It was her work in the dull, dour hospital corridors, day and night, and a particular distaste for the scrubs she had to wear every day, that made Felicia Tshite come up with a way to inject a pop of color into the theater of life and death.
Tshite, a medical doctor, also incidentally a Top 25 finalist of the Mrs South Africa pageant taking place in Johannesburg in October, took her passion for fashion to the operation theater with her own line of apparel for doctors named the Dream Doctor Collection.
The idea was born in 2014, when she visited a fabric shop for the first time, and loved the touch and feel of fabric.
“It was like I had this drip of love in me and I just couldn’t stop,” recounts Tshite.
But she had to keep her enthusiasm on hold as her studies consumed most of her time.
“When you are studying to specialize, there is no time for anything else. It’s just books, books and more books. So finding time to share that attention with my collection, let alone family, was not easy but I knew I had to.”
A wife and mother of two, Tshite was determined to succeed as an entrepreneur and was not ready to let anyone dissuade her. Her husband supported her.
“I have been married to that man for 18 years, and through those years, our love has grown from passion to compassion. With that has come constant support for one another and right now he is supporting me every step of the way,” says Tshite.
Tshite has been a doctor for over a decade, but always nurtured aspirations that went beyond medicine.
“It was my big dreams and not having just one goal that gave me an idea of what to call the collection,” says Tshite.
With her bulky medical books on one side and a sketch book on the other, she studied and drew at the same time.
“I remember saying to God ‘you can’t be flashing me with all this love for this collection and then have me fail my exams’, so I knew that no matter what, I had to pass so I could have a platform to advertise my collection on.”
Tshite couldn’t tell anyone of her plans so she kept it under wraps. Only her family knew.
By the time people got an inkling of her collection, she had a complete fashion line ready to show, pamphlets and business cards ready to be distributed, as well as a website.
Like any business, starting the collection was not easy. All she had was one tailor, one sewing machine and a garage that doubled as a studio.
“I had to step away from working for the government as a doctor because they wouldn’t allow me to sell my collection to them and work for them. I needed to expand on the collection and grow personally so I took the risk and started from the bottom,” says Tshite.
Starting from scratch meant Tshite learned through challenges how the sector worked.
“I started off selling to my own colleagues who would see me [wearing] the collection. Now I am able to sell to more individuals, from students in the healthcare sector, to nurses and doctors in the private and public sector. We now sell about 1,500 pairs of scrubs annually.”
But is it hygienic wearing scrubs not made by the hospital or of a specific material?
“People think scrubs have to be sterilized but that is not the case; they have to be clean. What has to be sterilized are; the surgeon’s arms before they enter the theater room; then the gown, latex gloves and the linen pack used to dress the patient’s bed.
“There is no regulated material used, the reason hospitals use 100% cotton is because they wash all the scrubs and other linen using one temperature on the machines,” says Tshite.
Tshite has been able to expand her range. Starting off with just one collection put together in her garage, today, she offers platinum, gold, silver and bronze ranges in various price points. Having worked in the health sector, she knows her target market well.
It may seem that Tshite has exchanged her stethoscope for a measuring tape, but she hasn’t. She practises as an aesthetics doctor twice a week. Be it medicine, fashion or an upcoming beauty pageant, she seems to have her work cut out for her. – Written by Keketso Majoe