Sibusiso Ngwenya

Founder, Skinny Sbu Socks

When you’re nearly two metres tall and your socks always show because nobody makes trousers long enough, your best bet is to be bold and turn your socks into a statement. So says Sibusiso Ngwenya, founder of Skinny Sbu Socks, an online sock emporium that has changed perceptions around socks, making them into fashion statements rather than bland necessities.

Ngwenya, who was made aware of the importance of socks when his mother instructed him to wash his own pairs, inside out, when he was a youngster, owned 70 pairs of socks when he started his business with just R70 and a truckload of chutzpah. He bought socks at Mr Price for R5 a pair, repackaged them and sold them for R25 a pair — and selling them out was clear evidence of his formal training as an actor and storyteller!

“I think that not having enough capital is often a great start for an artist with a great idea,” Ngwenya says. “It pushes you to your creative limits, and helps you find solutions that build your business.” It was after this bold beginning that he found his business partner and appointed a brand ambassador, kick-starting a new type of fashion business.

Priced at a premium R200 per pair, his designer ranges of socks are 80% cotton and 20% spandex, offering durability and comfort. With Ngwenya viewing each of his collections as art, the Skinny Sbu price point may be higher than high street stores, but the brand occupies a special place in society, as would art in other mediums, he says.

“For example, my most recent collection celebrates South African kings and leaders, including Shaka, Moshoeshoe and Mzilikazi,” he says. “I identify with them because they challenged the status quo, and I want them to inspire young South Africans like myself to chase after their dreams.”

One of Ngwenya’s greatest points of pride is that he has always insisted that his socks are locally produced, and his factory in Cape Town employs 60 people, each of whom is now able to support their own families. “This business is all about its people, and I’m eternally grateful to the people who work with me that allow me to focus on designing my next collection.”

Photo: Clear Vision

Twitter: @skinnysbusocks