Home COMPETITIONS A beautiful love story...

A beautiful love story…

Simbithi-based Thandana Bags owners, Carla and Stanton Ashton’s story is one of hard work, dedication, humility and love! We caught up with them for a little ‘safari fun’ at Rain Farm Game Lodge recently and found out about their journey.

With golden ringlets blowing in the wind, big excited eyes darting around and both her parents doting attentively over her, little Chloe Ashton has one mission as she climbs on board the vehicle at the start of our game drive: she wants to see a giraffe.
Chloe’s mom Carla and dad Stanton are the owners and founders of well-known, home-grown luggage brand, Thandana bags. Chloe is their ‘miracle baby’. “It took seven years and four IVF cycles for us to finally be blessed with our little girl,” says Carla as she carefully pulls Chloe’s hair up into a ponytail.

The stunning new Safari range is a collaboration between Thandana and local travel stylist Jemma Wild

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A die-hard Thandana bag fan myself, I admit I was excited to spend a bit of time with the creators of this high-quality, trendy and very proudly local brand.
Despite their obvious success though, both Carla and Stanton are incredibly down-to-earth and were almost as excited as Chloe when we saw the first giraffe popping its head out behind a large acacia tree.

Stanton and Carla grew up in Empangeni and their families were close friends throughout their childhood. Carla admits to having ‘had her eye’ on Stanton growing up, but says it was only much later, after they had finished school and both spent a few years working and travelling overseas, that they met up again in Durban and started their relationship. They’ve been married for 12 years.

Thandana (which means ‘love everyone’ in Zulu) was a project started by Carla in 2010. At the time, she outsourced production to CMT factories and only sold handmade fabric bags on consignment to a few KZN stores. With many years of experience in retail, Carla’s father suggested she introduce leather to her range and start her own small factory, which she did, with just four people.

It was in 2017, after Chloe was born, that Stanton (who has a background in the supply chain industry, owning fashion stores and project development) decided to join forces with Carla so they could grow the brand together. They now have a staff compliment of 30 people.

“As challenging as it is to work with your better half, it’s the best decision we have ever made. Our personalities work so well together and we love being able to create and share our success as a team,” says Carla.

Speaking about the brand and company ethos, Carla says Thandana was built with the goal of being a proudly South African brand that adds fun to travelling and family living. “We also focus on employment, upskilling and improving the lives of our local community. It is very important to us to showcase the incredible quality of workmanship and materials that we have right here in South Africa. Our ethos has always been to keep it local and we ensure that our fabric, leather and straps are sourced locally and responsibly.”

From having only a few bags in the range initially, Thandana now has over 126 designs with over 2000 variants, 15 different leathers and 18 different printed fabrics in the range. Their success, they believe, has come down to the fact that they have tried to stay humble, work smart and believe in their staff as much as their product. And they always keep God in the plans. “Each morning a different member of the team has their turn to share prayers with the team. We believe that the customer is not the king but rather the CEO, because he or she will decide whether your business is going to rise or fall,” says Stanton.

The juggle of running a business and raising little Chloe is real, but Carla says her goal when starting Thandana was always to be able to have ‘flexi-time’ with her family. “I’ve managed this through planning and lots of structure. Having your better half as your business partner makes a world of difference, too!” Stanton strives to work smart, work while others are sleeping, not waste time and get home as soon as possible. “And when you are home, make sure your mind is too.”

The Ashtons are a beach, sea and sun loving family and spend lots of time in the ocean. Having lived in Simbithi for almost three years, they say they love every minute of living on the North Coast and have made lifelong friendships. “It’s been great living closer to Carla’s family. The support has been incredible and Chloe now lives closer to her cousins.”
Looking towards 2022, Carla says she hopes that the year ahead brings some normality back to our very ‘abnormal’ current way of living. Stanton says, “I hope that people can be more grateful for the things they have that are right in front of them, rather than being distracted by what they don’t have. The past two years have taught us that life is fragile and we shouldn’t waste it.”

Details: www.thandana.co.za, IG: @thandana_bags, FB: @thandanabagco

Win One lucky reader stands to win a Safari Weekender bag, valued at R2250. Enter on this post on our social media platforms.

Text: Leah Shone | Photographs: Chris Allan Photo
Shoot Location: Rain Farm Game Lodge
Hair: Crop Hair
Makeup: Volenti Laurentina
Wardrobe: Elula www.elula.co.za

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