This doctor became a top wedding gown designer

Spring has sprung and the summer wedding season is upon us. As they say: For many in Mzansi, gone are the days of a ‘white wedding’ dress as many brides opt for the traditional wedding route to celebrate South African cultures and values.

Now that it seems we are over the pandemic blues, Zodwa Bridal promises to give you the colourful summer-look traditional wedding flair you yearn for, but it also caters for those still hooked on the western element of white weddings.

Founded by medical practitioner Anna Di Don to, the wedding boutique offers a wide range of in-store and tailor-made wedding gowns and jewellery befitting the summer wedding season.

A fashion designer of note, Di Donato says she started making bridal gowns after realising her love for fashion when she was studying at tertiary level, but most of all she was inspired by her seamstress mother. She named her brand after her mom.

She says her mother made children’s clothing, but inspired her to make wedding dresses for her friends, who turned out to be her biggest customers.

“I specifically fell in love with wedding gowns because as it turned out most of us were about to get married when I started my business, and I designed gowns for most of them.

“This is the kind of support one needs when starting a business,” Di Donato said.

“Now I am designing for most of my friends, friends of friends, and their family members.

“Your circle can help your business grow. Understand your target market with any business you want to start, and provide quality services because word of mouth is an important advertising and marketing vehicle for any business.”

The 41-year-old says she is mulling over the decision to quit practising medicine for some time. Being a medical doctor demanded most of her time.

The entrepreneurship bug got the better of her.

As with most small businesses, she started Zodwa Bridal from her home and was largely supported and guided by family members and her seamstress mother.

“We tend to undermine the backgrounds we grow up in. I realised during my journey to becoming a medical practitioner that I was in love with fashion and trends.

“Looking back, the spirit of fashion designing and being a businesswoman was growing in me. I watched and envied my mom while making clothes for babies, then I decided to make them for brides.”

Di Donato said her business was hit by the two-year-long lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but instead of retrenching her eight permanent employees, she decided to enhance and teach them new skills during the two years of the pandemic restrictions.

She invested in teaching her employees different skills for their own benefit and for the benefit of the company.

“We pride ourselves in representing black brides the true way. This, for me, means that we should upskill black people so that we can all represent each other the best way we know how.

“Zodwa Bridal aims to ensure that we keep skills and employment, and also emphasises that your current career path does not need to be static because this world is fast-paced and we all need to explore whatever we can,” she said.

The self-taught fashion designer said she was now studying for a master’s degree in fashion and luxury brand management in Italy.

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Boitumelo Kgobotlo