimulation alongside the more practical creative skills that I had acquired. This need for balance inspired me to do my Honours at FEDISA, where I specialised in establishing an academic framework for cultural appropriation in fashion, with a focus on future research and application
I have always focused on garnering experience whenever and wherever I can – I have always thought that a rounded perspective of any industry is most beneficial in the workplace. I focused on this throughout all of my studies and have built up work experience since 2013. This means that I have experience in and knowledge of: project management, data collection, fashion retail, styling, trend research, cultural strategy and creative writing. I also learned skills such as sewing, pattern making etc. throughout the course of my BA degree. I unite any and all skills that I have acquired in order to run The Big Cheese. I am also currently interning at an art gallery for experience and learning purposes.”
Which moments in your fashion career (school included) would you re-live?
“In 2018, I had the pleasure of being an assistant stylist for About You’s Freedom Festival. The German brand essentially recreated AfrikaBurn and Between Two of Us, we styled roughly 300 people for the duration of four days in Kersefontein. It was a hectic experience, and took its toll physically, but it truly pushed me to my limits and showed me what I was capable of doing. I worked alongside young, inspirational people and it was an amazing and expressive learning experience for me.”
So far, what have been the most unforgettable lessons you’ve learnt from being an entrepreneur?
“The most significant lesson that I have learnt is the importance of research. Without the relevant research, it is difficult to understand your market, making it difficult to succeed.
It is important to have self-discipline, to be proactive, and to take the initiative to complete tasks, even when you don’t necessarily feel like it.
Perseverance is key; however, I also think that it’s important to know when to stop pursuing an idea, especially when it is taking a toll on you mentally, economically or health-wise.
Never underestimate the importance of creative trades or favours – these will allow you and any collaborators to be able to help each other in a non-financial sense and can save people a lot of money in the initial phases of any creative business.
Get as much experience as you can, and never turn down an opportunity to learn something new.
Always market your own products. Wear your clothing or jewellery, use your skincare products. It is important for people to see that you believe in what you are selling.”
Name 3 of your best loved local and international fashion brands.
“This question has taken me the longest to answer, because I believe that there are so many amazing designers within their own rights/areas of the fashion industry. I have always been in awe of Alexander McQueen’s work (prior to his death). At the moment, I love Iris van Herpen and Klippa Denim. More local brands that I adore include: Lukhanyo Mdingi, Rich Mnisi, Thebe Magugu, Thabo Kopele and Crystal Birch.”
With your experience in a Trend and Research environment, what advice would you give someone with aspirations of working as a Trend analyst?
“It is important to note that trends are not limited to the appearance of sequins on a runway. Micro-trends refer to short-term trends or fads; however, these are all influenced by larger forces referred to as macro-trends. Within macro-trends, one has to be able to evaluate the current society based on many factors, for example: the political, social, economic situation of a society. It is also important to realise that these differ between countries and cannot be universally applied.
My key piece of advice would be to exercise awareness of absolutely everything around you; for example: advertisements, store windows, street wear, and topics on social media sites. The power of observation will aid one in identifying common themes which can later be substantiated or dismissed with research and statistics. This requires a certain level of instinct, where I believe that this particular kind of instinct can be taught.”
Where can people find, follow and buy from you?
“At the moment, we are operating solely off of Instagram. Our tag is @thebigcheese_sa. From there, should anyone be interested in purchasing a product, they can send us a direct message or an email (our email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org). It is possible to arrange viewings to try on the products with myself; however, we are currently working on stocking a store in Cape Town, as well as an online store.
The jewellery is available for collection in Joburg, and is able to be shipped throughout South Africa for an excess fee. This is done via PostNet so as to minimise the risk of transportation, as well as our carbon footprint.”