Immigrant designer makes a difference in the World of Fashion

The fundamental political and economic changes in South Africa in the early 1990s saw many talented people migrate to this country. The mix of people has resulted in South Africa becoming a hot-bed of creativity – particularly in the world of fashion. These immigrants see the country as a land of unlimited opportunities, and they have worked, created and prospered. One of these immigrants – DRC-born Fashion Designer Emanuel Nkole (42) – passionately wanted to successfully break into the fashion industry; however, and most importantly, he wanted to share his fashion skills and knowledge with those less fortunate than him.

Arriving in South Africa in 1999, Emanuel worked diligently to establish his business and a clothing brand. He started the ‘Muzuri’ fashion line as a solid base to assist him gain industry credibility. After acquiring ample experience and skills, in 2009 his other dream became a reality: FUMU Empowering Connection (FUMU) was conceived.

Emmanuel and Vincent Piki – a fellow entrepreneur and social developer – set up FUMU, which is a Non-Profit Organisation in the fashion industry. This was to done with the aim of changing the lives of many disadvantaged young people who are discouraged by South Africa’s ailing youth development and employment framework.

FUMU targets young people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds with no skills and no access to tertiary education, and trains them as fashion designers and fashion entrepreneurs.

Over the years, the programme has seen consistent growth and success. One important development was the expansion into manufacturing. FUMU Global Wear deals with mass production and has secured over 150 employment opportunities for FUMU alumni working within the programme. Moreover, FUMU participants are thriving in various areas within the fashion industry. Recently, one of a FUMU’s “graduates” was nominated for the Ekurhuleni Women of the Month awards – for her excellence in the fashion business.

Emanuel says he has kept the FUMU programme going because he is a staunch advocate of Ubuntu: “I believe we are naturally siblings, all related in some way; we are just victims of our unfortunate oppression history. We should take it upon ourselves to reunite and leave a lasting legacy for our children,” he says.

Emanuel is making a big difference in the lives of the disadvantaged and he plans to expand FUMU. He plans on imparting more skills and knowledge, as well as nurturing future leaders who will promote Africa unity.

For more information on FUMU Empowering Connection, go to

This story is part of the IOM Series of #IAMAMGRANTTOO Positive Migrants Stories aimed at raising awareness about the positive contributions of migrants in South Africa. To join the conversation on Twitter please use the hash tags #iamamigrant #iamamigranttoo, follow the I AM A MIGRANT TOO Facebook Page or