Chantelle Busby’s love for fashion might have set in motion a successful business venture, but it also got her into trouble as a young girl.
The Joburg-based fashion designer admits that in a bid to perfect her craft, she used to cut up her mother’s clothes as a youngster and re-arrange them into unique outfits for her dolls.
“This was one of my favourite things to do as a child but it used to make my mother furious,” said Busby.
“I was so intrigued by the different materials and would love making clothes for my dolls.”
Now this “bad” habit that used to annoy her mother has finally paid off. She now counts former Miss SA Liesl Laurie as one of her clients.
Laurie often flaunts the Eldorado Park designer’s outfits on the red carpet at many of the country’s glamorous social events.
This year she made the list of the best dressed when she attended the 2016 YOU Magazine Spectacular Awards wearing an original Busby Creation.
The satin white peplum sleeveless top and matching mermaid skirt earned Laurie rave reviews and a quick scroll through the model’s Instagram page shows she’s a fan of Busby’s work as she is spotted several more times wearing the designer’s creations.
This includes a gold jumpsuit and striking red pant suit.
“It feels so good seeing Liesl wearing one of my designs, it makes me feel so proud,” Busby said.
The mother of four’s fashion career began when her grandmother taught her to sew when she was just six-years-old.
“My gran wore extravagant, fashionable suits which she used to make and that is where my passion came from,” she said.
“That’s when I fell in love with all things style and fashion and I knew from then already that I wanted to spend the rest of my life as a designer.”
After she matriculated, Busby studied fashion design and management.
Once she received her qualifications, she worked as a fashion buyer at Edcon.
However, Busby felt as if her creativity was being stifled a few years later so she took the plunge, quit her job and started her own business.
As she didn’t have much resources, she was forced to work from her grandmother’s Eldorado Park house where she ran her operations for almost eight years.
Despite the impromptu working space, Busby’s impressive designs saw her becoming a hit and she built up an extensive and loyal clientele.
She eventually moved into her own space at the Crystal Mall in Eldorado Park where she now runs her studio with the help of five employees.
She explained that often clients come into the studio with a picture of a design which they wanted to be made – often it was a photograph of a designer outfit worn by a celebrity.
Although Busby keeps her customers satisfied by giving them what they want, she always prefers crafting her own designs.
“I really enjoy and prefer if someone comes in and asks me to create a unique design for them by just giving me a brief description of what they want. What I loved about Liesl is that she told me what she prefers but she allowed me creative freedom. She was always willing to take risks,” she said.
“These customers who have unique designs are almost always happier than those who copy a celebrity style because now they have something that is unique to them and is made for their body.”
As Busby has knowledge of the fashion industry, she said she prefers suggesting the type of material for a customer and buying it from wholesalers, instead of them bringing in the fabric.
Once the material is bought, Busby takes a week to make the garment.
The exception is wedding dresses, which requires up to two weeks to make as many of them include elements of lace which takes time to stitch to perfection.
Busby also make swimwear and children’s clothes.
“I get a lot of orders for matching mother and daughter outfits which I really enjoy putting together.”
She now also wants to create a range for plus size women as they often struggle to find designs which complement their fuller figure.
“Plus size women shouldn’t just wear something that a model on a catwalk or on the pages of the magazine are wearing, they have their own body type and there are so many designs which suit their shape.
“Fashion makes you feel good especially if something is made to fit your figure,” she adds.
Her advice to fuller sized girls: “Wear stretch material and narrow skirts and avoid clothes with horizontal stripes and puffy sleeves.”
Busby hopes to dress more celebrities and believes that now is the perfect time to do so.
“Fashion in South Africa is emerging on such a grand scale and I would love to be part of it,” she said, adding Charlize Theron would be her dream client.
She said that from next year, she wants to host more fashion shows to attract more people to her business.
But ultimately, Busby wants to take her business around the world and compete on the international catwalks.
“My dream is to showcase my designs to people all around the world and for them to see what we are made of here in South Africa.”