One of the exhibits at this year’s East Coast Radio House and Home expo has a background story bound to touch the hearts of all who visit. You may have seen their beautiful protea and aloe-print handbags or wine coolers gracing the arms of trendy locals in KZN, but there is so much more to IY Apparel, than its range of high-quality handbags, toiletry and make-up bags and wine coolers.
What started as a community outreach project has now grown into a small, but busy enterprise that not only produces stylish products, but supports the local community and gives back to those in need at the same time.
“IY”, the acronym for Ingane Yami – Zulu for “My Child” – is also the name of a children’s village nestled on the outskirts of the Shongweni valley in KwaZulu-Natal. This village, which compromises of a school, community centre, crèche and sports field, is home to 18 orphaned children and is the direct beneficiary of a portion of IY Apparel’s online sales.
Founder of IY Apparel, Michele Hughes, was drafted by her local church to assist in developing the Ingane Yami project, which officially opened in 2010. Having spent time on the ground, developing the project alongside a team from her church as well as fulfilling the marketing function, it quickly became apparent that creating a sustainable source of income was going to be a key factor in the longevity of Ingane Yami Children’s Village. At the same time, one of Michele’s friends started producing beautiful laminated fabric and together, the concept of IY Apparel was born.
“We always wanted to create something that people wanted to buy because they loved it, not out of pity because they thought, “ag shame,” she said, adding: “The fact that what you’re buying is linked to a charitable cause, is a bonus.”
Her approach to the business is two-fold: “We want to raise funds that feed directly back into the village as well as create awareness and visibility around the village and the work that Ingane Yami does,” she says.
It is both of these objectives that have led her to exhibit at the East Coast Radio House & Garden Show for the second year running and use the show not just as a platform for sales, but also to spread the message of hope in support of the children cared for at Ingane Yami Children’s Village.