One of Namibia’s leading Kwaito stars, Morocky Mbwaluh, aka The Dogg, recently published his autobiography titled,Ther Dogg: Untold Story. As part of the reading culture campaign launched by the New Era Publication Corporation (NEPC) in conjunction with the Minister of Education, Honourable Dawid Namwandi, Artlife has been serialising this autobiography each Friday.
I decided to wear my own label at the 2004 Sanlam/NBC Music Awards, and the result was the birth of the Mshasho Clothing line. Prior to 2004, I did not know of any artist within Namibia who had their own clothing line. I am fortunate to have grown up in an era of music moguls who understood the business side of things and took full advantage of it. One of the first and probably the most successful artists with an interest in the clothing industry is P. Diddy. His music career has reached all heights possible, and made him a household name. Being the business-minded artists he is, he came up with his clothing line branded “Sean John”, which took the streets by storm.
As he was growing his brand, my admiration towards his work grew immensely. I was impressed with his achievements. To me, that was inspirational. Before 2004, I did not have a clothing line, but when 50 Cent and G-Unit Clothing Company attacked the market, my mind was made up. 50 Cent took Hip Hop clothing to another level. These guys realised that their fame could be profitably put to more use in other sectors. I could not resist the idea of wearing my own brand and the Sanlam/NBC Music Awards appeared a good platform to start. We went to a shirt printing company based in Eros, a suburb in the city of Windhoek, which printed some T-shirts for me. I wore one of the T-shirts with much pride that night as I won three awards, one of which was the Artist of the Year Award.That night, I remember giving Gazza one of the T-shirts as well.
The amount of people who contacted me the next morning for the availability of the T-shirts was totally beyond my expectations. We had some extra T-shirts at home but the number of fans who wanted them far exceeded our supply. The demand for mass production was confirmed without having conducted the standard market research. I did try to meet the increasing demand for my clothing line by returning to the same shirt printing company to supply more T-shirts for sale, but as time passed by, it became clear that I had to produce even more. In addition to the escalating demand, I still had a label and my music career to run. This was the time when Sunny Boy was working on releasing his first album.
Mshasho was producing music, and the clothing line’s potential was beyond doubt. It made sense to me that a helping hand was needed to take care of the clothing line production and sales. This is how I met Antonio. He was a businessman designing, printing and selling his own merchandise, which included posters and Che Guevara T-shirts, amongst other things. I approached him about two years later to help with the production and sales of my clothing line. He was the right man for this job as he had more time and knowledge about this kind of business. The first three to four months were more of a testing or probation period to see if this business concept was feasible.
It is only fair to state that Antonio has helped in building the brand. My relationship with him is strictly centred on our business dealings. At present, he does the designs and presents them to me for my input before mass production. Like in any relationship, we have our differences and conflicts at times, but we are fine as business partners. To date, I must confess that the business side of things as far as the clothing line is concerned is going well. I think I am true to myself and my fans identify with that. I have had my fair share of controversies and problems played out in the media, so everybody knows what I am going through.
Despite this, my fans recognise that I am still remains true to who I am. I think being yourself is the most powerful tool you can have in this industry. They also see me wearing this brand 24 hours a day, and there can be no better promotion of my brand than myself. It is almost like saying I am a walking billboard as far as promoting my brand is concerned. When you believe in what you do, people realise that and finally believe in you too.
The same applies to bringing a child into this world and believing in that young child. I think parents who believe in their children help them build self-confidence, and this gets other people to believe in them as well. This is the perspective with which I look at all my projects.
As I said earlier, P. Diddy inspired me to start my own clothing line, but when you see him these days, he’s wearing other brands like Gucci, etc.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as he is established, but for me, I will remain a walking billboard for Mshasho wherever you see me. At present, I do not have pants and shoe or sock production under my label yet, but with items such as T-shirts, jerseys, flip-flops and hats or caps that I produce, you will forever see me wearing at least one item.
When I did the Big Brother Africa performance in 2008, the number of fans in Johannesburg who wore the Mshasho brand was amazing. I know that most of them are perhaps Namibian students based there, but seeing them fully branded and supporting me on stage was priceless. In Namibia, it would not surprise me as Mshasho Clothing has become a household name.
My vision is to grow this clothing line beyond the borders of Namibia, and I think I am not doing too bad at that right now. In fact, some people have started noticing. I was amazed that Big brother Africa directors and some of their staff recognised this brand and asked me what “Mshasho” meant.
One has to consider that this show is very strict in regard to branding and thus artists or people appearing on the show are not at liberty to just wear any brand. I am happy to have had the freedom to wear my brand each time I appeared on the show. There have been several other international artists who have also spotted it and asked me about the brand. To me, this shows that every time I wear my brand in or outside the country, there is someone out there taking notice.
I like going to sports shops when I go shopping outside Namibia. In South Africa, some fans have approached me several times, asking what brand I was wearing. In fact, there was time someone came up to me and asked if the brand was HHP’s brand. HHP is a famous hip hop artist based in South Africa. When people see me in videos wearing my brand, there is no way they will not recognize me when they see me wearing it in person.
More people would be able to get hold of my clothing line if some day we were able to just come up with brand designs and manufacturers bought them from us to produce for mass retailing. With the little resources I have, I am committed to fulfilling this dream. We have opened a Mshasho product shop in Walvis Bay- a bold step that proves our merchandise can stand its ground.
My effort in the music industry has allowed me to build a household brand with fans across the country and beyond. Being in my position, the sad thing I realised is that, despite you wanting to reach all your fans, the time and platform to interact with them is always limited. This has made me appreciate the impact of technology even more. The Mshasho website has brought me closer to my fans. I think every serious artist should consider having one. When I browse through the chat room comments, I cannot help but realise how this unites Mshasho fans and builds friendships.
I should say, Oxygen Communications has done a good job at upgrading and developing the Mshasho website since it came into existence. DJ X helped me with the set-up and design of the website. It is important for me to mention that everything I do is not entirely something that only I, as an individual, have masterminded. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by people who were and still are progressive and prepared to assist me. It goes without saying that setting up and managing a website is quite costly as well, so the help I have had in many of my projects is something I greatly appreciate. When you work with the best, you have the best end product. Oxygen Communications also played a major role in starting the Mshasho Water project. They are good at what they do. I think we were fortunate to have Rodney on board; his skills came in handy with the battle design. There are many water products on the market, so the packaging and marketing of the product has to be of the highest standard and appeal to the customers. The water project was my idea, and I should say again that 50 Cent inspired me to try it out. He started his project and was selling so well that an international beverage company took keen interest. The company made him an offer and he sold profitably. Overall, I believe that water is a necessary commodity and people need it for so many things in their everyday lives, so to put the Mshasho brand on such a commodity makes business sense. (To be continued next year)