Fashion designer Sibusiso Ngwenya (better known as Skinny Sbu) has managed to get his brand of socks in this year’s Grammy goodie bag on April 3 in Los Angeles, US – the 64th edition of the awards. His socks are to be the only African brand included in the gift pack.The young Johannesburg-based designer was over the moon about this achievement, that will in theory see his brand exposed to some of the biggest names in global entertainment.
He has hoped for an endorsement of this magnitude since the inception of Skinny Sbu Socks. “From day one of Skinny Sbu Socks in April 2013, the goal has always been to build a glocal brand – a brand that has global appeal, but is still firmly rooted locally and still speaks to the needs of the local market.
“We’ve been trying to break into the American market since our very first CNN interview in 2014, so when the opportunity arose to work with a Los Angeles-based agency called Distinctive Assets – which has been organising the Grammy gift bags for over 20 years – we figured this might be the right time to start planting some seeds in the US.”
Ngwenya had numerous meetings with the agency during the last quarter of 2021 and finally, two days before Christmas, a partnership was confirmed.
It is a happy coincidence that he should have his brand featured in the same year that DJ Black Coffee has been nominated for his first Grammy Award. Ngwenya is thrilled at having the deejay engage with his offering.
He is equally keen on the idea of his brand being exposed to Canadian pop sensation Justin Bieber.
Ngwenya is also using the opportunity to tell a part of our story that is usually downplayed in international narratives: the history of South African royalty.
He explained the design for the socks that will be included in this gift bag. “We had to go back to our 2015 hit collection called the ZAR Royalty Collection, where we went through history books to celebrate the spirit of three South African kings.”
The designs include the Zulu design, inspired by the spirit of Zulu king Shaka, Xhosa king uHinsa and Ndebele king uSobhuza.
As many readers will know, certain prestigious events – both globally and locally – include a goodie bag for attendees. Beyond providing a memento or two, these goodie bags give the brands they include the chance to be worn by celebrities who could talk about them, should they enjoy them.
That opportunity can shrink the gap between a brand like Skinny Sbu Socks and the international media and market.
Ngwenya expressed his two hopes for this venture.
“First, a brand’s goodwill and positive publicity always increase investor confidence. Over the past nine years of Skinny Sbu Socks, I’ve sold and bought back the brand twice. This will allow us to sell parts of the business at a very good price.”
Second, he said the event would allow for the further expansion of his brand, having boldly increased and streamlined his production line six months into the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“We could be able to reach new territories and a new market. We’re working with the biggest music event on the globe. We’re executing at a high level. This will put us in a position to speak to a massive audience worldwide.”
He is too preoccupied to discuss his plans for the future, as the Grammy gift bag is only his first advance on the American market, with a Skinny Sbu Socks tour to follow the awards.
“I can’t reveal much at present. My entire focus is on the Skinny Sbu USA Media Tour, which is scheduled to start later this month.”
If you happen to be staring at a sketch pad or sewing machine and wondering what the point of your passion is, Ngwenya left us with a simple, but poignant message: