By Charndré Emma Kippie
LeeBex was founded by Rebecca Garande and Lesego Legobane (popularly known as model, Thickleeyonce) in 2016. LeeBex Fashion is a start-up retail establishment that produces fashionable clothing, especially for plus-size women of all age groups.
This comes as no surprise, seeing as there was a clear gap in the market that excluded larger sizes. With the rise of body positivity and size inclusivity, it was only a matter of time before local, empowered women made a stand – fashion should be for everyone, regardless of their size and age.
The brand was initially established as an online store, gaining a massive following through social media. However, due to the exponential growth and traction that the brand gained, both locally and internationally, the two entrepreneurs quickly obtained a physical store in Melville, Johannesburg. The pioneering South African brand is dedicated to women who love their curves, and providing fashion forward, on-trend clothing at an affordable price.
How did LeeBex form? What was the journey like?
LeeBex Fashion was an idea involving a start-up retail establishment that would specialise in fashionable clothing for women who are constantly ‘othered’ in society, specifically plus-size women.
We are dedicated to women who love their bodies as we believe in body acceptance and body positivity. As an iconic plus-size women’s fashion brand, we stand for fashion forward, on-trend clothing at an affordable price. Both founders live and breathe fashion, thus forming a powerful partnership.
The two realised that the local market lacked fashion forward trends in plus-size clothing across the spectrum – for older women and the young. It has not been the easiest of journeys as both founders did not have much retail experience in the beginning. Rebecca and Lesego have been learning the industry and that has not deterred them as we both women are so passionate about what they do. An additional challenge of COVID-19 came into the mix recently, as well as a limitation of fabrics available locally (all LeeBex garments are manufactured locally). Today, the brand does however have amazing customers who have kept the LeeBex flag flying high, and for that we cannot truly express how humbled and appreciative we are.
How does your business model work?
We are mainly an ecommerce business and deliver anywhere in South Africa. The reason we chose this model is because we did not want to be limited to a specific geographical area. Many South Africans are slowly getting comfortable with online shopping and, through word-of-mouth, they are beginning to trust brands. We mainly use Instagram and Facebook to market our products, and have diversified models with different body types in our content so that our customers can relate better.
What have been some of your greatest challenges and how have you overcome them?
Our greatest challenges are fabric sourcing and finding suitable factories, locally, to produce our garments. Our business is also self-funded, so proper cash flow management is so crucial. We are unable to produce in bulk due to these limitations. Fabric sourcing, specifically, has been quite the challenge since COVID-19 hit, as most fabrics are being imported and there are not many local fabric manufacturers in South Africa.
What has been the brand’s biggest success thus far?
Our greatest achievement was opening our first physical store in Melville. Hopefully we will open many more physical stores across South Africa in the near future.
We also took part in the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week, in 2017, as a plus-size brand. Another big milestone was making it into the Top 2 of the Firstwatch Entrepreneurs Challenge – out of the 100 participants. Since then, we have also been featured in the Huffpost UK with our ‘I Am My Own Body Goals’ campaign, uplifting women to embrace and love themselves, wholly. The fact that we are empowering women and making a difference in society is something that we regard as a major achievement; our brand is making an impact.
What does the term ‘empowerment’ mean to you and your brand?
As a brand, empowerment is one of the key messages that we hope to convey to women; it is so important that women learn to accept and love themselves in order to fuel their inner power and reach their true potential. We often have group photoshoots of plus-size ladies to boost their confidence levels and motivate them to share their stories. Self-empowerment means making a conscious decision to take charge of your own destiny.
We also pride ourselves on employing as many women-run factories to manufacture our clothing as possible. This way, we are empowering other women who are involved in the brand and process, even though they’re making a difference from behind the camera.
What are some of your goals going into 2022?
We hope to ship worldwide and establish more physical stores across the nation. We are also very excited to bring new campaigns and ranges to life.
What advice would you give to young South African entrepreneurs?
Never limit yourself to what you think you can do. Let passion drive you! Entrepreneurship is not easy, and you have to be in it for the long run in order to reach desired results. The most important thing is to focus, obsessively, on the customers. Our goal is to be the world’s most customer-centric company. Placing the customer first and attending to their needs will stand your business in good stead.
To be known and trusted as the authority on plus-size fit and fashion; to inspire women to love their bodies while helping them to feel and look their absolute best.
Recognising beauty has no boundaries, LeeBex Fashion inspires, engages and empowers full-figured women to live life to the fullest.
LeeBex customers are top priority, every minute of every day. Serving their customers starts from a foundation of respect and deep understanding. The brand constantly strives to exceed customer expectations and anticipate their needs, specifically designing all clothing for women sized up to 50+. The brand is focused on finding the latest fashions and consistently offering new items in its catalogue. LeeBex strives to offer a wide selection that has something for everyone.
Cell: (+27) 82 319 7857
Address: 27 Boxes, 74 4th Ave, Melville, Johannesburg, 2092
Interview with LeeBex